For a box like this, let’s go night by night and track by track (for most, but not all, of the performances). As for the physical box itself, I’m a big fan of the compact design and the basic styling, which they would keep later for its sister, the arguably even prettier Winterland ’73 box.
Grab a cup, glass, or whatever and settle in …
6/7/77 – Terrapin Night
“Bertha” – Not my favorite rhythm for this song, but the solo is tight right off the bat, along with some nice fills from Keith and Phil afterward.
“Jack Straw” – Really the second half of a well done double opener. One thing i never got about the Dead is their habit of TOTALLY giving away the next song through between-song tuneups. Even for a band that needed zero showmanship, that’s negative showmanship.
“Peggy-O” – An extended intro, like they’re discussing something, and then something’s off with Bob’s guitar. Typically warm performance with tasteful ensemble work that subtly gets busier behind the solo.
“Funiculi Funicula” – Gotta admire Jerry and Keith, committed to the full performance. An earlier mystery is revealed when Phil asks, “Anybody out there want to see Bob destroy this amplifier?”
“Friend Of The Devil” – This concludes a 40-minute stretch where the most upbeat song was “Funiculi Funicula”. Bob’s, er, Bob-like rhythm work is prime in this mix and most welcome. Keith takes a mannered approach to start his solo before loosening up the second time through. Yet another quality first-set solo from Jerry, who combines pacing with well-placed triplets before climbing the ladder and wrapping up.
“The Music Never Stopped” – A needed uptempo set finale, it brings a hint of disco, a blast from the past like the skeleton Saturday Night Fever incarnation of Travolta in the box’ clever artwork.
Like Samson, Terrapin is capped with three minutes of instrumental — this time more majestic than cooking. it’s like a brief logical sequence of thoughts looped upon itself and getting more and more persuasive with every repetition.
“Scarlet > Fire” – A vocal mic that is off for most of the first verse, followed by a first solo that has some rust to shake off make this “Scarlet” less than a classic. Phil leads the transition, nice change of pace, and things gel somewhat by the first solo. The rest of the band sounds more like a “backing band” than usual, though, no interweaving lines or explorations. The last three minutes may be the best part, at least until it skips the full stop to segue into “Good Lovin'”, which Bobby sells after this groggy pair.
“Candyman” – Honestly, I have no use for this song. I wasted seven minutes of my life to make sure we weren’t missing anything remarkable here.
“Estimated Prophet” – Tight from Bobby’s count-off and the CRACK into the 1. It never catches on fire, but it’s solid and eases smoothly into …
“He’s Gone” – Maybe not as liquid as ’74, but fully engaged. Keith breaks out some plinky “Shakedown”-type keys later on. It picks up speed after an extended solo, like perhaps they’re headed toward “The Other One” … but no.
“Samson & Delilah” sports a hot intro solo after three minutes of drums. Close listeners can enjoy the way Phil sort of strolls his way through the verses in a relaxed, almost casually expert fashion that contrasts with the pounding and fire elsewhere onstage. The entire operation is firing on all cylinders by the second solo, three minutes of instrumental A-game.
“Terrapin Station” – Just brisk enough to give it a little extra life, and again Bob’s prominence in the mix shines some deserved extra light on the rhythm shapes he throws here. Like “Samson”, it’s capped with three minutes of instrumental — this time more majestic than cooking. it’s like a brief logical sequence of thoughts looped upon itself and getting more and more persuasive with every repetition. Majesty gives way to delicacy, and with no filler or hesitation, we move right into …
“Morning Dew” – One of many great versions. Check Phil’s beautiful four-bar fill before the third verse, or the way Garcia lights up the first solo, no holding back for the finale. So for that second solo, he uses a nice, rounder tone and slower start, and Bob’s trills add more color. Keith eventually starts to counter with his own riffs, which in turn push the drums to get more assertive, and they set the stage for the launch upward and on through the jaws of the Tiger to the conclusion.
“Around & Around” – OK, so I’d prefer following “Dew” with something else, like, for instance, “Thank you, good night.” At least it’s not “Candyman”.
“Uncle John’s Band” – Like “Terrapin”, it benefits from a little extra pace, even if the intro and start of the solo are a little sloppy. And the vocals are nice except for a last-verse mixup, where apparently Donna’s the only one who knows the lyrics.
“U.S. Blues” – I don’t hate this like some folks, but did it ever quite have the same fire after ’74?
6/8/77 Wednesday – Eyes Night
“New Minglewood Blues” – No use for Bobby’s macho blues, either. If you like it, you’ll like this.
