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Grateful Dead: Downhill from Here (1989)

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Excellent Grateful Dead Show, Great Film
8 January 2004 | by (Aberdeen, Scotland) – See all my reviews

Great film showing almost the entire July 17, 1989 Grateful Dead show at Alpine Valley. There is little attempt to `sex-up' the footage, preferring instead to focus on the band. My only wish is that they had filmed the ecstasy in the audience when they played And We Bid You Good Night for the first time since December 31, 1978. It was an incredible moment.

The first set treats us to Let the Good Times Roll, Feel Like a Stranger, Built to Last, Me and My Uncle>Cumberland Blues, It's all over Now from the first set of the 07-17-89 show, including some rare smiles shared between Jerry and Brent as they play around during the first two songs. Then we get the bonus of West L.A. Fade Away, Desolation Row>Deal from the first set of the 07-19-89 show. Deal is particularly good. Jerry is having a lot of fun here.

The second set is all from the 07-17-89 show. If the first set got you excited, then this is going to blow you away. It starts with a wonderful version of the perennially paired China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider followed by a non-stop romp through Playing in the Band>Uncle John's Band>Standing on the Moon>Drumz/Space>The Wheel>Gimme Some loving>Going down the Road Feeling Bad>a tease for And We Bid You Good Night>Not Fade Away. The tease foreshowed what we had been waiting to hear since 1978, And We Bid You Good Night. The show and the film ends with a rockin' version of Johnny B. Goode played as the encore to the 07-17-89 show.

If you expect rock concerts and the videos made of them to be full of pretty-boy lead singers gyrating on stage with fire-works going off incessantly behind them and grandstanding lead guitarists then this is not the show for you. The Grateful Dead have always been a visually subtle band. They walk onto stage looking like six guys from the neighbourhood just arriving from a BBQ or something and that is the way they stay. They provide the music; the audience provides their own show. It is just part of the experiment they developed in the mid-sixties and it stayed that way up to Jerry Garcia's death in 1995. This film stays fairly true to this larger mission and is therefore a good introduction to anyone wanting to experience what it might have been like at a Dead show. I find the Standing on the Moon particularly touching, I think I'll always remember Jerry standing there singing `A lovely view of Heaven but I'd rather be with you, be with you.'

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