Night of the Lively Dead
Written by KONSTANTIN BEZZUBOV
Monday, 11 May 2009
Chicago holds a special place in the hearts of Grateful Dead fans.
The band's July 9, 1995 show at Soldier Field was their last with
Jerry Garcia. Without their charismatic leader, the heart of the
group was gone, and there were questions circling around the Deadhead
community regarding the future. After several re-arrangements and
name changes, the remaining original members decided to put their
disagreements behind them and tour on for the sake of memory.
Now known as The Dead, but still grateful for their die-hard fans,
the quartet stepped onto the stage of the Allstate Arena to the
animated audience. The show with no remarks; none were needed.
Whether one has an ear or not for the type of extended
rock/blues/psychedelic/country/bluegrass/folk jams that The Dead made
a distinguished career from churning out, the musicianship of each
member cannot be denied. All are legends on their respective
instruments and in music, especially American music.
Guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, and drummers Billy Kreutzmann
and Mickey Hart demonstrated their ability to deliver rollicking
rockers, sentimental ballads and slow-burning Western laments. Master
guitarist Warren Haynes added an extra dimension, allowing the arena
to be washed in swirling guitars alongside lakes of tie-dye.
The show was the first of a two-night Chicago stint, and a set with
many of the classics was in place. The first half centered on
blues-jams that were guitar-heavy and dance-worthy. The electricity
that powered the large color-changing skull/lighting bolt symbol
above the stage seemed to charge through everyone's body, while
propulsions of interweaving instrumentals provided a point of
nourishment for the swaying rafters.
The crowd sang along wholeheartedly to "I Need a Miracle". "Liberty"
was another fan favorite, a song written by Garcia and Robert Hunter,
the "other" band mate who never went on stage but wrote some of the
most affecting story-songs in the bands catalogue.
After a great cover of the Hendrix-version "All Along the Watchtower"
and a break, The Dead launched into their more laid-back folky
selves. "Into The Mystic" was played warmly as a tribute to Garcia.
The concert tradition of Drums and Space came next. This was an
awkward transition from a dusty saloon into an almost Tangerine
Dream-like synthetic atmosphere. As synths zipped by and three large
drums pounded away, many in the audience took the chance to sit down.
While it was interesting to see the drummers battle it out, it felt
like this electronic twist was added to simply show off. The
instrumentals are proof enough of technical prowess. Even among fans,
this is a divisive point. Electro-jamming doesn't have the same
appeal as the regular kind.
"Standing on the Moon" and "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad" were
great wrap-ups, moving from soulfully honest lyrics, "I'd rather be
with you" to a beaming optimism that only comes from a few
The encore of the John Lennon cover "Imagine" and Dead classic "Box
of Rain" were filled with symbolism. The first shows the true nature
of the band, as it is entrenched in the American psyche because of
its democratic nature. Instruments contribute but don't overpower.
Genres mix and melt in a pot, but ultimately come back to a jam
supported by all.
"Imagine all the people" speaks to inclusivity and individuality all
at once just like The Dead speak to its fans but produces a
variation of styles to suit the listener. The second paid tribute to
Garcia and the memory of The Dead when they were also Grateful,
echoing the last song at the last show played in this city almost
fourteen years ago.
The Dead return to glory in SoCal
The legends deliver one more Saturday night of jam joy at the Forum.
May 10, 2009
By KEVIN FLINN
The Orange County Register
Imagine if you will, a "Lost"-y alternate universe where Jerry Garcia
didn't pass away in 1995. Rest assured that in this parallel
dimension, the 2009 incarnation of the Grateful Dead, now known
simply as the Dead, would sound pretty much the same as it did
Saturday night at the Forum, during the group's first Southern
California performance in nearly five years.
That's not a knock against the continuing lineup. The four surviving
members drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman, bassist Phil Lesh
and guitarist Bob Weir have long since matured beyond the country
ballads and R&B rave-ups that defined their first few decades of music.
Yet, while Garcia's absence is indisputable, the remaining band,
which has toured on-and-off since 1998, has continued to evolve, both
individually and together. This is very likely how they would sound
even if they hadn't spent much of the post-Garcia years touring
individually and bickering over the licensing of their extensive catalog.
Squabbles aside, the foursome, augmented by keyboardist Jeff Chimenti
(of Les Claypool's Flying Frog Brigade and Ratdog, Weir's bluesy side
project) and virtuoso guitarist Warren Haynes (of Gov't Mule and the
Allman Brothers Band), has grown mellower, to be certain. With the
exception of a few select faster-paced numbers ("Bertha," "One More
Saturday Night"), the Forum set list veered more toward down-tempo
songs like "Black Peter" in the first half and "Wharf Rat" towards
the end of the show.