“Sugaree” – It’s long, it’s good, but it’s no epiphany and certainly not on par with any other 17-minute song in the catalog.
“Brown-Eyed Women” – Jerry decides on something faster than 60 bpm, and he backs it up with a finely wrought solo and an invested vocal. Check the lovely little filigree from Keith before the last line.
“Jack-A-Roe” – Like “Brown-Eyed Women”, it’s in the pocket and a good story well told.
“Lazy Lightning > Supplication” – The late-set rally ends on another solid note.
“Bertha” – Second night in a row, the vocal mic is either up or not functioning to start the second set.
“Estimated Prophet” – Like the “Good Lovin'” and “Ramble On Rose”, it ranges from average to decent, and then we get to …
“Eyes Of The World” – A good, long intro and a lonnnnnnnng first solo that makes a case for being ’73esque. Garcia’s second solo is filled with one idea after another, with the most dexterous runs and prodding rhythm work saved for the outro. The drums kick it up a notch toward the very end and I wish they’d kept going.
“Other One” – Strong five-minute jam and then it quiets down, no vocals. Then, as with a lot of spring ’77 shows, we get around two minutes of near-solo Jerry considering where to go next. Like “Eyes”, it gets really interesting in the last minute and ends too soon.
“Wharf Rat” – The quality of the background vocals in a couple of spots reminds us that they actually did try to do the little things.
“Not Fade Away” – Bob throws in the “China Cat” line while they’re coasting and soaking in the riff. Cool to notice that Keith is the only one playing the full Bo Diddley riff. The performance gets a syncopated second life and it stretches out, maybe to the chagrin of the drummers, who started leaning toward “GDTRFB” about four minutes before it starts.
“Johnny B. Goode” – I normally skip it, but it feels just exactly perfect in this slot.
“Brokedown Palace” – Here’s a song that would have its heyday in the Brent era, imo, but it was a smart cool-down encore choice, and the vocals don’t sound too young for the material like some ’72 performances. Garcia’s solo is sweet, but Keith overplays and it’s as if he realizes what the moment really needs is organ. A wizened song still maturing in concert. One night to go.
6/9/77 – Help>Slip!>Franklin’s Night
“Mississippi Uptown Halfstep Toodleoo” – Everyone has shown up on time and ready to roll. Extra fruit cup to Keith for his fill work.
“Jack Straw” – Again, nothing listless in ensemble or solo work, all systems go. Same with “They Love Each Other”.
“Looks Like Rain” – There’s one I didn’t listen to for a very long time, but it’s a good year for it. There’s a sort of theatrical quality to it, like an attempt at a showstopper, with Bobby working the crowd in the lights and then Garcia playing a tight solo from the pit.
“Samson & Delilah” – Nobody lost a step during the break. In fact, Garcia is hotter than before as he jukes, runs, dances, and jabs his way through the song. Keith steps up to provide a stronger foil in the second half.
“Funiculi Funicula” – Vocal monitors are down, so we get another full version of this fun tuning ditty. Keith even knows the harmony lines.
“Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower” – With technical issues resolved, the band dives into the deep end of the night and of perhaps the entire run. Garcia “chunks” off a tempo as fast as you’ll hear “Help …” and they’re off.
Everyone is offering up shapes and colors as we get into “Slipknot!”, and Bobby in particular plays effective little wall-tides of sound that rise and recede. Keith again steps up later in the proceedings, and by then, Garcia is in the zone, moving through music with a swiftness that surpasses terms like “thinking about what to play.”
Really, there’s nowhere to go but down from this sort of jam, but still there are no ugly missteps on the complicated path back out of “Slipknot!” and we’re treated to some fleeting but gorgeous multi-instrument chords in the final passage to “Franklin’s”.
By now, they do sound a little tired, and who wouldn’t. Garcia opts to chop up some solo rhythmically instead of single-note playing, to great effect. Keith’s busy figures and Bob’s harmonics and textures round out the journey.
“Estimated Prophet” – Good, even if Bob flubs the second verse. Jerry’s solo is better than the first night’s.
“St. Stephen > NFA > Drums” – All comparatively brief and cleanly played before concluding by pulling the set into “Terrapin Station”.
“One More Saturday Night” – Both a rhythm guitar part and ascending piano riff that I don’t usually think of, but maybe that’s just me. This performance chugs — maybe a little slower than most? — but the result is a more heavyweight sound that wraps up the stand (and the box) with one more roundhouse punch.