Grateful Dead | Crimson, White & Indigo: Philadelphia July 7, 1989 – DVD Review


Yet another nugget has been sprung from the Grateful Dead vault by the good folks at Rhino. The year — an important factor — is 1989, a festive time for the band that saw new music and sold-out stadiums all over the country. One of those stadiums was Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium where the Dead played before a full house on July 7, 1989. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time was that this would mark the final concert ever staged at the crumbling facility. Spread out over three CDs and a single 176-minute DVD, Crimson, White & Indigo: Philadelphia July 7, 1989 captures the Grateful Dead in the City of Brotherly Love at the height of their powers.

Long a concert favorite years before it was even released, “Hell In A Bucket” kicks the show off in communal style. A slew of covers follow in grand tradition. A raucous, yet endearing call from New Orleans, “Iko Iko” always stirred up the Deadheads. Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” gets a lift from a double dose of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir’s slide work, and additional vocals from keyboardist Brent Mydland. “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again,” one of two Dylan tracks from the show, is as eloquent as the band ever needed to be.

Mydland really comes to the fore on “Blow Away,” which would appear three months later on the Dead’s final studio album, Built To Last. Within infectious refrain, the keyboardist lets loose with a primal vocal that even stuns his band mates. Any lack of confidence he may have had during his decade-long tenure fell by the wayside as the crowd gets swept up in the power and emotion of his “real love” chant. Because you can only get live Brent Mydland songs performed with the Dead from only late 80s and early 90s (very early because Myland died July 26, 1990) recordings, this performance is all the more special.

After an extended absence, Phil Lesh was singing “Box Of Rain” again and in Philadelphia the song leaps into the zone without a net. The “Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain” suite succeeds on countless levels most mortals couldn’t begin to understand. But then the intensity only mollifies when Weir’s “Estimated Prophet” parts the sea before Garcia’s “Standing On The Moon” (from which the line, “crimson, white and indigo” originates) brings the flock to their knees in universal reverence. To further reel them in, “Rhythm Devils” dutifully spotlights the percussional healing powers of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann before ascending to the boundless explorations of “Space.”

Then it’s a trip back to Haight Ashbury with the hippy haplessness of “The Other One,” “Wharf Rat,” and “Turn On Your Lovelight.” A steady reading of Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” reserves the distinction of being the last song ever performed on the sacred grounds of JFK Stadium. The Grateful Dead’s story, of course, would continue on for another five years. Still, many a seasoned Deadhead will go on record claiming 1989 was really the last great year in the band’s turbulent 30-year existence. Certainly an arguable point, but after viewing and/or listening to Crimson, White & Indigo: Philadelphia July 7, 1989, there’s little doubt the band was firing on all cylinders when so many of their peers had already been put out to pasture. Strangely, the legend of the Grateful Dead has become an even bigger phenomenon in the years since. And the bus, in various fragmented states, is still rolling.

~ Shawn Perry

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