It's not just their laid-back attitude, though they're more
composed, more patient. They listen to each other better. That could
be the result of lessons one could easily chalk up to age and
experience, but at the Forum it became apparent that they've not just
been listening to each other, they've been seeking out some of the
bands they spawned in the '80s and '90s. (The catch-all term "jam
band" applies to any number of like-minded groups that have
flourished in the Dead's wake.)
This eagerness to seek out offspring isn't new: Lesh tapped half of
Phish to play with him at a series of Bay Area shows in 1999; Ratdog
has a number of co-headlining dates scheduled with moe. this summer.
Yet it's clear by the inclusion of Haynes and Chimenti that the Dead
are making a conscious effort to reinvigorate themselves with fresh
blood. These guys aren't hanging out in their dressing rooms when
they play Bonnaroo; they're either in the field soaking up the new
generation or on stage sitting in with their successors.
Nowhere was this clearer than in the 10-minute jam that seamlessly
connected the second verse of "Viola Lee Blues" to "Caution (Do Not
Step on Tracks)" midway through the first set.
As Lesh piled on flanged effects, he led the band through a very
jazzy, very Phish-y excursion Weir added rhythmic arpeggio strums
while Haynes channeled Garcia's swirling leads, building into a
fierce cacophony the Dead of the '80s simply couldn't have mustered.
Similarly, "New Speedway Boogie" took on heavier, groovier accents
than the original, proving that although many of the night's songs
were, well, old everything in the first set was pre-1970 the Dead
aren't content to be a nostalgia act.
The new additions to the lineup definitely have musical chops, but
while Chimenti is a solid, no-nonsense sideman in the mold of ex-Dead
keyboardist Vince Welnick (or even Tom Constanten), Haynes is the
showstopper. He's the fire-fingered axe-man previous Garcia stand-ins
Steve Kimock and Mark Karan simply weren't, setting the tone early in
the show-opening portion of "Viola Lee Blues" (from the Dead's
eponymous 1967 debut) with bright, precise leads. He also aptly
shares vocal duties with Weir, belting out many of Garcia's parts in
his high, throaty growl.
While the Deadhead faithful these days lean more toward 401(k) than
420 (at least until the house lights go down), they were out in force
Saturday, packing a sweaty, hazy Forum and still shouting the "Woo!"
to a second-set-opening "Shakedown Street." They patiently sat
through the indulgent-as-ever "Drums > Space" segment a half hour
after that but they leapt to their feet and roared again as the
band tore through a gritty cover of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get
No) Satisfaction" to close that set.
And as Weir bellowed "That's right / Saturday night!" in the encore,
Deadhead nation indeed seemed grateful for at least one more Saturday
night with its heroes.
Dead's trip has fans grateful for return
By JOHN BECK
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
May 8, 2009
Before The Dead roll into the Bay Area this weekend for two shows at
Shoreline Amphitheatre, it's worth considering the last few weeks of
their long, strange trip.
There was the Oval Office chat with President Barack Obama, complete
with White House scarlet begonias. The handful of free warm-up gigs
in Manhattan. The reunion with saxophonist Branford Marsalis at a
sold-out Madison Square Garden.
In Washington, D.C., Tipper Gore hopped onstage to play percussion to
"Sugar Magnolia." In Chicago, the band paid homage to Howlin' Wolf.
Five years after the last tour, the latest incarnation of the
Grateful Dead core members Bob Weir on guitar, Phil Lesh on bass
and percussionists Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, of Sebastopol
is complemented by guitarist Warren Haynes of Gov't Mule and The
Allman Brothers Band, and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti of Ratdog.
Before rehearsals, they buried personal differences that plagued the
band after Jerry Garcia died in 1995.
"If there had been any of that kind of tension, I would have blown
the whistle on it," Lesh told Newsday, "because I won't tolerate it anymore."
Rebirth is shining through onstage, note for note, noodle after
noodle, as they retread the cross-country trails they've beaten so
many times before. Concert reviews have been nothing short of love poems.
Rolling Stone summed it up this way: "Missing their Captain or not,
the Dead made creating an honest-to-goodness great Dead show seem as
effortless and unforgettable as attending one had long been."
In Philly, a reviewer wrote: "Even after three hours, it seemed that
the Dead could've carried on all night."
When the New York Post called it "the night of the living Dead," it
was intended as a compliment.
Even the swarms of graying, tie-dyed fans are under the microscope.
