While the Grateful Dead’s European tour of 1972 is, for very good reasons, typically cited as the gold standard for that long-lived band, there are other eras that stand out as particularly satisfying. Among those other tours, 1982 is often cited as a period of peak performance second to only to 1972. If the show captured on Dick’s Picks Volume 32 is any indication, there is good reason for that claim.
From the first note, the whole band is in top form. Each musician is playing at their optimum, whether they’re providing support for their fellow bandmates’ solos or ripping it up in new and inventive ways when they’re taking the spotlight. The whole unit is incredibly tight, able to turn on dime from one tune to the next without missing a beat, as the seamless shift from the opening tune “The Music Never Stopped” and “Sugaree” demonstrates. And when they stretch out for the extended jams that are part of the Dead experience, there’s a palpable sense of excitement and discovery there that defines the quintessential Dead concert.
This is a bravura performance in so many ways. Jerry Garcia’s guitar, which often featured a rich, fat tone at that time, leads gracefully one moment, and cuts to the quick the next. And his voice, which sometimes could get too world-weary, reedy and thin, here is solid and used to best effect. Bobby Weir’s vocal contributions are not just spirited, but rousing and cajoling, even as his own guitar work underpins the proceedings.
The rhythm section—consisting of bassist Phil Lesh and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann—is a monster in the best sense. Rock solid and yet agile, that trio proves yet again that they were unafraid to push the envelope or play around with the established time signatures in ways bold and subtle. Finally, Brent Mydland’s vocals add real punch and depth, in both lead and background roles, while his keyboard work adds just the right textures to fill out the sound, adding depth and soul to an already rich aural experience.
As I noted earlier, 1972 might well have marked a high point for this band in an earlier incarnation, but as evidenced by the two-plus hours captured on these two discs, 1982 was a watershed year for the Grateful Dead. This particular installment went out of print rather quickly after its initial release, and has since become one of the more sought after in the Dick’s Picks series, and with good reason.
So, whether you love the Dead, or just dig really fine live performances, you’ve real reason to rejoice, and to thank Real Gone Music for bringing this vital performance back into print.