Monday, May 4, 2009

The Dead - Philadelphia, PA (5/2)

My fantasy is that sometime on Saturday after I posted my blog saying that the Friday night show was somewhat “lackluster” Bob Weir stumbled across it while surfing the net and told the band they would have to “step it up” for tonight’s show since the fans were complaining. It’s doubtful that happened, but for whatever reason Philadelphia’s Saturday show was much more entertaining, in fact some are saying it is the best one of the tour. I’ve been working on a theory lately that it’s foolish to compare one show to another, in fact the tour should be viewed as simply one long show, split up over a series of nights and venues. This is why the Dead rarely repeat songs from one night to another and why fans go to such efforts to see as many shows as possible. Missing a show would be akin to missing one act in a play or skipping a chapter in a book. It has been documented that sometimes the Dead will extend songs over several shows (e.g. playing “Sugar Magnolia” one night and playing the ending part “Sunshine Daydream” several nights later). So maybe Friday night in Philly was designed to be more contemplative and a quiet lead in to Saturday night’s rocking show.

Like the first set in Greensboro, the first set in Philly #2 was all popular tunes that the crowd could sing along to, with little or no extended jams. However unlike Greensboro, all of the songs from the first set were older, nothing later than 1972 (except "Althea"). They kicked off with “One More Saturday Night” and “Brown Eyed Women” and the crowd was instantly having a great time. Then a nice arrangement of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”, followed by “Althea” and “He’s Gone”. Just like Greensboro, “He’s Gone” had a major element of crowd participation. This was followed by a relatively short jam (you can’t keep the jam jar completely closed!) which led into an excellent version of “Uncle John’s Band”. This morphed in “Mason’s Children” and then the set was over.

The band returned from the break with a loose jam that ultimately led into “Good Lovin’” to get the crowd right back into it. Then an upbeat “Cumberland Blues”, the guys can still sound like a bluegrass/jug band when they want to. Then lid came completely off the jam jar as they improvised through “Cryptical Envelopment>The Other One>Drumz>Space. Then a really long extended “St. Stephen” with everyone playing great solo’s. The crowd got to singing again with the Beatles’ “Revolution”. They finished the show with the first tunes post 1972, “Help is on the Way>Slipknot>Franklin’s Tower”.

The encore was "Samson & Delilah" with the chorus "If I had my way, I would tear this old building down." Much was being said this weekend about the long history between the Grateful Dead and the Philadelphia Spectrum, with over 50 shows played there and the building scheduled for demolition later this year. Sunday on the radio I heard an interview with Bob which was recorded just before the show and he wisely pointed out that it’s not the building, it’s the people in it. He said the folks in Philadelphia come to the venue with high expectations and they demand the band to deliver. Well I’m sure that everyone walking out of the Philadelphia Spectrum Saturday night would tell you their expectations were exceeded.

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