Here's how a Slate reviewer sized up the adoring audience: "After a
rousing rendition of 'Bertha,' the Dead went on to play two
perplexing sets, rewarding fans still spry enough for hallucinogenics
while straining the good will of the crowd's many graying boomers,
whose sensory perceptions were altered, at best, by a Bud Light and a Flomax."
On www.dead.net, one fan posted a Top 5 list for spotting "old" heads:
1. Instead of patchouli Bengay.
2. Before dropping that hit, you consider its interaction with your meds.
3. You pass up that bean burrito in the parking lot.
4. Don't need those hearing aids at a show.
5. Instead of the VW bus the RV.
Whatever prescription you're on, it might be worth dialing it in for
the long haul. This latest spring tour may be only a hint of stranger
things to come.
"My expectation is by the time we get the tour done, assuming it goes
well and it's starting to pretty much look that way my guess is
that we're probably going to want to get back to it before it gets
away from us again," Weir told Billboard magazine.
Or as Lesh likes to say: "We'll continue to make music until we drop."
You can reach staff writer John Beck at 521-5300 or
The Dead still live
Grateful Dead reincarnation was truckin' with hits Thursday at the Pepsi Center
Peter Marcus, DDN Staff Writer
Friday, May 8, 2009
It's good to know that after nearly 45 years, The Dead are still
bringing the best of all their worlds: an endearing subculture and
the music that made it all happen.
The proper fathers to the jam band community delved deep into
their catalogue Thursday night at the Pepsi Center. One would be
hard-pressed to call Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and
birthday-boy Bill Kreutzmann aging rockers. These remaining Grateful
Dead members performed Thursday with the energy of a young band, but
with the experience of veteran musicians.
With guitar monster Warren Haynes filling in softly for the late
Jerry Garcia hitting the ballads like "China Doll" with near
perfection and Ratdog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti filling out the
group, this latest Grateful Dead reincarnation gave a rockin', but at
times delicate performance to fans in the Mile High City.
The boys had a busy day earlier in the day, Lesh, Weir and
Haynes sang the national anthem at the Colorado Rockies home game
against the San Francisco Giants. But that didn't stop them from
kicking things off strong with their funky "Feel Like A Stranger" number.
The obviously chemically induced crowd loved screaming "high on
cocaine" as the band rolled into "Casey Jones," which gave way to a
version of the beautiful Garcia-Robert Hunter outlaw tune
"Loser." Haynes nailed Garcia's legendary, soft tone with soulful
pride if you closed your eyes, you might think Garcia was in The
Can, performing in 1971.
While young and old hippies alike buzzed around Shakedown Street
the name given to traveling markets on The Dead's tour and a nod to
the 1978 tune inside, the band kept the spirit of this whole thing
alive and well.
Leadville mother Lane Condell brought her infant son Huckleberry
to his first Dead show. She was outside with finger up in the air
before the show looking for a miracle what Dead Heads call scoring
a free ticket. Having secured her miracle, Condell was able to
rejoice in the magic of the community.
"We just had a blast," said Condell of her and her son's experience.
The seven-song first set was short, but filled with the epic
noodling that has made The Dead so popular in the jam band
world. Paying respect to the late Grateful Dead blues rocker
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who had a sweet spot for "Easy Wind" and the
whiskey and wine that the song speaks of, The Dead hit the blues hard
with their rendition of "Easy Wind."
"Crazy Fingers" had its usual skanked-out quality to it and
Haynes once again filled in nicely for Garcia on this one, which gave
way to the dreamy "Lost Sailor," right into the more upbeat "Saint of
For the fans whose substances were just starting to peak by
second set, came the darkness. Not one but two different "Space"
segments left the crowd wandering in the abyss. The second "Space"
rolled into a "Drums" that had Kreutzmann and Hart trading between
drums and percussion.
Fans all sang a nice birthday greeting to Kreutzmann right around
this time, who celebrated his 63rd birthday Thursday night.
But before the darkness was the light acoustic versions of
"Deep Elem Blues," "Me and My Uncle," "Whiskey in the Jar," and "The Weight."
Garcia fans rejoiced during the almost spotless version of "Deep
Elem Blues," circa the "Reckoning" recording of 1980, while Weir fans
were blown away by his remarkable voice on "Me and My Uncle."
The Dead's cover of The Band's "The Weight" was on-point
musically, but there were some issues with the lyrics as the band
reversed a couple of verses.
In between the two "Space" segments, came a fun "Ramble On Rose,"
right into "King Solomon's Marbles," which was a crowd favorite for
the hard-core Dead Heads.
