The second installment of the Pure Jerry series, After Midnight, showcases the Jerry Garcia Band on February 28, 1980 at Kean College in Union, New Jersey. So popular was this show, and frankly, that entire tour, that it was selected in part through the input of fans. Often a "great show" encompasses far too many factors to discuss in a review and everyone's reasons are different. But how often is a choice show - agreed upon by voracious fans - based solely on one jam? For more than 20 years Jerryheads have raved about the smooth slip, stitch, and pass of "After Midnight" > "Eleanor Rigby" > "After Midnight" that is the centerpiece of this show. Two favorite cover songs made whole by Garcia's whip-crack band; John Kahn on bass, Ozzie Ahlers on keys, and Johnny De Foncesca on drums.
Enrobing The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" with JJ Cale's "After Midnight" became par for the course for the life of this JGB lineup. Without dissecting all the other versions, it's easy to hear why this was considered the crème de la crème. As the Deadheads used to say "it's all one song." Garcia was known to get off on reinterpreting his favorite cover songs, for whole tours, and with little set-list variation. It was the covers that got the most massaging and reworked attention while he let the earmarks of his Dead life slip away. That fact is made plain with After Midnight.
Garcia's classic Bob Dylan cuts are the other intriguing pieces of the show. The smoker's-lung and heroin-daze of "Simple Twist Of Fate" is a beastly 17-plus minute ballad that swells into the show's climax finding the quartet in an oozy, let-loose gear. The other Dylan selection, "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," finishes out Disc 1 with a disarmingly low mood that had been jolted by the show-opening pumper "Sugaree." All throughout these discs, Garcia's laid-back strum-'n'-leads infuse Allen Toussaint's "I'll Take A Melody" and Hank Ballard's "Tore Up Over You" with a yellow-eyed haze and junkie melancholy. Another highlight is Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come," which extracts all the reggae from this fight song and slowly spikes the vein with white-geek soul for nearly 13 minutes. Languid and syrupy, Garcia's rickety vocals sound a lot more endearing here than they do just plain weak. Lo and behold, there are a few Garcia/Hunter originals filling in the spaces to remind attendees that, yes, this was The JGB. Hunter appears for encore vocals on his songs "Tiger Rose" and "Promontory Rider" which help bring the show to a rousing stop.
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