Without a Net

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Without a Net
Grateful Dead - Without a Net.jpg
Live album by
ReleasedSeptember, 1990
RecordedOctober 1989 – April 1990
ProducerJohn Cutler, Phil Lesh
The Grateful Dead chronology
Built to Last
Without a Net
One from the Vault
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4/5 stars[1]

Without a Net is a recording of the Grateful Dead in concert. It compiles performances from October 1989 to April 1990, and was released in September 1990. The album simulates the progression of an actual Grateful Dead concert and was certified Gold by the RIAA in November 1990.[2]


The Grateful Dead's albums had frustrated critics and fans alike for neither approaching nor accurately representing the band's live concert sound and experience - to the point that band-approved, fan-made tapes were preferred to official releases. The band's organization had poured profits into sound reinforcement and cutting-edge technology for their concert performances and were likewise frustrated by the seeming shortfall in capturing their sound on album.[3]

With the advent of digital technology, Without a Net was the band's first contemporary live project in nine years, and featured selections from then-recent tours in an attempt to allow the home listener a closer facsimile of the band's engulfing sound system. Touting the advancement in production clarity, the accompanying shrink wrap sticker proclaimed: "The world's grandest, largest, best live recording."

The resulting album achieved gold-status sales within weeks of its release - the first live album by the band to do so. A series of live releases followed, beginning with a complete concert performance in its entirety. The release of archival live performances continued after the 1995 dissolution of the band and is ongoing.

Content and packaging[edit]

The album title uses the idiom metaphorically, alluding to the band's disinclination for prepared set lists. They preferred to just play and let the song choice evolve by sense for each performance, pulling from a repertoire of over 100 then-common songs. In keeping with that notion, the packaging used a circus theme, with a "Big Top Limited Edition" also-available, featuring clowns and related artwork. The album's dedication to Clifton Hanger is a reference to keyboardist Brent Mydland, who used the alias for hotel registration. Mydland died before the album's release.[4]

The album is an attempt to compile some of the best performances from then-recent tours and present them as a prototypical Grateful Dead concert, as they sounded at that time. However, Mydland's death and the subsequent addition of Vince Welnick and Bruce Hornsby had changed the band's live sound by the time the album was available. Seventeen songs were chosen from two of the most recent tours and sequenced to represent typical set placement (though the traditional "Drums" solo and "Space" improvisation are absent, and the final "encore" track is given an early fade out).

Track listing[edit]

Disc one

  1. "Feel Like a Stranger" (Barlow, Weir) – 7:32[a]
  2. "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo" (Hunter, Garcia) – 8:00[b]
  3. "Walkin' Blues" (Johnson, arr. Weir) – 5:44[c]
  4. "Althea" (Hunter, Garcia) – 6:55[c]
  5. "Cassidy" (Barlow, Weir) – 6:36
  6. "Bird Song" (Hunter, Garcia) – 12:57
  7. "Let It Grow" (Barlow, Weir) – 11:55[b]

Disc two

  1. "China Cat Sunflower"/"I Know You Rider" (Hunter, Garcia/trad., arr. Grateful Dead) – 10:24[b]
  2. "Looks Like Rain" (Barlow, Weir) – 8:04[b]
  3. "Eyes of the World" (Hunter, Garcia) – 16:14[b]
  4. "Victim or the Crime" (Graham, Weir) – 8:04
  5. "Help on the Way/Slipknot!/Franklin's Tower" (Hunter, Garcia/Grateful Dead/Hunter, Garcia, Kreutzmann) – 19:07[d]
  6. "One More Saturday Night" (Weir) – 4:51
  7. "Dear Mr. Fantasy" (Capaldi, Winwood, Wood) – 5:44[b]


  1. ^ Later remixed and released with entire concert on Formerly the Warlocks
  2. ^ a b c d e f Later remixed and released with entire concert on Spring 1990 (The Other One)
  3. ^ a b Later remixed and released with entire concert on Terrapin Station (Limited Edition)
  4. ^ Later remixed and released with entire concert on Spring 1990
  • The vinyl pressing puts "Bird Song" before "One More Saturday Night" instead of after "Cassidy"


Additional musician

Recording dates[edit]


Year Chart Position
1990 Billboard 200 43[5]


  1. ^ Planer, Lindsay. "Without a Net". AllMusic. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  2. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database-Without a Net". Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  3. ^ "Tech Pioneers - Wired Magazine". Retrieved May 14, 2016.
  4. ^ "Grateful Dead Family Discography - Without a Net". Retrieved May 14, 2016.
  5. ^ "Billboard album chart history-Grateful Dead". Retrieved March 1, 2009.