As mentioned above, Haynes nailed "China Doll" seriously, he
nailed it! In this reporter's opinion, it was eerie at times how
close he came to a proper Garcia version.
The second set closed out with the always popular "Cumberland
Blues," which rolled into "Not Fade Away," though the crowd could
have done a better job with their clapping to convince the band not
to fade away.
Perhaps The Dead would have blessed Denver with not just one
encore had there been a little more passion following "Not Fade
Away," but no one complained about the "Ripple" encore.
For Dead Heads, this reincarnation of the Grateful Dead is not
just about musical reunions, it's about reuniting with your
community, with your friends, with your family, which in the world of
The Dead is all the same.
Last night: The Dead at the Pepsi Center
By Adam Perry
Friday, May. 8 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Better than: a Grateful Dead cover band but at times worse than some
of Phil Lesh's bands -- wait, the Dead kind of is a Grateful Dead cover band.
Singer/guitarist Bob Weir, always the wild-eyed youngster in the
Grateful Dead, was in his late teens and early 20s when the Dead was
first playing Ken Kesey's Acid Tests in the Bay Area and promoter
Bill Graham was giving out free apples and beautiful hand-printed
posters at 1960s Dead shows in San Francisco. Weir was only in his
40s when Jerry Garcia died and took the Grateful Dead with him, so
you can't really blame the guy for telling a sold-out Pepsi Center
crowd, "It's you who brought us back together" last night. Of course,
$95 tickets (at the time of Garcia's death, it cost about $30 to see
the band) and crummy $30 laser-printed posters might've had a little
something to do with it as well.
But in all seriousness, the Dead's first tour in five years brought
some damn fine music to Denver, even if both of the evening's two
sets were devoid of a single classic Grateful Dead heavy hitter,
like, say, "St. Stephen," "Terrapin Station" or "Dark Star." The
first set included pretty flawless and downright enjoyable versions
of dependable Dead originals from 1969-79, including "Casey Jones,"
"Loser" and "Easy Wind," but never dove into the deeply captivating
group-improvisation the Garcia-led band was known for and bassist
Phil Lesh's post-Garcia bands have focused on. Regardless, writer
Robert Hunter's timeless lyrics (notably "Crazy Fingers" last night)
are still a huge part of what highlights any Dead-related
performance...and sometimes even saves a clunky show from being a
A new, smaller part of the Dead's arsenal (seen last night) includes
mad-scientist drummer Mickey Hart donning a sailor's cap in the
middle of a jam to tell Weir he wants the band to play "Lost Sailor."
It worked, even if the laborious song pretty much didn't.
The second set at the Pepsi Center was memorable mostly for the
quartet of stunning acoustic tunes that began it, ranging from
"Whiskey in the Jar" (the traditional Irish song that the Dead
sound-checked in 1995 but never performed) to John Phillips' "Me and
My Uncle," which (to the delight of the crowd) includes the line "I'm
as honest as a Denver man can be."
To the misfortune of Deadheads, the band didn't play an acoustic set
after their famous (and remarkable) early '80s acoustic performances
that were captured on the album, Reckoning, and the DVD, Dead-Ahead.
During the acoustic portion of the set last night, the four surviving
members of the Grateful Dead (flanked by Allman Brothers guitarist
Warren Haynes and Ratdog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti) showed a lot of
what's still so attractive about the group's music, by regaling the
crowd with four diversely gorgeous old songs that bonded band
(purposely tucked together into a 10' x 10' corner of the huge stage)
and audience together impressively, evoking howls of pleasure from
the crowd even when the act couldn't quite navigate the
not-really-so-tricky chorus-back-to-verse transitions in the Band's
This version of the Dead is more effective than the last one; in
2004, the ensemble included Weir, Haynes and Jimmy Herring on guitar.
Although Haynes and Herring are both world-class lead players, the
three guitarists (plus the notably melodic and unpredictable Lesh)
made for one big incomprehensible noodle-fest. At the Pepsi Center,
Haynes -- who specializes in Southern Rock and brings that style to
just about anything he plays -- effectively juxtaposed Weir's
proficiently peculiar rhythm guitar and wielded his massive
classic-rock leads, Nashville session-quality voice (and Garcia-esque
shape) in leading the 2009 model Dead through '70s Grateful Dead
staples. There just wasn't really any jamming, and what a lot of
people loved about the Grateful Dead is that one minute Weir would be
singing something ridiculous like "sure don't know what I'm going
for/but I'm gonna go for it for sure," and the next, the band would
be improvising on something that sounded like Sonic Youth
interpreting Miles Davis.
