Rhino’s newest Grateful Dead concert release, “Crimson, White & Indigo” is a DVD/CD combo set, this time from Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium on July 7, 1989. This was the last event at the old stadium before it was torn down and the Dead seemed intent on making her final moments memorable. And so they were.
Somewhat past their prime, the Grateful Dead nonetheless came together on this night to deliver a show that was not only uncharacteristically tight for its period, but showed the band members having more fun on stage than had been seen in a while. The band had been in the studio working on their newest (and, as it would turn out, final) studio album, and this may have something to do with the fact that the boys seemed more connected and present here than they had in the years leading up to this tour and, sadly, in the years to follow.
The DVD is presented in the standard 1.33:1 aspect ratio as it was displayed on the big screens at the stadium itself. Len Dell’Amico’s direction, while not particularly inspired, is rarely distracting and allows us to watch the band at play. Thankfully this time without the annoying psychedelic visuals that accompanied some of the Dead’s earlier video releases.
The sound is offered in both 2.0 and 5.1. While we hope Rhino will eventually begin offering these releases on Blu-ray for the benefit of lossless audio, the sound here on both mixes is quite clean. That said, there is something a bit odd about the 5.1 mix. While all instruments are present, the mix uses the surrounds in unconventional ways, often throwing a percussion beat here or a drum beat there. It is oftentimes more distracting than enveloping. And while the audience is somewhat present in the surrounds on this release, they are quite distant and place the viewer more on stage with the band as opposed to being in the audience itself. A stronger soundboard/audience matrix might have been welcome, but at the end of the day, it boils down to personal preference and there is certainly nothing here to complain about on a technical level.
Rhino’s new release offers a glimpse into the Grateful Dead’s inconsistent later years on a night when everything came together to illuminate a special moment and the band seemed poised to take the music to new heights. Sadly, a little more than a year later, keyboardist Brent Mydland would die of an overdose. Six years later would see the staggering loss of lead guitarist and singer Jerry Garcia. The rough roads ahead were paved with ups and downs and the struggles took their toll both musically and personally. But for a moment, the Grateful Dead stood before a crowd of fans at Philly’s JFK and played their hearts out. And Rhino has done fans the honor of allowing us to relive that moment with their new DVD/CD release. Hopefully, they will do the same for some of the great shows videotaped in the 70’s so that later generations can see and hear what the Dead were like at their peak; before the massive crowds following the popularity of “Touch of Grey” changed the scene dramatically, and before the signs of substance abuse and personal struggles started to take its toll on the music.
Please visit the Grateful Dead’s official site at Dead.net for more audio and video releases (many unavailable elsewhere), current news, and all things Grateful Dead.
Here is the trailer for “Crimson, White & Indigo” that was put together for a last minute theatrical run of the concert that played here in Los Angeles, as well as other cities across the country: