Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA 11/29/2017 (Live) Digital
Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA 11/29/2017 (Live) Digital

Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA 11/29/2017 (Live) Digital

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The Grateful Dead’s long and happy relationship with the city of Atlanta began on July 7th, 1969 with a free concert in Piedmont Park – a little gift given to the city by the promoters of an event at which the Dead had not performed: the first Atlanta International Pop Festival, which was up to that point the largest gathering of its kind (it was a short reign, though, as its attendance was dwarfed a bit over a month letter by a certain shindig on a farm in upstate New York). Atlanta went on to become a frequent destination on Dead tours throughout the ensuing quarter century, with 24 of the band’s 36 total performances in the city taking place at the Omni, the dominant sports and entertainment arena in the area from 1972 to 1997. The venue holds an especially notable place in Grateful Dead history for having been the location of the last live “Dark Star” the Dead ever played, on March 30th, 1994.

The GD/ATL love was shown to be fully intact when Dead & Company came to town on November 29, 2017 to play at Philips Arena, a facility that stands just across the street from the site of the long-since-imploded Omni. A couple of stops into the southern and final leg of their Fall ’17 trek, the band had built up a solid head of steam, and the Atlanta show was singled out by many who were there, or who enjoyed it via live video streaming and/or later audio acquisition, as one of the best of the tour. “Truckin’” kicks things off in fine form, and the ensuing jam morphs into some deep blues with Howlin’ Wolf’s immortal “Smokestack Lightning.” Other first-set high points include a beautifully moody “Loser” and exquisitely rendered and improv-rich versions of “Cassidy” and “Bird Song” before a hard-rocking “Deal” signals halftime.  Set two achieves liftoff quickly with a more-than-25-minute version of the “Help On The Way>Slipknot!>Franklin’s Tower” medley, with the latter tune ending not with it’s usual flourish but a delicate fade to near silence, into which steps Oteil Burbridge with a gorgeous vocal on “Comes A Time.”  Things ignite again with the venerable electrified jug band classic “Viola Lee Blues,” which gives way to Drums and Space segments that are as adventurous as any on the tour. After a poignant “Wharf Rat,” the set ends on an energetic note with “Throwing Stones” and “U.S. Blues,” followed by a sweet sendoff in the form of a “Brokedown Palace” encore.

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