The Grateful Dead Egypt DVD
Music History Captured On Film
The Grateful Dead Egypt DVD is what really excited me about the latest release from Rhino. Most hardcore tape collectors already have the soundboard audio of the full shows (the Charlie Miller sources are the best) but no one has this video footage in such high quality.
Bootleg video of the Egypt shows does exist, it was released to the community by Ken Kesey's son Zane, but it's pretty spotty. All the concert footage is from one angle on the right side of the stage so you never see the band from the angle of the audience. Also it's constantly broken up by home movies of the band touring the pyramids and hanging out which is really interesting stuff but it makes it more a documentary of the trip rather than a concert video. So the Grateful Dead Egypt DVD is a huge upgrade and I'm really glad it's been made available.
Unlike audio tapes, video of the Dead from the 70's and earlier is pretty rare and anything they can find in this department is pure gold as far I'm concerned. I won't hesitate to buy any and all video that they see fit to release. There's just something so much more captivating about actually seeing the band onstage rather than just listening. Probably because it's the closest you can get to actually being there.
All the video footage is taken from the final concert on 9-16. Included as a bonus are the Vacation Tapes - home movies of the band and family touring the ancient ruins and sailing on the Nile.
The Grateful Dead Egypt DVD starts off with Bertha -> Good Lovin' which was the opener that night. This medley is a great way to open a show but this version is almost comical in how bad it is. Bertha is totally off - the band sounds out of tune and isn't synched up - it's almost like they can't hear each other so they can't get it together. Good Lovin' starts to show promise - Bobby does a very brief rap where he ad libs a line about camels - but then the song just totally falls apart at the end. This is forgivable because the first set opener at a Dead concert was almost always just a warm up and I never expect much in this slot. They were usually lucky just to have the PA working right at this point in the show.
Row Jimmy is next although it wasn't actually played in this order at the concert. If you're interested in comparing the actual set list to the running order on the Grateful Dead Egypt DVD I've included it at the end of the review.
The performance is much better here, things start to come together, and everyone seems to at least be paying attention now. We get some cool shots of the audience that show people dancing blissfully and having a great time. What a blast it must have been to see these shows - really a once in a lifetime experience. I imagine that those lucky enough to attend were having so much fun they didn't even notice that the band wasn't performing at its best. It's usually only when you're listening to a recording later that you hear the flaws.
Minglewood Blues really starts to rock. The band knows this song inside and out - they'd been playing it on and off since 1966 - I don't think they could screw it up too badly if they tried.
Candyman follows and it's beautiful as always. This is such a great song. No one is ever going to tell me Jerry Garcia couldn't sing - just listen to his voice - it's still young and sweet sounding here as he croons the lyrics. We get some more shots of the audience and it's really cool to see the locals digging the music and dancing wildly with the fans.
Looks Like Rain is gorgeous, this song's so much better with Donna in the mix. I really prefer the late Seventies versions of this song over all others. Jerry has a fantastic solo and everyone finally seems locked into the zone, for a little while anyway.
Deal was the first set closer and it doesn't disappoint. This song is on fire. Jerry's pumped, he's belting out the lyrics and he goes absolutely ballistic for the finale. It's great to see Jerry having so much fun onstage - something that would become increasingly rare over the years. Even though he later said they didn't perform well at these shows it's clear from watching the Grateful Dead Egypt DVD that he was really enjoying himself at the time.
The second set begins with Ollin Arageed -> Fire On The Mountain. Ollin Arageed is performed with Hamza El Din and is very unique. I thought the transition into Fire sounded a little rocky but it was still really neat to hear something so different. Fire itself is an awesome and powerful rendition; this will probably the high point of the show for most people. However, be warned, there is a brutally painful cut towards the end of the song.
Iko Iko isn't played that well but it's still really fun to watch. Check out Jerry's goofy grin and Phil shaking his booty onstage, I bet it'll bring a smile to your face.
I Need A Miracle -> It's All Over Now follows. Miracle is only the fourth one ever but it already kicks butt. I love the way they played the song during this period, it just rocked. Jerry let's it rip with a blazing hot solo before a nice smooth transition into All Over Now. I've always liked this tune and it's well played but there's another nasty cut about three minutes into the song on the Grateful Dead Egypt DVD.
Let The Buyer Beware
At this point I was left shaking my head going WTF? Again? I'm going to give the producers of the Grateful Dead Egypt DVD the benefit of the doubt and assume there were major problems with the footage which made these portions unusable. But they could have at least finished the songs and filled in the missing video with scenes from the home movies or something instead of cutting them short like that. It would have made for a much more pleasant viewing experience in my opinion.
The final song on the Grateful Dead Egypt DVD is Truckin'. This is probably the least interesting part of the whole video for me. It's not a terrible version and it does come to a pretty powerful crescendo for the finale. But I've heard it way too many times. Then, just when things get interesting and you can hear them start the segue into Stella Blue - the credits roll and the film ends! Major bummer..... There were some highly questionable editing decisions made during the production of this video.
The Vacation Tapes
After watching the concert I checked out the Vacation Tapes. There's some really interesting footage and it's very cool to see the band walking around among the ancient ruins, planting a Steal Your Face flag on top of the great pyramid and sailing on the Nile. My only complaints are that its way too short and I wish we could hear what's being said instead of just the music soundtrack.
The Grateful Dead Egypt DVD -