Pro-Shot Video: The Dead Take Off and Soar During ‘Bird Song’

by Peter Wendel
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This week, the Grateful Dead’s “All the Years Live” video series features a soaring latter-day performance of “Bird Song” – a face-melting reminder of the band’s legendary jamming ability. It’s a 14-minute foray into the stratosphere with Jerry firing up the spaceship at about 3:40.

It’s June 26, 1993, the second night of a two-show stand at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. The lineup features Bruce Hornsby on accordion and Vince Welnick on keys. Sting opens.

Here’s how Dead archivist David Lemieux sets up the performance:

Grateful Dead first sets were generally reserved for shorter songs, going back to 1970 or so. There were a few very important exceptions to this rule, though, with Playing In The Band being a major jamming vehicle for the Dead 1972-1974, usually as the first set closer. Bird Song was played mostly in the first set 1971-1973, and provided the Dead loads of run to stretch and explore. When it returned to the repertoire in 1980, first acoustically for the Warfield-Radio City shows, and then in November electrically, it would stick around until 1995 as a first set improvisational juggernaut. This typically out-there version shows where the Dead could take off to in their later years.

Peter Wendel is a journalist and PR consultant. He's attended hundreds of concerts and festivals, including the Peach, Mountain Jam, the All Good and Lockn'. He's ridden legendary Grateful Dead runs from Ventura County Fairgrounds to Irvine Meadows (CA) from the Nassau Coliseum (NY) to the Boston Garden (MA). Peter is a former U.S. Marine who – after running into trouble with every last one of his commanding officers – received an honorable discharge and a direct order never to return. Born in California and raised in New Jersey, Peter lived in Boston and Joshua Tree (CA) before settling in the nation's capital. Find him on tour at PWendel@SongMango.com.

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