Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Dead - New York City

I've always wanted to see a concert at Madison Square Garden and I'm so glad that I finally did. After a completely hellish week at work, Davis, the Bird, and I rode the Vamoose bus (only $25) from Bethesda straight up to NYC and it dropped us off right at Madison Square Garden. We had a reservation at the Hotel Pennsylvania directly across the street, so we go to check in. That was a super long wait, but after finally getting our room we headed down the street to Mustang Harry's for some drinks and food. They were playing Dead tunes on the stereo, the Yankees/Red Sox game was on the TV so all was good. The place was full of folks going to the concert.
As we headed to the venue I asked an obvious concertgoer if he would take a picture of us. He was rather hesitant but said OK, then I asked him to be sure to get the sign "Madison Square Garden" in the picture and he said, "I'm not your guy, see I'm basically legally blind." What are the odds that I would pick a blind guy to take our picture? Anyway the next guy I asked had all of his senses and I think he did a good job (see above).
Then it was on to the show. The place was sold out and packed, and everyone was in a Saturday night party mood. The Dead opened up with "Cosmic Charlie", some very nice harmonies and Phil looked animated and excited. Then "China Cat Sunflower" which morphed into a very nice jam. Then "Shakedown Street", again Bobby and Phil doing some great harmonies on the background vocals. The New York crowd was totally into it, "Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart". This was followed by "He's Gone", you can't help but think about Jerry when they sing this one (which we also saw them perform in Greensboro). Then "Cassidy" and a super long jam "Sugaree" to finish the first set. A special tip of recognition to Warren's guitar playing and singing on this one.

Mickey and Billy came out after the break and started with the drumz. I should mention that our seats were actually very close to the stage, but we were behind the stage.  This was an interesting vantage point, the sound was quite good and we could see Mickey and Billy particularly well. After Drumz, came "Cryptical Envelopment" which led into "Born Cross Eyed" and then "St. Stephen". Then came "The Eleven" and I swear just like in Charlottesville they mixed in about 10 seconds of "Foxey Lady". I wonder if anyone else is hearing that? That was followed by "Uncle John's Band" and a nice long "Unbroken Chain".  Then they rocked the house with "Gimme Shelter" a classic Stones tune, you could literally feel the floor moving up and down with the music. And finally "One More Saturday Night" to rock the show to a close. Their encore was a very tasteful "Brokedown Palace" to ease everyone back out into the night. 

All in all a great evening of Dead music, with each show it seems like they're getting better and better. I was most impressed this evening with their harmonizing vocals and, dare I say this, their vocals sounded "tight". Never a descriptor that I thought that I would use for the Dead, but there it is. These guys have been practicing and preparing for this tour and it shows. Another unique aspect of watching from behind the stage was that we had a good view of Jeff playing the Hammond organ (and he had a grand piano on the stage). He plays the Hammond as it should be played, almost like a percussion instrument the way he bangs on the keyboard with his open palms. This was also the first night that we heard several songs repeated from earlier shows, but several of them were performed in a very different manner.

You can get a little taste of the music by clicking on the songs below.

We Vamoosed back the next morning, spent just under 24 hours in New York and never left a 3 block area. This weekend it's back to back shows in the City of Brotherly Love!

The Dead
4/25/09 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

Click below to preview tracks from this show


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Dead - Charlottesville, Va

So the day after seeing the Dead in DC, we journeyed back down Rt. 29 to Charlottesville to see them at the relatively new John Paul Jones Arena at UVA. Cousin John and his lovely wife Sandy hosted us, and despite the damp weather, we were able to have some drinks (Bubba!!!) and food on the tailgate before the show. FA and some of the guys from the Eastern Shore were there and they always make the scene fun.

The JPJ arena is a great place for concerts, small venue with very good sound, easy to get in and out, all in all a very nice experience. And the Dead rose again to the occasion, dipping into their extensive catalog and thus far they have not duplicated any songs. They started off with "New Speedway Boogie", "Bertha", and "High Time", then a song that I was not familiar with "Masons Children". Davis tells me this was never released on an album, but only as a single in the '60's. Then a very bluesy "Big Boss Man" and "Doing that Rag". The entire first set, except for the final song "Standing on the Moon" were originally recorded before 1971. Warren's slide guitar work really fits in nicely with these old tunes.

