Personnel: Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir (vocals, guitar); Donna Jean Godchaux (vocals); Keith Godchaux (keyboards); Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann (drums).
Photographer: Ed Perlstein.
This sublime set from the vaults first saw the light in 1995 as Vol. 3 of the Grateful Dead's archived Dick's Picks series. Recorded during what would later be considered one of the finest seasons of their career, this May 1977 show in Pembroke Pines, Florida boasted a wealth of new songs that would soon become hardcore staples of future sets. Two newly introduced Bob Weir songs, "Samson and Delilah" and "Estimated Prophet," grace this set with the latter being one of its brightest highlights. The hours spent in the studio perfecting their forthcoming Arista debut, Terrapin Station, had paid off and the band sounded tighter and more focused than they had in years. A wonderful trilogy of "Help on the Way," "Slipknot!," and "Franklin's Tower" close out the show's first set, occupying nearly 30 minutes and displaying as much muscle as delicacy. Backup singer Donna Godchaux takes a rare lead vocal turn on the astral "Sunrise," while later, the Dead continue to stretch out and develop another cornerstone in the making, "Terrapin Station," the heart of their proggy ninth studio album. Jerry Garcia's "Wharf Rat" flows dreamily down its path and they close out the show with a sprawling, 14-minute "Morning Dew," ebbing and flowing like a hive mind and supporting some truly heroic guitar work. Mixing their creative whimsy with a newfound polish, this is the Dead at one of their career peaks and is not to be missed. ~ Timothy Monger