Day 83: Standing On The Moon, 3/30/90

Grateful Dead Spring 1990 Nassau 3/30/90 album cover artwork

Similar to yesterday’s Big Boss Man, Standing On The Moon was played 75 times, albeit over a much shorter interval of time. This is outing number 18 for the song so the comparison in the songs lifecycle with Big Boss Man is even more interesting, in my opinion.

Of course, lifecycle stats aside, the comparisons between the two songs pretty much cease. Standing On The Moon was a second set ballad, usually in the post-drums segment of the show. As the Spring 1990 tour moved through its various phases, the song appeared twice. Me, I’m a sucker for ballads in general and Jerry ballads are like icing on the cake.

This is one of those cases, also, where it’s a bit disappointing that so many of these limited edition releases don’t receive a second life as downloads. The Spring 1990 boxset is phenomenal, in my opinion, and more folks should have the chance to hear it.

How do you feel about the phases of Standing On The Moon? The comments are yours, loyal readers.

The post drums/space ballad doesn’t come immediately after that section of the show, but follows on the heels of Good Lovin’. Phil’s bassline skips along with enough of a clip to it that the tempo doesn’t become lethargic. Brent isn’t using any MIDI or special keyboard effects here and the cleaner sound really adds to the ambiance of the song. Of course, right after I write that I head some synth washes coming from Brent, but he’s moving back and forth and the little touches of synth are just that – little. Phil and Brent seem to be steering the ship here.

After each verse I find myself waiting for Jerry to launch into a soulful guitar solo, but it doesn’t materialize until the 7 minute mark. The playing isn’t rapid fire but fits the song like an old glove and finds some nice nuanced runs. He kicks on some overdrive and the dynamics pick up a bit. Everyone is playing with restrained gusto that quickly drops off as they move into Not Fade Away.

Complete Setlist 3/30/90

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  1. Standing on the Moon is my favorite Garcia/Hunter song from the post-Godchaux era. A really great lyric from Hunter (I know, you could say that about all his songs but still).

    When I first heard this song on the Built to Last album it didn’t really make much of an impact and I heard it on some tapes too from the late 80s and it wasn’t much of a big deal. The first time I saw them play it live, though, I was blown away. Let me say that IMO this is that rare tune that was actually better in 91/92 than it was earlier. It was incredible to be in the crowd and hear Jerry scream, “Be with you, be with you…I’d rather be with you!” And think, he’d rather be with me! Then a great guitar solo would follow; it was really powerful.

    In the last couple years Jerry just didn’t seem to be able to play like he used to and I felt he tried to compensate by overdoing the vocals on songs like this one and Stella Blue, among others. Overall, though, a great, great song and I have great memories of it.

  2. Mike, it’s really interesting to hear an opinion of a song that got better in the post-Brent era. I may have to check out some 91-92 SOTMs. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Here we could have the 1990 Dead at their majestic best, making a lush entrance into this enduring late-period Hunter ballad. Jerry sounds a bit shaky coming in but the backing parts hold up well. The second verse is similarly wobbly vocally and I would say that better versions lurk out there. Don’t take this tune out of context. It needs the weight of the second set to help it get over. There are really no mis-cues. There is simply a delicate balance that tips just slightly to the weak. I suppose if one were standing at the lip of the stage it would be mesmerizing. On tape it is less so unless a lot of deliberation is on tap. Garcia leads the band through the myriad changes very confidently and the song survives to see another day. The “rather be with you” line evokes a hearty cheer as it comes up the first time. Hear the knob of Tiger twisted as the guitar break arrives and our guitar man lights into a long coda. He finds the distortion pedal about halfway through and things get warmer after that. Both Bob and Jerry feature hot signals and the crescendo is satisfying. No dead air intrudes between this and “Not Fade Away”.

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