After the break, a very jammed out version of "Playing in the Band", a space jam that led into "St. Stephen", then more extended jamming. At several points both Bobby and Warren are playing slide guitar and I noted that the music had a very Allman Brothers like sound. I also think they did about 10 seconds of "Foxy Lady" in there, but that might have been Bubba talking to me. After "Half Step Mississippi" and "Lazy River" they reprised back into "Playing in the Band". I really like it when they bring you back to where they started with a reprise like that, they also did it in DC with "Dark Star". I should also complement these guys for obviously rehearsing their vocals/harmonies, there are spots in these shows when the preparation really shows. A rocking encore with "G-L-O-R-I-A". We retreated to the parking lot for more drinks and snacks until security kicked us out (politely I might add, checking that we had a designated driver). Thanks again to John and Sandy for letting us crash at their house. Now a week off before we head up to Madison Square Garden and the Big Apple!!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Dead - Washington, DC

The show and the venue had a very different feel in Washington compared to Greensboro. While in North Carolina it was a holiday weekend and there were lots of young folks and school aged kids, in DC it was a gray weekday evening and the Verizon Center filled up with lawyers and other downtown office workers.

The band started right on time with "Cassidy" and "Passenger". Phil sang "Pride of Cucamonga" which was a bit of a surprise to me. I didn't recognize "Easy Wind" but I could tell that Warren was trying to bring back the PigPen style with his blues rap. Then a kickass "Alabama Getaway" with Jeff Chimenti wailing on the Hammond B-3 followed by "Big Railroad Blues" to finish the set. This set was unique in that there was virtually no extended jams, just straight ahead songs, many of them older songs.

After the break I was thrilled to see them come out with acoustic instruments and they played "Peggy-O", "Glory Road" (a Warren Haynes song), and "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall". That was truly sweet and just after I had wondered aloud about seeing some acoustic songs this year. Then they went into a very long extended space and drums jam that ultimately led into "Dark Star". The acoustics in the Verizon were very good which made this space jam exceptionally interesting to listen to. Then some tunes from Blues for Allah and a very nice rendition of Sugar Magnolia to finish off the set. Big surprise was Tipper Gore sitting in on percussion during Sugar Magnolia!!! It appears Al was on the side of the stage watching and having a good time.

The encore was "Uncle John's Band" and "Ripple", a great way to close a great show. I would have to say all in all this was one of the better Dead shows that I have seen, including with Jerry. It was a great mix of older songs and really nice space jams, the acoustic tunes will probably remain one of my favorite parts of the tour, and the sound was just right.

Fado's across the street provided us with a nice place to grab a couple of beers before the show and to wait out the Metro crowd after.

The Dead - Greensboro, NC

We arrived at Charlotte Airport from Jamaica at 2:30 Sunday afternoon, cleared customs and immigrations, retrieved our cars from the hotel parking lot and headed north to Greensboro to the Dead show. We were listening to the Dead Channel on XM radio, they had folks reporting from the parking lot and they were taking calls from fans going to the show, so the Bird called in, got on the air and updated the country on our status and excitement about seeing the Dead. According to the radio it was a quite a parking lot scene but by the time we arrived the show was starting.

The Greensboro Coliseum was my "local" venue for concerts when I was a teenager, Davis and I compared notes as we walked in, we've both seen a lot of good shows there over the years. My favorites might be Allman Brothers in the mid 1970's and Jethro Tull performing Passion Play in its entirety just after it was released. Davis and I both saw Led Zeppelin there in the late '70's. So it felt like old times when we walked and grabbed our seats just as the music was starting.

This first set of the tour I would call a "Greatest Hits" set. While they did stretch out some jams, mainly they just blasted straight ahead rocking tunes, including the "Music Never Stopped", "Jack Straw", "Touch of Grey", and "Truckin'". They also did a very nice "He's Gone". The crowd was totally into it, singing along on the verses, and making lots of noise. There were some problems with the sound system, which muddied up the vocals during the first set.

