On Sunday, May 31, 1992, the Grateful Dead played at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl in Whitney, Nevada.
Everybody says it’s in Vegas, but it’s not. Formerly the Silver Bowl and currently Sam Boyd Stadium, the venue was/is the home field for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas football team. According to Wikipedia, Sam Boyd was “a major figure in the hotel/casino industry in Las Vegas.” The band’s debut there was a two-show run in April 1991.
’90s shows are tough for me, tbh. I had checked out years earlier. (My last show was 7/22/90.) Looking back from the outside, I don’t know how to describe the whole post-Brent era. Fall ’90 with Bruce Hornsby was really good; Summer ’91 was great (and one of those shows is coming soon here). After that, was it the beginning of the end? My best friend was touring some back then, and she says that 1992-93 was ok, scene-wise. So maybe it wasn’t as bad as it would eventually get, but it certainly wasn’t as good as it had been. The band was clearly going through the motions – there were more off nights than on nights.
And the vibe was…hm, starting to become darker? Check out that hideous header image. It’s a poster from the Vegas run, and it’s just unnecessarily aggressive. What the hell is with Skeleton Bret Michaels? Is he even a head? And $7M? Huh? Even the font is evil. It’s like all the bad stuff about the band and its fans (money, drugs), and none of the good, got distilled down to reveal that the whole circus was nothing more than a late night at a biker bar. That’s how it seemed to me back then, well before I watched The End of the Road.
Btw, my other choice for a header image was this:
BG looks like a demented ventriloquist’s doll. The rest of the band looks unwell. I guess that’s Mickey with the short hair, and Vince ordering a double? Phil and Billy in the foreground? Jerry and Bobby on the right? I honestly can’t tell. And who’s the dude in the suit? He looks like Disco Jason Schwartman, if he were a shady character in the mystery series that I wrote and illustrated in fourth grade. Who’s the woman? Donna? (Not sure if either poster was produced by GDP. Ed emailed them to me, and I ran across them in my research, but I don’t know if they were part of the official iconography. If so, good job.)
Plus, Steve Fucking Miller opened. Sorry for cussing, but the Dead never needed a warm-up band. And Steve Miller sucks. He really, really sucks. If I had a sweet restored ’60s two-door with fins, I’d rock out to Steve Miller and B.T.O. On cassette. And then I’d punch myself in the face until I passed out. Then I’d repeat that when I woke up. #rockinmebaby #takingcareofbusiness
Anyway. The lot t-shirts were cool.
And this what it looked like in the crowd.
(Photo from highvibe on dead.net.)
Packed bowl, for sure. Here’s how it’s reviewed at the Doom & Gloom From The Tomb tumblr site:
“The Dead started playing the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl (shoulda been called the Dust Bowl) in Vegas on the regular in the 90s and it became a big Deadhead tradition for a little while. Hippies in the desert! This show is a pretty good one – the opening ‘Help > Slipknot > Franklin’s’ is fab, with the band still finding groovy nooks and crannies in these old warhorses. Second set is hit and miss: I hereby nominate “Women Are Smarter” as the worst song to ever appear regularly in the Dead’s setlists. But there’s good stuff, too, like a wonderful ‘Attics of My Life.’ The show closes out with some of ye olde classic rock: the Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ and the Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’ Kind of fun to hear, but I never want to hear them again. Oh and hey, Steve Miller sits in for a few tunes, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Choice cut: ‘The Other One’ makes a welcome return here, and though it’s shorter than usual, it is pretty fierce. The sound guys put some wild effects on Weir’s vocals. I’m sure for anyone tripping in the crowd it just took it TO THE NEXT LEVEL, MANNNNN.”
OMF. Whatever. Contrast that broreview with an actually thoughtful post from the excellent modern deadhead blog:
“In 1992 Garcia had his second collapse (far less serious than in ’86), which once again caused the cancellation of the fall tour on the east coast (22 shows altogether). He had asked, in a GDP meeting a few months prior, to find a way to cancel that very tour because he was already feeling exhausted. These shows represented a quarter of their receipts, and the massive overhead of the GD organization ($500,000/month, according to Phil), made it almost impossible to do so without massive salary cuts or layoffs. He was overruled.
The band had settled into their post-Touch routine: they had three major tours a year and five or six shorter runs on the west coast/mountain region. They played 70-80 shows annually in front of well over a million people, in stadiums and sheds holding an average of about twenty thousand people each. Their audiences clustered in the mid-west and on the east coast, so the tours were far from home. The band-members were well past their days of communal living: they shared hotels, but offstage they were mostly separate. Garcia spent most of his time alone; Weir had his ‘hospitality suite;’ Phil was focused on his family, who traveled with him. The atmosphere was all business, a realism born of twenty-five years of touring, the dependence of everyone in the organization on the band, and relatively commonplace incidents caused by rowdy fans.
The 17-date east coast tour in June was prefaced by nine shows in California and Nevada…. It was the first tour where Vince Welnick handled the keyboards alone, Bruce having returned to his own career. Garcia wasn’t looking good, though Phil doesn’t think he was using (there had been an intervention in June ’91; Garcia had told everyone to get lost but had checked himself into a methadone clinic soon after).
