Doing two or hopefully three a week, it'll take some time but I'm determined to get through the whole tour! Time now for the next installment of...
The Dead -- April 15, 2009
John Paul Jones Arena, University of Virginia
1st Set: New Speedway Boogie, Bertha, High Time,
Mason's Children, Big Boss Man, Doin' The Rag, Standing On The Moon
Set 2: Playing In The Band-» Crazy Fingers-» Drums-»
Space-» St. Stephen-» The Eleven-» Foxey Lady Jam-» Eleven,
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo-» Playin' Reprise, Foolish Heart
Something I'm noticing about this third show of the tour is Warren is getting into a groove more easily than he had been in Greensboro and Washington. This is evident before the second song is even halfway over.
About hearing High Time -- Warren's vocals are nice and it's a great tribute to Garcia but it's making me a little sad. I think Phil's sung that in the past and it mighta been better hearing it from him. He is spectacularly on the money tonight, firing away on bass like he's 25 years old. Good God, man! He's completely in command, especially on the intro to Mason's Children. Here's a song that never should've left the Grateful Dead's rotation. If Jerry never checked out, perhaps it would've made a return, brought back to life like others. I've never heard this by Phil & Friends but with Warren I think this sounds great! This is an excellent vehicle for the band to find some space and freedom to just play... think: a 16-minute Bird Song to close the 1st Set. Mmm. It doesn't close the set here, is maybe a little awkwardly placed in the middle of the set, but still an exceptionally played version of this song.
Another outstanding version, methinks, is Big Boss Man. Without checking I'm guessing Bobby's been doing this with Ratdog... but again it's a tune I've not heard post-GD. I was happy to hear Jerry bring this back in 1995 and now it's interesting to hear this incarnation -- "You sure won't let Bobby stop." I like this 2009 go-around a lot.
I've never heard it myself but I've heard people marvel at Bob's (Ratdog's) version of Standing On The Moon but I'm just not so sure about it here. Even not-the-best Jerry version is a tough act to follow. My second listen now has me a little more displeased that they're playing this. Bob's vocals are wonderful and I think he does the song as well as the memory of Jerry great justice... but Warren's guitar here is too much like Jerry. Then the way it so kind of abruptly ends the set is a little odd.
Playing In The Band to open Set 2 features, once again, a lot more Jerry... umm, I mean Warren. I swear he could be mistaken for Jer and this could be mistaken for the Grateful Dead. It's still an excellent version, hands down fantastic, full of jamming from everyone (except Jeff who might be either low in the mix or having an off night.) They eventually hit outer space for a short while before Phil leads the shift into Crazy Fingers. A time or two in the past I thought perhaps Grandpa Phil should hang it up, retire gracefully, maybe play the occasional Bay Area benefit show or New Year's Eve or the random guest appearance in SF or Oakland or Marin. What a tragedy that would've been (to retire from touring.) He's not singing as much on this night but his bass playing is as great as it ever has been. No? Is that possible at age 70?! The intro to Crazy Fingers is so good, such a pleasure to listen to. Warren's vocals on this particular tune I'm not completely thrilled with but overall this is a sweet practically 30 minutes pre-Drums piece of music.
The Grateful Dead's tape archivist is on tour
and here's what he has to say...
|This is one beautiful city. The people down here are so, well, nice. Having lived on the west coast for so long, I’ve come across loads of great people, but there is a noticeable warmth in regular interactions with just about everyone. So, thanks, Virginia, you’ve made us all feel at home. The venue here, the John Paul Jones Arena, is on the campus of the University of Virginia, and is the home to the university’s basketball teams, a nice new venue. It’s a smaller venue than the past two nights, with tonight’s venue closer to 13,000. People are slowly making their way to the area, and the buzz is beginning. It was fun driving through Richmond and seeing the Coliseum, where the Grateful Dead played some great shows in November, 1985.|
The scene outside was a little reminiscent of Greensboro in that it was a large parking lot, although it was much colder day than Greensboro. As soundcheck wraps up, the feeling is for another solid night of music, hopefully with some more surprises...
Starting out right where they left off last night, with another track from 1970, this time Workingman’s Dead’s New Speedway Boogie. It took the audience by surprise, and within seconds everyone was up and dancing. A terrific vocal outro closed the song, with the crowd clapping along to rhythm of the song. It was pretty darn cool. Jumping into another nearly-as-old track, Bertha, from 1971, kept people shaking, which was very appropriate considering the weather. Indeed, ran into a rain storm! A huge cheer for that line. A little nuanced thing was during the closing chorus on Bertha, Warren did these tasty little guitar fills while he was singing. In keeping with the early 1970s theme, next up was a Warren-sung High Time that was extremely well-played. So, far, a very solid start to the show! Next was another 1969-1970 gem, Mason’s Children. It featured some really fine guitar work by Warren, and after a lengthy and inspired jam, Phil brought back the melody of the song for the final verse. In keeping with the so-far-nothing-before-1971 show, next up was Big Boss Man. Bluesy, meaty and raunchy, with a great slide guitar solo by Warren. I’m seeing a trend here, with early MVP-of-the-evening honours leaning in Warren’s direction. Woe, next is 1969’s Doin’ That Rag. People who like older Dead (like, all of us…) are smiling ear-to-ear. Jumping ahead 20 years in GD history, the show then goes to 1989 with Standing On The Moon. A nice spot for a mellower tune.
Second set opened with a terrific, jammed out Playing In The Band, which was almost the end of your intrepid reporter’s reportage, as my laptop was stolen while I was out enjoying the music. But, during Crazy Fingers, the perpetrator was spotted, dropped the computer and ran. So, on to the show. Crazy Fingers dropped smoothly into Drums, with the Rhythm Devils on this tour being outstanding so far. Great sounds and themes coming from the drummers. Then came a way-out Space, during which Bobby, as always, played some unguitar-like guitar sounds. That flowed beautifully into St. Stephen, played very nicely by the participants. The jam in the middle of St. Stephen was very intense and nearly blew the roof off the house, with Warren once again providing a stellar boost. Flowing into a very welcome The Eleven, the show’s energy just kept growing. Then came an unexpected but really playing Mississippi Half-Step, with a nice “Across the Rio Grand-eo” ending. Dropping into Playing In The Band was a beautiful way to head toward the end of the show. It was always nice at a GD show when they’d do the Playing Reprise even though you’d forgotten they’d played an hour earlier. Then came Foolish Heart, one of Jerry’s finest latter-day compositions. It had a nice little jam in the middle. Encore: G-L-O-R-I-A!!!! Nice!!! Greensboro and DC were very good shows, but this one, to my ears, was the most pleasing so far. Which is to say, it keeps getting better every night.
One little side thing to note is how great Phil has been sounding in the hall, owing greatly (I assume) to his wonderful new bass, as well as the front of house mix by the extremely talented mixer Derek Featherstone. He’s got the band sounding great.
by David Lemieux