Grateful Dead live albums are kind of like salt-and-vinegar-flavored potato chips: If you're fond of the distinctive flavor, there's no way to stop at just one. Well, this double-disc set -- recorded on October 16, 1989, at the Meadowlands Sports Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey -- is a particularly tangy one, rife with hidden pockets of wonder. The first disc kicks off in unusually aggressive mode, with Bob Weir
pushing his bandmates through a wired version of "Picasso Moon" that's veined with raw soloing and underscored by Brent Mydland's skittish piano runs. By mid-set, the band has settled down some, offering up languid, back-porch takes on "Never Trust a Woman" and "Built to Last," but an 11-minute rendition of Bob Dylan
's "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again," propelled by some insistently sinewy Garcia
solos, finds them taking off for the ether. Disc 2 finds the band still in orbit, with an opening salvo of "Dark Star" -- the ever-changing concert staple that, on this evening, took on a jazzy, faintly Zappa-esque tenor in its initial 12-minute presentation (interestingly, a shorter second version turns up at set's end, tacked onto a vibrant "I Need a Miracle"). As ever, the mood shifts restlessly, from joyous (a celebratory skip uniting "Playing in the Band" and "Uncle John's Band") to the tranquil ("I Will Take You Home"), before closing out with the lullaby farewell "I Bid You Goodnight."