The six shows are an example of the range of quality in the GD’s performances of that period. The beginning of the first run was disastrous in terms of Garcia’s instrumental contributions, but showcased redoubled efforts from the rest of the band. Aside from the intros, Jerry was way down in the mix, he bailed on a lot of his fills and solos, and wasn’t leading by any means. The rest of the band was, by contrast, very tight and intentional, the result being that the shows are not bad technically, even if Garcia’s apathy makes for painful listening….
The drum-space segments in those days averaged about twenty-five minutes each, with about 14 devoted to drums. Mick and Billy had diversified their sound extensively and were getting quite intricate in their arrangements. Aside from the long-standing Beam, roto-toms, rack-toms and gourds, there was a very wide range of MIDI effects: there was a passage based on slot-machine noises at [5/31/92]; they opened two segments with whipping sounds; there were bells of all sorts, car horns, roaring wind noises, xylophones etc., occasionally complemented by that stereo whooshing effect (I never figured out if that was due to Healy or the drummers, but it is powerful). Finally, the ever-popular train air-horn made an appearance at both Shoreline and Vegas. I had not noticed the use of loops before, which served as background while they improvised on various other instruments. I have often felt that the drums segment was underappreciated. Mickey in particular, aided by Bob Bralove, never stopped experimenting with new sounds and rhythms, and those ten-fifteen minutes gave the two drummers a lot of freedom to play around.
There are … standout moments in the run: … Jerry just howling the “So many roads” line, and a beautiful Attics (both Vegas 3). Steve Miller opened all three nights, and on the last he came in post-drums, notably for Spoonful > Other One > Dew. Even though the closer is arranged quite delicately, he contributed throughout and took a great lead in the big ending rave-up.
All nine of these pre-tour shows were sold out and after the last encore in Vegas, an announcer came up to thank the crowd for making this the biggest concert event in the history of the state of Nevada.
For many, 1992 was the beginning of the end. In the overall scheme of things, May 92 was the cusp of that period. The lineup was in its final form, and the range of quality between Shoreline 1 and Vegas 3 exemplifies the unpredictability that would turn off so many in the final years. On their good nights they were as good as ever, but there was a depressing apathy lurking in the wings. If it weren’t for a sort of masochistic completist obsession, I don’t think I would have bothered listening to more than the first set of the Shoreline run. It took Jerry a show and a half to get on the ball, and he didn’t tweak that volume knob for another week. And yet the Vegas run is dynamite, worth every minute, and there are other great shows in the ensuing tour, most notably DC, 6/20. The difficulty with those later years is knowing where to look. I’m trying to piece it together.”
This show gets nice reviews on the LMA.
csmiley “attended each year at Sam Boyd” and called ’92 “by far the best,” highlighting It Must Have Been the Roses, Bird Song, and (?) Picasso Moon, as well as the Steve Miller sit-in second set. njpg mentions that
“Lesh got really pissed off at Steve Miller at one point during Dew for drowning out other players and stepping on leads, and put his finger to his lips and gave Miller a great big public “Shush!” That was weird but classic. You’re in a jam band here, dude: shut up a little. A great ending to the largest show in Nevada’s history at the time. I think it was like 50,000 people or something. my opinion.”
jonstraw was effusive in his comments:
“I was one of the fortunate ones who didn’t miss any of the shows in Vegas from ’91-95. IMHO, Sunday’s show was perhaps the best show, beginning to end, that they played in the Silver Bowl. From the ‘Help>Slip>Frank’ start to the last strains of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ it was a fun ride. They were as ‘on’ as they could be in ’92, and several songs were benchmarks. In particular, the ‘So Many Roads’ is tremendous. True, the solo is not inspiring, but Jerry is absolutely screaming by the end of this song, and the rest of band does its best to keep up. It has been said before, but you HAVE to hear the ‘Attics’ to believe it. Or, more accurately, not hear it. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop during this performance First set high-light would have to be ‘Must have been the roses.’ Then the heavenly ‘Bird Song’ followed by a strong Bob Weir ‘Queen Jane’ and ‘Picasso Moon.’
Second set was an unbelievable 10 songs, plus 2 song encore, that included 5 songs (with encore) with Steve Miller, who was the opening act all three days. Heavily blues influenced, ‘Spoonful’ into a historic first ‘Other One” into a strong, well-sung eleven minute ‘Morning Dew’ to close the second set. Steve returned on the stage, to the audience delight, for the final two songs, the third time ever played,’Baba O’Reily’ into ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’ “
There’s video of the whole show on YouTube:
And transport to the Charlie Miller transfer of the soundboard recording HERE.
Ok. Real talk? This isn’t good music. The Help > Slip > Frank is diabolical. It sounds like Satan playing the coolest trilogy in rock history as smooth jazz (actually, the Franklin’s is ok). The Roses is weak, synth-y crap. The Bird Song is ok. The Picasso Moon is bullshit – Vince’s keys sound like a carnival organ. The Scarlet > Fire is also bullshit. So Many Roads is alright in a you-had-to-be-there way, but the segue into Saint is terrible. What about that Attics? Sigh. It’s just not that great. It’s rare, it’s weird. It’s old dudes stumbling through an old song. Nothing special. The ending “bluesy” segment with Steve Miller? Apparently, that guy can even ruin The Other One and Morning Dew.
I’m not a hater; I’m usually a fluffer. I wanted to like this show, and feel let down that it wasn’t better. But I refuse to encourage you guys to waste your time on sub-par Dead. Life is way way way too short. Skip this, and read back on the blog to find something better.