Out of the gate in 1981, the Grateful Dead were lit. Exploratory and incendiary, it feels like a hard break with 1980. Perhaps the scrappy, early-‘80s Dead were born in February 1981?
This post wraps together four Save Your Face mixes that summarize the first eight shows of 1981. Created two years ago, these mixes were based largely on Jesse Jarnow’s 40th anniversary listening notes from 2021. Now these mixes are steaming.
When the band got together after a break (for a new year or a new tour), the joy of their reunion as an exploratory musical collective was often palpable and measurable in magic minutes. Early 1981 is one of those events, and these mixes focus on that jammier material.
Chicago - Uptown Theatre (February 26, 27, 28)
Three nights in 2.3 hours, featuring most of the big songs, with many instrumental edits to create long stretches of improvisational playing.
Cleveland Music Hall (March 2)
A 3-part “Playin’ in the Band” edited into a single 24-minute track, with “Supplication” for dessert.
Pittsburgh - Stanley Theatre (March 5, 6)
Second set highlights from each night, totaling 108 minutes. The first night’s second set began with a 7-minute jam without Garcia, who was having equipment issues. Both “Wharf Rat” and “Stella Blue” were given involved instrumental introductions.
University of Maryland - Cole Field House (March 7)
74 minutes of highlights, including a 17-minute “Bird Song,” a 9.5-minute jam, and several other extra-long treats.