That video is a ghost from the past. I caught that run of New Years shows. I was in my final year of high school living in Toronto and had tickets to the 3 run up shows, but never received a new year’s ticket nor a sorry you didn’t win the lottery letter. Christmas Eve at 8:00pm (5:00pm pacific time) the grateful dead office called me to let me know there would be a new year’s ticket for me at will call. I flew out the next morning. Talking about a great phone call!
For many the new year’s show was a letdown. I do recall the most amazing Estimated Eyes with jerry just ripping it for the eyes solos. Great third set, and oddly enough much of that set was repeated only once and at the Toronto Seva benefit I was at the following June.
The 28th was the best night. Weir had started playing that Strat back on the fall tour and was going to town with the Floyd Rose. Out of pure coincidence I played a very similar guitar yesterday in a used guitar shop, while killing some time and Fender called them the contemporaries. This one was a MIJ and on for only $250. Great guitar! They have a Floyd rose style bridge and Wier was going to won with it being really inventive on the 28th. Killer other one, Wheel and China Rider.
Seeing many Dead shows in the early 80’s 1983 (and 84) was a renaissance of sorts for the Dead, at least in my mind. Shorter sets but filled with more energy and the beginning of some great break outs. Dark Star, Lovelight, St Stephen, Cryptical, Help on the Way.
What I noticed is that Jerry’s tone got better up until early 1985, but in my opinion by the summer of 85 some of Jerry’s soulfulness was gone from his playing, and I’d account that to addiction issues catching up with him although tone wise I thought he sounded better than ever.
In terms of the 83/84 renaissance I think Jerry peaked in the summer. I managed to catch the Hult Center shows, did most of that North West tour after graduating from high school and we scored our Hult tickets by simply going to the box office on our way from the Stanford shows to Portland. Some New Yorkers had to cancel and they 25 tickets for each show. Between about 6 of us we cleaned them out and I traded my extras for masters of each show.
The first night was the best playing I saw of the dead. Best China Rider ever in my books, and just a rockin show. Jerry danced the entire night. It’s also the best sounding audience tape I’ve heard to date, because the venue was brand new, and a baroque style opera house that sits 2,500. The soundboard does not do the sound quality of "in the room" justice. I think the dead were the first band through there, and years later at grad school of the U of O I had a tour of the facility and the Dead had signed their names on the proscenium in big black markers!
In fact the Hilton next door is attached to the venue and they gave in and out privileges the first night, plus they removed all the furniture from the Hilton’s lobby and it became the parking lot scene, including some naked folks! The dead rented the top floor of the hotel. My friend who had met Jerry back stage a few years earlier on a whim phoned his room and Jerry answered, albeit it was a short conversation! Kesey was showing home movies to the band in the hospitality suite.