Grateful Dead – 3/19/90 Hartford (Spring 1990 box #2)

grateful dead 3/19/90 hartford spring 1990 box

With a six-show box set, the only responsible thing to do is to build a personal compilation of favorite tracks. Where the first night of the Spring 1990 box (3/16/90 Landover review) made it hard to leave much out of the running for that playlist, this second show has a tough time making a case for much at all.

First Set, Tough Sledding

The “Hell In A Bucket” opener has plenty of gusto but suffers from Bob’s late-song shrieking, a la “Estimated Prophet”. Like the Landover show, the second song rebounds with a winner. “Bertha” pulses with all the right energy. Phil with an ascending bass riff I don’t recall, then some “rainstorm” fills from Brent’s organ, and then Bob’s creative figures after the solo all add up to a very good performance. That’s without considering Garcia’s solo, more fluid than pyrotechnic, and you can hear why the crowd gave that energy right back afterward.

I feel bad criticizing later songs, but “We Can Run” just kinda sits there. Part of the problem with this pro-environmental folk song may be Brent’s piano part itself — what works as a basic solo accompaniment for a singer/songwriter can turn into a sonic lump of chords clogging a band arrangement. Like “Picasso Moon” two songs later (which has more quirk going for it than I initially gave it credit for), it also outstays its welcome by a couple of minutes.

“Jack-A-Roe” is sharp and welcome, but “Brown-Eyed Women” comes off busy between Bob and Brent’s work. The set closes with “It’s All Over Now > Deal”. Not sure why Bob was picking the Stones songs with the least interesting riffs around this time (see: “The Last Time”). Maybe they were to help give the cowboy songs a break. I would probably take it over all of them except “Big River”. The “Deal” sounds better by comparison but is also (as usual) too long.

Foolish Heart Beats The Rest

“Box Of Rain” opens set two but experiences the same fate as “Brown-Eyed Women”. On the other hand, “Foolish Heart” sounds smooth and natural. That is one long instrumental break — not quite a solo, and not a coda since the last verse is in the middle of it — but it’s an enjoyable diversion. Less of a a jam that travels as much as one that thoroughly soaks in and reflects a single, attractive view.

I love Brent-era “Playing In The Band” more than any other when that organ soars around the sound, and this one’s OK. Possibly oddest mental image on this website: around 4:30, Bob plays a repeating figure that sounds like acid reflux if it were a Disney character. The outbound jam borders on sonic information overload from the extra modern edge on some of the instruments, imo, but soon enough we’re into “Eyes Of The World”.

At 14:41, it’s the perfect length for a classic “Eyes”. But in reality, this is simply a fast mid-’80s “Eyes” with five minutes of pre-drums jam tacked onto the end. The drummers gallop, Brent goes plinky, Bob explores some whacked-out space sounds … everyone is in their own space. Nothing compelling.

Brokedown And Gone

Things rebound after “Drums > Space” with with a sweet little “China Doll”, featuring Jerry’s slightly tired but good vocal and Brent’s harpsichord-esque playing throughout. But it’s all downhill from there for the main set.

“Gimme Some Lovin'” is anemic, a little slow, with no urgency — more like “Please Write Or Call Me Back At Your Convenience About Some Potential Affection, No Rush”. Conversely, “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” runs too fast, robbing all the soul from it. “Around And Around” is one of my least-favorite set closers, but it sounds better compared to the preceding two tracks.

At least a fine “Brokedown Palace” manages to wrap things up on a nice note. On to the Canadian border …

Grateful Dead
3/19/90 @ Hartford Civic Center
Hartford, CT
Set 1 – hell in a bucket / bertha / we can run / jack-a-roe / picasso moon / brown-eyed women / it’s all over now > deal
Set 2 – box of rain / foolish heart > playing in the band > eyes of the world > drums > space > china doll > gimme some lovin’ > GDTRFB > around and around // brokedown palace

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