Just the same, when the group did get "out there" last night (during
the designated "Space" section of the second set) the audience talked
to each other or went to the bathroom. Perhaps it was an off-night in
terms of exploratory music - save for "King Solomon's Marbles," which
had its moments - or perhaps this tour is just about old friends
having a good time.
Personal bias: I toured as a drummer with members of the Dead and
Phil Lesh's band.
Random detail: When Bob Weir twirls his finger to signal a change
during a jam, the drummers roll their eyes behind his back.
By the way: Last night was drummer Bill Kreutzmann's 63rd birthday.
He's pretty old.
Feel Like a Stranger
Saint of Circumstance
Deep Elem Blues
Me And My Uncle
Whiskey in the Jar
Happy Birthday Bill
Ramble on Rose
King Solomon's Marbles
Not Fade Away
The Dead return on tour and on three releases
May 9th, 2009
Grateful Dead: To Terrapin
Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol. 2
No. 2 - Grateful Dead/Rhino
Jerry Garcia & John Kahn
- Pure Jerry #8
- Jerry Garcia Family/Rhino
What looked to be a one-off benefit to support Barack Obama's US
Presidential campaign last year is now a full-fledged tour by the
surviving members of The Grateful Dead.
Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart are augmented
with lead guitarist Warren Haynes and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti. The
group dubbed The Dead is thrilling old fans with frolics through the
30-year canon of the band whose run ended when Jerry Garcia died in 1995.
Comprising 20-plus shows, this spring's run is their biggest reunion
tour since that time. The tour has been accompanied by no less than
three archival releases by a band whose lifeblood was always live performance.
The biggest distribution item is a three CD set released on
Rhino/Warner. It will also be the most familiar sounding release for
people whose frame of reference for this band was their shows for the
last two decades of their career.
Entitled To Terrapin, it is a May 28, 1977 concert from Hartford that
shows the band of that day - Garcia, Weir, Lesh, Kreutzmann, Hart,
keyboardist Keith Godchaux and vocalist Donna Godchaux - do what was
routine for them but unheard of for any other band of the era.
That means 21 tracks in one of the 60 live shows they played that
year - a blend of basic song structures and ambitious improvisation -
a blend of originals and covers - a blend of then new stuff and
nuggets from their earliest days - in a show unlike any other they
ever played by a band that never operated from a fixed set list.
This is The Grateful Dead at its most accessible on the one hand, but
ineffably unique show craftsmen of the latter part of the 20th
century on the other. That means stirring Garcia runs, busy Lesh bass
dual leads, Weir ensemble licks, and tasty fill by the two drummers.
The weak link is Godchaux's piano, which had stilled to lethargy by
the late 70s. (He was gone from the band in less than two years, and
died in 1980.)
All in all, it is both a basic document of the Grateful Dead show
structure of its last two decades, and a snapshot from one of the
great runs of that era - early '77.
That said, die hards may well gravitate towards the other two
releases available on the Grateful Dead website. Road Trips Vol. 2
No. 2 is the first complete show release from this series started two
years ago. A show from their early days tripping the light fantastic
- Feb. 14, 1968 to be precise - demonstrates the then-young unit of
Garcia, Weir, Lesh, Kreutzmann, Hart, and charter keyboardist Ron
"Pigpen" McKernan starting to navigate the seas of wild
improvisation, and occasionally walk on the water in the process.
The sound is more frantic and wild, but never out of control despite
every reason to be. Casual fans might not get it at first, but the
energy of this night - a tribute to the memory of beat pioneer Neal
Cassady - is palpable.
Garcia was the first among equals in The Grateful Dead, and his
leadership role is as undeniable today as it was throughout their
history. A tireless player, he did tons of shows outside the Dead
though his main unit played no less than 60 dates annually and often
more than 100 shows a year.
From the early 70s homeward, most of these were with bands that had
one constant - bassist John Kahn. The first release in the Pure Jerry
series in several years is a tasty little nugget - a rare two-man
show with only Kahn on stand-up bass backing Garcia on six string
guitar and vocals that dates from Feb. 28, 1986.
It shows the roots of the man and, by definition, the roots of the
Dead in a 12 song set that ranges from rootsy originals and covers
that were staples of Garcia's Americana side of his persona to a
couple of mind-blowing explorations through his own nugget Bird Song
and Leadbelly's Goodnight Irene.
So, yes, The Dead is back - on the road with the surviving members
and in a nice rich trickle of archival concert releases.
Fredericton-based freelance writer Wilfred Langmaid has reviewed
albums in The Daily Gleaner since 1981, and is a past judge for both
the Junos and the East Coast Music Awards. His column appears each Saturday.