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!