Presented in a lo-fi home movie style, and emanating from the sonically horrendous RFK, this forthcoming 1991 Grateful Dead concert film still holds lasting significance since it documents their intriguing collaboration with Bruce Hornsby.
Hornsby, who along with keyboardist Vince Welnick replaced the late Brent Mydland, actually begins the two-set night on June 14, 1991, at the accordion — giving the concert’s initial moments more of the down-home flavor of Jerry Garcia’s bluegrass excursions like Old and in the Way.
By the time the Dead moves into a loping take on “Wang Dang Doodle,” however, Hornsby is back at the piano — adding a series of barrel house flourishes as Bob Weir howls through this psychedelic Chicago blues. Hornsby fits in with a seamless joy, providing new insights into a tenure with the band that would last from 1988-1995, a stint of more than 100 concerts.
In fact, Hornsby’s visceral responses — his face goes from surprise, to delight, to thrumming excitement — end up working as signposts for the whole show. You get a sense of just how improvisational the Dead’s shows, in fact, were. While stalwarts like Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart move through an upbeat, engaging song list that swerves from “Jack-A-Roe” and “Tennessee Jed” to “Dark Star” and “Turn on Your Lovelight” with a nearly expressionless ease, Hornsby remains completely in the moment.
The delight in Hornsby’s eyes, as he riffs back and forth with Garcia on the second set take on “Franklin Tower” alone, is worth the price of admission.
‘View from the Vault II,’ due June 11, 2013 from Shout Factory, includes both sets from the Grateful Dead’s June 14, 1991 show at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., as well as some additional bonus footage from a July 1990 performance at the same venue, featuring the late Mydland.