Monday, April 27, 2009

review of The Dead - 4/22 - Wilkes-Barre, PA

This review is from a college friend, Joe C., who lives in Scranton PA.

Thanks for the review, Joe. I like to hear from someone whose opinion I trust. The reviews on the Philzone tend to fall into the categories of "Bobby sucks, Phil is a god whose every note is full of immortal grace", "You youngsters missed the boat and they suck without Jerry", and "If you can't enjoy every note of every show, sell your tickets, ... you ungrateful bastards". Though the reviews of the show over the last weekend seemed better and without the usual sniping.

I went onto the Deadlists site and checked out an image of the ticket for the Grateful Dead's last arena show in '95. The price was $27.50. If they had increased only on inflation, in 2008 dollars, that would be $38. So they went up about 250%. I'm just sayin'. But the shows are close to sold out from everything I read, so I guess they didn't charge too much to sell out.

Here's Joe's review:

"Great show!!! Worth the effort and expense! By far the most enjoyable post Jerry experience.

As we drove into the venue (I went with Dave and Charlie from my band, the Hellbenders) we were greeted by political type yard signs that read (No Tailgating!!!). The persons who placed the signs must have been referring to the restriction only applying to that particular location because the parking lot was as festive as a Spring Tour parking lot should be. All the hallmarks of a Grateful Dead concert were accounted for: dogs, check (it is called empathy boneheads, ask someone else to watch your dog); young children, check (ditto on the empathy point); freaks, check (it would not be a freak show without them); and of course people leaching off the band selling their various wares. A shakedown street was well established much to my surprise given how uptight the cops are around here concerning tail gating. It never ceases to surprise me the effect of smell to conjure memories. The scent of oils, incense, and grilled meat sticks provided an authentic atmosphere despite the strip mall wasteland setting of the venue.

No opening act. The band started approximately twenty minutes behind advertised schedule. They opened with Mr. Charlie. Spirited, up tempo and funky. Warren lead the way on vocals (Warren is carrying a lot of water for the boys and that is no bad thing!). One of the true highlights of the evening. The stick to the roof of your mouth licks which splattered from the glorious teal Gibson Thunderbird of Warren proved that he had no interest in jamming a square peg into a round hole. Also, Warren stuck to good ol Fender 60s era tube amplification. Good choice leaving that boutiquey shit he normally plays at home!


Tune number two was a strong Stagger Lee. This glorious tune about female empowerment missed Jerry/s whimsical travis picking. But, the song was well performed, none the less. Bobby did a fine job delivering the vocals, not so much on remembering them or reading them of his touch sensitive teleprompter.

Next was Liberty. Very strong. A more authoritative rendition compared to the lethargic versions of the GD.


Candyman was certainly a welcome treat, despite vocal flubs and a few miscues. Miscues occurred more often than your typical GD show which I attribute to lack of practice and the insanely large song list they are showcasing this tour.

Me and my Uncle was stupendous and had that old school feel. I cannot wait for the recording.


Built to Last received a surprisingly warm reception from the audience. This is another one of those songs from the last batch that did not receive its due. Warren pumped it full of new life. It really benefitted from the energy they put behind it.

Tennesee Jed was another highlight of the evening. In other post versions of the band, I had the distinct sense that Phil and Bobby were trying to fill the void. They now seem comfortable in assuming their traditional roles and letting Warren do his thing. This approach is helping the music. Warren is respectful, but not subservient. He always served the music and regularly initiated themes that changed the jam.

Strong Dire Wolf set ender. Very, very good. Felt like old times.


Second set opened with a brisk Golden Road. Lots of jamming and exploration.


Phil initiated what turned out to be Revolution, but got stepped on by Bobby. Phil did not veil his displeasure. Bobby relented and started the song proper. The early frustration translated into a spirited rendition that satisfied all. Phil sounded stupendous during the entire show. His tone was astral. His playing was aggressive.


Weather Report (Part 1) was a big surprise (especially since there was no Let it Grow to follow). Intro seemed shaky. The tune proper was beautiful. Bobby sounded great.


Excellent Aiko. Most of the crowd did not know their part. Super jamming. Bobby mustered every verse he could (and flubbed one miserably).

Drumz was drumz. I heard much ballywho about the new drum themes Mickey and Billy had worked out. I could not tell. Sounded like Drumz. Wear protection. It got way loud. My chest was vibrating in row seventeen.

Space was good, but I have a great love of abstract music.

Caution (Do not stop on tracks) was excellent. Warren shined. Much jamming and exploration throughout the entire second set. It was incredibly satisfying to watch the band explore and discover. They are surely a new band. Sometimes the jamming was so extended that I got the sense that many in the crowd were longing for a song. They were obviously interested in the musical dialogue, and there was a curiosity that had long been absent in post Jerry jams.

So Many Roads, which I never really cared for, was a highlight of the night. These songs from the last batch benefitted from Warren and his powerful delivery. The solos were outstanding.

Midnight Hour was excellent. Lots of cool jamming. Extended ending jam. It felt like they were going elsewhere but they came back to it for an disastrous train wreck ending followed by a bearly passible do over. Thanks for sucking Bobby. I thought it was disappointing to end such a nice set on such a sour note.

Box of Rain encore was special. No more driving versions. It was light and airy with that psychedelic quality that I find so compelling. Worthy of the legacy.


Parting thoughts:Thanks so much to my sweet and beautiful wife, K, for the awesome tailgating feast. Her from scratch french loaf rules the lot!!

I cannot wait for Philly.

Better than a bad Grateful Dead show, but not in the same league of a good one.Warren must lose weight. He is bigger than Jerry. He needs to take care of himself to continue sharing his gift that he labored so hard to cultivate.

Great show. After 14 years since my last Grateful Dead show, I consider myself back on the bus.

Kudos to Bobby in his equipment choices. He historically has had bad taste when it comes to axes and amplification. Gibson ES335??? I am impressed."