For the second set they started with a bouncing "Shakedown Street" and "All Along the Watchtower" then the space jams started. Or as Mickey says on one of the rehearsal videos, "It's time to crack open the jam jar"... They did a couple of old tunes ("Cosmic Charlie" and "New Potato Caboose") then finished it strong with Help is on the Way/Franklin's Tower/Slipknot.

The crowd was really loud and appreciative throughout the show, especially when Phil came out before the encore (which was "Samson and Delilah"). It was a good mix of young folks (including our teenagers, who enjoyed the show much more once we reshuffled the seats so the adults were on one side of the Coliseum and the kids were on the other side) and older Deadheads. The building was completely full of smoke (probably 3/4 cigarette and 1/4 ganja), classic North Carolina.

Each of the band members seemed excited and energized about getting back out on the road, Phil's vocals were the best that I have heard, Mickey and Bill were in top notch condition. Warren plays very well, he doesn't try to fill Jerry's shoes, he just brings his own style to the sound without dominating it.

All of us had a great time, I think that it was an excellent tour launch, plenty of energy and a good rockin' show. I remarked to the Bird that it would be nice to hear them play acoustically sometime (my appetite was whetted by the appeance on "The View" the other day). After spending the night at a lovely Hyatt Place, we loaded the car and headed north to Maryland...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Runaway Bay, Jamaica

Been so busy after returning from our annual spring break "Power Off/Reset" trip to Runaway Bay, I haven't had time to provide any updates. We had a great time as always. From a music point of view we listened to everyone's iPod through the AR Partners that Wayne was gracious enough to provide for the week. The most tasty treat that I found on Davis' iPod was a 3 disc compilation by Peter Tosh called "Honorary Citizen". Some great live tracks their as well as super studio stuff.

We didn't really see any live music this week but we did get to Flavours a few nights to hear some Jamaican DJ's. Flavours is right on the beach just 100 yards from our villa, you can sit at tables outside and hear the local tunes through a nice house sound system. Great drinks and they serve good food too. Thursday night Wayne and Davis caught the DJ competition, but I was unable to make it. They reported that it was a big crowd and you could look over each DJ's shoulder as he worked his laptop (it's all done on laptops now, who knew?).

The most surreal experience was Friday night, when we went across the street (only 1 block) to a relatively new club called Jamaica-Jamaica Club. Clifford is the owner, we've known him for nearly 20 years, he's always been an ambitious business man (he used to own the glass bottom boat that we would take on diving trips) and now he has invested what must be a huge amount of money in this club, 4 levels (including the open air roof), top notch sound system, with 2 VIP rooms and 2 separate bars (Retro Room and Jazz Lounge). When we went in there were no patrons but plenty of folks working and the music was cranking. Clifford assured us that "folks were coming later" but after a couple of beers and watching Davis disappear in a cloud generated by the smoke machine we cleared out. You can check it out at www.club-jamaicaJamaica.com. Flavours with the open air and direct access to the beach is more my speed.

So a great time playing golf, eating, drinking, swimming, and hanging with the kids. Also very restful in anticipation of the Dead '09 tour which began immediately on our return and is the subject of my next post.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

March 29 - Children's Hospital Benefit at the Greene Turtle

There were a number of bands playing last Sunday night at the Greene Turtle in Germantown. The event was a charity fundraiser for Children's Hospital. We timed our arrival in order to see The Lost Highway because the Boy's drum teacher (Paul Goldstein) is their drummer. They were quite good playing a mix of rocking blues. The crowd was mostly old folks (i.e. my age) but the Bird enjoyed seeing many of her former students who were employees there. Special surprise was when Flatfoot Sam joined the band onstage for a tune.  All in a great time, once again local music needs to be supported (especially when it's for a good cause).  

We're off to our annual Spring Break in Jamaica, perhaps we'll catch some music down there, either DJ's, toasters or like last year a car stereo competition on the beach. Mainly we'll be resting up for the Dead tour which starts a few hours after our plane touches down on our return in North Carolina. I hope to be providing frequent updates on the tour, so keep watching this space.