The Ides of March happen to be Phil Lesh’s birthday. And, for our Dead of the Day, we turn to a show on his fiftieth, March 15, 1990 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. A Jack Straw opens the show on a playful note, especially when Bobby flubs some lyrics around the 2:20 mark, causing Brent to howl with laughter. It is clear from the beginning the boys are having fun. An epic Sugaree proves they can still take care of business before Brent offers up an out of sight Easy to Love You – the first one played since 1980 - with tremendous jamming on the keys and a really pretty section of vocal vamping at the end. Phil gets in on the vocals with Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, improvising a few lyrics calling out his drummer and talking about “going back to Foggy Bottom,” which gets a roar from the DC crowd. A sharp China> Rider opens the second set and, while not breaking any new ground, sets the stage for what will be an epic bottom half of the night. The Terrapin in that second set is renowned as one of the best from the later years, arguably one of the best ever. Simply, it is a monumental rendition that highlights the night. Throughout it, Phil throws down a ferocious but melodic bass, which helps to guide Jerry’s interplanetary jamming explorations. That focused searching reaches a sort of apogee in the “Mock Turtle Jam” where Jerry crosses into new frontiers, stalking across the universe with his MIDI-fed guitar before the band finally heads into Drums. After another beautiful Brent tune in I Will Take You Home out of Space, Jerry comes back with a towering Wharf Rat. Finally, Bobby takes the band out of the set with a smoking Throwing Stones> NFA.
Throughout the night, the band seems to be having a great time celebrating Phil’s big day. After Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues and again in the tuning before China Cat, we get some playful notes of Happy Birthday from Jerry. Listening to the show, I can just imagine all of the guys smiling from ear to ear and giving each other those knowing glances (and now you can actually see for yourselves in this video of the complete show). They were in the groove, enjoying themselves, and reflecting back on an amazing ride together. The boys end the night with a big birthday present for Phil in the encore breakout of Revolution, one of Phil’s favorite tunes, which had not seen the light of day since 1985. While Jerry stumbles over some lyrics, the playing is inspirational, providing a fabulous cap to the evening.
The Dead released the entire evening back in 1997 as Terrapin Station (Limited Edition). Together with Dozin’ at the Knick, Postcards from the Hanging, Without a Net, Spring 1990, and Spring 1990 (The Other One), the Dead released the entire spring 1990 tour, which is unprecedented with the exception of Europe 72: The Complete Recordings.
Happy birthday Phil!