30th Anniversary of The Grateful Dead’s Spring ’90 Tour: Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY 3/26/90

Spring ’90 is synonymous with many things to many people, but in the Grateful Dead world, it was perhaps one of the most vital tours in the beloved band’s history: everything was clickin’. Over the next week, Glide will continue to be revisiting Grateful Dead’s Spring ’90 tour in honor of its 30th anniversary, with recaps and video highlights. For those stuck at home during these bizarre times, there’s no better time than now to go back 30 years and couch up this run…

March 26, 1990 – Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY

As they had for the previous closing performances in Landover, Hartford, and Ontario, the Dead bid adieu to Albany on a high note, with several of the three-night stand’s finest moments occurring on this final evening in “Nippertown.” Continuing a trend set by the previous two nights, several tracks from this show were ultimately culled to be included on the live triple-LP Dozin’ at the Knick, including a formidable opening trifecta of “Hell in a Bucket”, “Dupree’s Diamond Blues” and Brent Mydland’s “Just a Little Light.”

While a majority of the first set is relatively light on improvisation, the band more than makes up for it with just over an hour of top-shelf high-energy late-era Dead, including blistering takes on the aforementioned “Bucket” and Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers’ “Big Railroad Blues.” The first “Dupree’s” in almost a year and the second “Black-Throated Wind” since 1974 also feature well in this opening frame, both sounding as if they had been in regular rotation for years. The set is also notable for containing two original Brent Mydland compositions (the entire show itself would have four Brent songs), a somewhat rare occurrence but also a genuine attestation to just how integral the keyboardist had become by this point.

The multi-night affair’s final set featured a highly unusual, though incredibly well-played, setlist. Kicking off with what would ultimately be the final Grateful Dead performance of “Built to Last”, the band followed up with another cut off their latest album with a spooky “Victim or the Crime” before breaking out the beloved – and usual second set opener – “China Cat Sunflower->I Know You Rider” pairing. A rousing take on Harry Belafonte’s “Man Smart (Woman Smarter)” gives way to the evening’s “Drums/Space” segment, leading to an exceptional latter half with a fiery pair of Steve Winwood covers – “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and “Gimme Some Lovin’” – as well as an ethereal version of “Morning Dew.” The Dead said goodbye to their new upstate NY home with an immaculate reading of the Garcia/Hunter American Beauty gem “Brokedown Palace.”

“Dupree’s Diamond Blues”: This psychedelic Robert Hunter reinterpretation of an early-1900’s American folk song made it’s concert debut in early 1969 before being released a few months later on the groundbreaking album Aoxomoxoa. With somewhat dark and foreboding Robert Hunter lyrics set against Jerry Garcia’s bouncy and upbeat score, this musical dichotomy was something of a first-set regular in the mid-80’s whose visibility began to wane towards the end of the decade with only three appearances after 1988, including tonight’s superb rendition and a surprise pair of 1994 performances.


“Just A Little Light”: Debuted in 1989, this Brent Mydland/John Barlow Built to Last track was a cautionary tale of cynicism and love featuring a fiery melody and some wonderful background vocals from Messrs. Garcia, Weir & Lesh during a well-structured bridge. This version is, like so many other Brent performances from this tour, among the best of the 21 live renditions, with Garcia dispensing thick Mutron-infused lines underneath Brent’s apoplectic vocals. 

“Built to Last”: Another cut from the band’s latest studio effort, this Garcia/Hunter life-lesson on the importance of a strong foundation as the basis of any relationship – musical, personal, or otherwise – was a concert regular after its 1988 debut with 16 appearances in 1989 alone. However, the band retired the song after Brent’s death, presumably as a tribute to their fallen comrade (though it’s just as likely they simply didn’t feel like rehearsing with Vince Welnick what was a relatively difficult & awkward song to perform live), with this evening’s rendition marking its final time played by the Dead. This version features some nice background vocals from Phil as well as a gently rolling MIDI guitar solo that has Garcia sounding like a bona fide horn-blower. 

“Gimme Some Lovin’”: Written in 1967 by a then 16-year-old “Stevie” Winwood along with his older brother Muff for the Spencer Davis Group, this rollicking number features an infectious and dramatic organ hook that helped legitimize the Hammond B-3 as a viable rock instrument. Debuted by the Dead in 1984, this cover was one of very few songs in the band’s repertoire that featured Brent and Phil sharing lead vocal duties. The group did give this one another shot shortly after Brent’s death, but never attempted it again as new keyboardist Vince Welnick’s much “thinner” sound simply did not work for this rock n’ roll monster. Tonight’s version is especially fun, with a false-start from Weir and inspired vocals from Brent & Phil before the song fades out with the keyboardist spitting a Pigpen-esque rap to all the “Lindas”, “Sues” and “Debras” of the world about how they all “know what to do.”

Grateful Dead Setlist Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY, USA, Spring Tour 1990

Previous Spring ’90 Tour Revisits

3/14/90 – Landover, MD

3/15/90 – Landover, MD

3/16/90- Landover, MD

3/18/90- Hartford, CT

3/19/90 – Hartford, CT

3/21/90 – Hamilton, ON

3/22/90 – Hamilton, ON

3/24/90 – Albany, NY

3/25/90- Albany, NY



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