Friday, February 8, 2008

Review of Deadheads for Obama show

My friend, Steve G of San Rafael CA, attended the Deadheads for Obama show in SF, CA this past Monday. This is his review:

The show was fantastic - easily the best live concert i've seen in years. There was so much energy at the Warfield and it was great to see them in a venue with so much GD/JGB history, and that only seats ~2500. Nearly everyone in attendance were die-hard deadheads, but there were a few people who got tix through the Obama campaign. But everyone seemed to have a great time.
I had just seen Phil and Friends for their Mardi Gras show the week before - first time i had seen them in about 7-8 years. I stopped going because at the time Phil was singing most of the songs and i just couldn't bear his off-key vocals for an entire show! Now that he's added Jackie Green, he is only singing on a few songs. I was lucky at that show because he did 3 of his own tunes: Pride of Cucamonga, Unbroken Chain and Box of Rain. Alot of folks at the Deadheads for Obama show said that the P&F show was the best they've seen in years, so i feel like i lucked out. They did alot of old GD tunes in the first set, like Golden Road, Midnite Hour, Viola Lee->Caution->Viola Lee. And the second set featured the Mardi Gras parade, which was cool because i never saw a Dead mardi gras show. They had a bunch of floats, chinese dragons, stilt-walkers, etc... parading through the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium during and extended Iko Iko sung by Ivan Neville. Good stuff - they even through in the New Orleans classic "They All Asked For You" in the middle of Iko, which is on one of the Putamaya Kids New Orleans CD that is in Jake's regular music rotation. The Truckin' after Iko featured Ivan Neville on Jackie's B3, playing the original organ part from the studio version of Truckin' which sounded great. Then St Stephen ->The Eleven->Unbroken Chain.
The opening band was Dumpstaphunk (great name for a band) featuring Ivan Neville. They were great - the whole crowd really got into them. Their highlight (for me) was the Sopranos theme. Great crowd at this show - really good vibes all around.
But now getting back to the Deadheads for Obama show. Tix went on sale at 5 pm last friday and sold out in minutes. I was shut out and was totally bummed. My neighbor managed to get tickets but didn't have any extra. The next day, i checked on Craig's list to see what they were selling for and the first posting I saw was from someone who said that Ticketmaster just released a block of single-seat tickets. I went online and ended up getting great seats - 4th row balcony on Bobby's side of the stage.. So i drove in with my neighbor but we couldn't sit together. Getting into the Warfield was a mess because all of the tickets were will call. So 2500 people were lined up down Market Street. Fortunately, my neighbor found a friend who let us in line near the front so we got in before the 7:30 scheduled start time. Of course the show started an hour late becasue it took that long to process all the ticketholders.
When i got in, we hung out and had a beer before heading to our respective seats. When i got to my seat, it turns out i was sitting near my high school buddies sister- the one who had told me about the show in the first place. My row was all of her friends and just like in Dead shows back in the day, they totally accepted me into their merry clan and shared whatever they had with me. In fact, one guy kept smuggling beers into me during the entire first and second set, so i didn't have to leave my seat and had free beer (including delivery).
In terms of the show itself, what can I say? You saw the video. The highlights for me were The Wheel, Sugaree, Minglewood, Other One, and the entire acoustic set (esp. Ripple, where the entire crowd was singing the final verse). The only thing i wasn't so thrilled about was Come Together - i knew they were going to play it because my friend was there for the soundcheck and told me they were working on it.
Throughout the show, i kept focusing much of my attention on Bobby,Phil and Mickey. Watching one of them for a while, then shifting to the next. The interplay between the 3 is something you don't see in most bands. They are so musically connected that they were able to pull this off with no rehearsals other than the sound check. I really like the way they represented Jerry. All three of them (and also Jackie) handled Jerry's vocal parts. And the guitar parts were split between Jackie, Barry Sless and Mark Karan. It was the most respectful way to basically say that no one person can ever replace what Jerry did - it was a collective effort. And they came pretty close at times. Even Phil singing Half Step sounded good. The other thing i realized is that Bobby is fantastic when he plays with Phil. I really can't stand Ratdog and I know alot of other folks feel the same way. They just don't have what it takes. Bobby needs Phil, whereas the reverse is not necessarily as true (based on the P&F show).
The other thing is Jackie Green. Deadheads have really embraced him. It's weird to see a skinny 27-year old asian guy doing Jerry tunes, but he gets it. He can do the soulful vocals on tunes like Sugaree and Brokedown Palace (which he and Phil played acoustic on KFOG last week). I was hoping to hear him sing Stella Blue, because i think he would be able to nail that.
In terms of the politics, i'm glad they supported they guy i voted for. Phil and Mickey are really ardent Obama supporters. Bobby probably is too, but he didn't talk about a specific candidate as much as he was just urging people to get out to vote.
Even though Obama lost CA to Hillary, he's still close in the race. Most of the people I spoke to supported Obama, but the guy next to me was Clinton supporter. There was a group on the floor that unveiled a Ron Paul banner (why would you do that at an Obama fund-raiser) and it was promptly taken down. And i saw another guy write "Bin Laden" under Obama's name on a poster that was hanging up in the balcony. What an idiot! I guess even some deadheads can be complete knuckleheaded douchebags.
Jackie is playing a tiny theater down the street from us this weekend. Phil lives near us and the theater, so i have no doubt that he'll show up. But i probably won't go as I've gone over my concert quota for the month - i still may go see Johnny Winter in a few weeks. I don't know if i told you we bought a new house. Our neighbors report Phil sightings all the time. I've run into him at the Farmer's Market, supermarket, brunch at a local cafe, dinner at an italian restaurant, in the parking lot at the Corte Madera mall. My neighbor who i went to the show once had jury duty with Phil and was chatting him up during a break. He ended up getting backstage passes for one of his upcoming shows (this was a few years back).
I hope this lineup tours so you get a chance to check them out. I don't know how well Bobby and Phil get along but there's no denying that they still sound great together.