Carefully compiled and co-produced by chief archivist David Lemieux (who contributes an essay of fond remembrance), So Glad You Made It displays the same impeccable logic as its companion piece culled from 2011’s Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings.
The opening, "Let the Good Times Roll," invokes a mood of community, grounded in the shared experience of the music through the alternating vocals of Brent Mydland, Bob Weir and, last but not least, Jerry Garcia. It’s an atmosphere that permeates all that follows. Accordingly, "Feel Like a Stranger" illustrates the dichotomy of the touring experience as well as the unique concert phenomenon.
The Grateful Dead audience had grown exponentially since the mainstream acceptance of "Touch of Grey,” but the 1987 ‘hit’ notably does not appear here, replaced instead by The Rolling Stones’ "It’s All Over Now," the Mydland/John Barlow collaboration "Easy to Love You," modern day Hunter/Garcia "West LA Fadeaway” and deep catalog dives, including American Beauty’s "Attics of My Life.”
Just a few years prior to this tour, the Dead had encountered obstacles internal and external, but no such challenges permeate here: the musicianship radiates a burnished glow in forms both compact ("Samson & Delilah") and extended ("Scarlet Begonias"). Mydland’s electric keyboards mirrored the MIDI enhancements Garcia and Weir utilized, highlighting the vintage "Loser" and reinventing the warhorse, “Playing in the Band,” especially as it segues into a hard-charging version of “Eyes of the World.” Meanwhile, the latter functions successfully as a deserved spotlight and exercise in crowd-pleasing for Mydland.
More homage to Jagger/Richards in the form of "The Last Time" sounds portentous in retrospect, but the ominous air gives way to a more celebratory mood via The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’” and the penultimate “Not Fade Away” toward the conclusion.
Its triple-fold digi-pak design featuring newly-created artwork from Wes Lang that hearkens back to the iconic graphics of early Grateful Dead, So Glad You Made It, like the expansive item from which it is derived, hardly looks like a condensed package. Quite the contrary in fact, as, like the music it encloses, it is stylish and ever-so-worthy of savoring for its ingenuity and loyalty to a self-created tradition.