As a long-time listener of The Dead, and a life-time listener of friends and family members’ stories about their great live shows are (and how they saw Jerry’s last show), I finally got to see my first Dead show last night. As soon as I parked the XRT truck I was immediately greeted by members of the “travelling circus” with warm praises of the station and was even asked to “join the feast” of roasted rabbit and plenty of rum and Kool-aids.
Once in the arena, the herbal aroma infused the air and gave the lights of the stage an even mellower glow and I was quickly accused of being an undercover cop because apparently going to a show by yourself is “suspicious.”
The first set included mainstays like “China Cat Sunflower”, “I Need A Miracle” and “West L.A. Fadeaway” but lacked the reciprocation of energy from the band given by the crowd. Allman Brothers Band stand-in, Warren Haynes, stole the show during the first set. A weepy version of “All Along the Watchtower” closed the set and gave the rest of the show some much needed emotion.
In the second (and acoustic) set, Weir, Haynes and Phil Lesh harmonized in the way that I expected. Haynes carried the band through a beautiful version of “Into the Mystic” and Weir and Lesh finally claimed the crowd with plenty of participation on covers of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Peggy-O,”; the latter making the show for me. After a trippy percussion solo on which Mickey Hart lost it on some well-amped drums, the band returned for some more obscure fan favorites. Ending the show with “Box of Rain” left the smoke-soaked listeners in a chilled mood on the way out.
My first Dead show gave me insight to the lifestyles and embracing attitudes of the listeners and a deeper appreciation for the breadth of music catalog that the band has to offer. And despite buried vocals and a somewhat weak start to the show, The Dead continue to bring an unmatched live act to wanting fans.
(Written by Tim Liston)