You'd be hard pressed to name a more cult-like, divisive band than The Grateful Dead. I feel like, whether or not you're a fan, it's one of those ways you know you have a true musical connection with someone if their opinion lines up with your's.
I happen to be a sort of recovering closet Grateful Dead fan. I suppose Animal Collective talking about them in the press and using the first ever authorized Dead sample on the song 'What Would I Want? Sky' gave me courage to finally admit it, though I think I had long since accepted and embraced my love for the band. It was round about the time my manager at my current job said he loved his parents' vintage vinyl copy of one of their weird 60s/70s albums (Blues For Allah or maybe Aoxomoxoa based on his description).
Still, their live shows are definitely where it's at when it comes to Deadhead-dom, even as fine as Workingman's Dead and American Beauty are. You'll rarely come across a fan who doesn't think the band's best material was during their first decade-or-so, spanning from roughly 1966 to their 1975 'hiatus' year. Not that all Dead post-'75 is dreadful, but it certainly gets less compelling as it goes, at least in my opinion.
This live show, I'm about to link below, is only the second set of this night's concert, and demonstrates only about half of the band's variety, missing some of the bluegrass and country/folk influences of releases like the live-with-studio-over-dubs Europe '72. Hmm perhaps versatility is a better word than variety, then. Anyway, this set opens with 'They Love Each Other', which I'm more familiar with in a slower, funkier setting from the legendary show on May 8, 1977. I like this leaner, cleaner, R&B-ier version even better...reminds me of what Credence Clearwater Revival or even 1969/1970 era Velvet Underground might do with it. And as for this insanely long performance of 'Dark Star', well, there's a part around the 28 minute mark which is as experimental and abrasive as anything you've heard before. As anyone who's cool enough to listen to Live/Dead knows, this band actually had some noisy shit going on from time to time--by which I refer to the aptly titled seven minute track 'Feedback', every bit as dissonant and groundbreaking as anything off White Light/White Heat. Or Animal Collective's first few albums.
Oh, anyway, here's the link to show, man. Just remember you owe me a dimebag and some rolling papers next time I see you: http://stash.nugs.net/attics/frames.asp?page=/vault/show.asp&artist=1&show=60&cmd=shows