In the glorious arc of the Grateful Dead’s 30-year career, the spring 1990 tour was one of the all-time highest peaks, fully equal to the golden ages of Europe ’72 and Spring ’77. During this truly epic three-week spring fling, the band played as good as it ever had, with energy, sophistication and joy.

On September 1, Dead.net will begin shipping SPRING 1990, an 18-disc boxed set that spotlights six complete shows (one from each city visited on the tour) from this historic outing which is considered by many Dead Heads to be the group’s last great tour. The collection – limited to 9,000 individually numbered copies – is currently available for pre-order exclusively from Dead.net for $199.98.

In addition to the music, SPRING 1990 provides a completely immersive experience for fans that recalls telling details from the tour through replica memorabilia including ticket stubs and backstage passes to all six shows, a tour laminate, a 1990 Dead press photo, the 25th anniversary tour program from the era, and even copies of letters sent out with mail order tickets that included a note from the band and local hotel information.

The centerpiece of the set’s unique box is original artwork by New York artist Wes Lang, a lifelong Dead Head. Lang designed an elaborate collage featuring dozens of Dead-inspired drawings which are dispersed throughout the package, including an ornate Indian skull headdress that serves as the cover image.

Lang’s single collage is also reproduced in its entirety in the box as a fold-out poster so fans can see the full scope of the work. A 60-page, hardcover book with high-quality, Smyth-sewn binding is also included and features tour photos by Jim Anderson and Michael Laurentus and essays by the Dead’s longtime publicist Dennis McNally, who accompanied the band on the tour, and notable Dead Head Blair Jackson.

Recorded during the Grateful Dead’s 25-year anniversary, the band – Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Brent Mydland, and Bob Weir – played as though it was on a mission to prove something. The pieces just fell into place that spring – impassioned vocals, the Brent/Jerry mind-meld, the MIDI expansion of the band’s sonic vocabulary, and a bunch of new tunes and choice revivals.

Indeed, a major strength of this box is its sheer variety, 80 unique song titles in all. To put that into perspective, the band only played 58 unique songs during all 22 shows of its legendary Europe ’72 tour. SPRING 1990 mixes newer material like “Touch Of Grey,” “Picasso Moon,” “West L.A. Fadeaway,” “Blow Away,” “Victim Or The Crime” and “Hell In A Bucket” with classics like “Beat It On Down The Line,” “Morning Dew,” “Dire Wolf,” and “Brokedown Palace,” plus superlative jams “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider” and “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower.”

Among the rare gems: the first performance of “Black-Throated Wind” in 16 years and almost 1,000 shows, “Easy To Love You,” “Dupree’s Diamond Blues,” the last performances of “Built To Last” and “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” plus covers of The Rolling Stone’s “The Last Time,” The Band’s “The Weight” and the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”

The powerful and revealing sound heard throughout the collection is the result of work done by the band’s longtime audio engineer John Cutler, who originally recorded the shows, and Jeffrey Norman, who mastered each show to HDCD specs.

Unlike last year’s massive Europe ’72 set, SPRING 1990 will only be issued as a limited edition boxed set and not as a “Music Only” edition. These shows will not be released as individual CD releases either. In short, this box is the only time these shows will be available on disc. Similarly to Europe ’72, there will be a two-disc set released on September 18 that collects highlights from the box titled Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It. An official track listing will be announced later this month.

Because the band was playing at such a high level consistently during this tour, selecting which concerts to include in SPRING 1990 was a challenge, explains Dead archivist David Lemieux. “The music is so good every night that it could very well be six completely different shows and still be as strong a box.” He adds: “The hope is to eventually do a part two.”

SPRING 1990 Featured Concerts:
3/16/90 Capital Center, Landover, MD
3/19/90 Civic Center, Hartford, CT
3/22/90 Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON, Canada
3/26/90 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY
3/30/90 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
4/2/90 The Omni, Atlanta, GA