Well, after 22 shows, it has been a trip watching this tour develop, grow and around the midway point hit its stride and stay in a consistently fine place. The first half of the tour definitely had some high moments, with the second Worcester show on 4/19/09 being a particular standout to these ears, and other good stuff at other shows. It seemed that the MSG show was when the tour really clicked, and aside from the occasional miss, the rest of the shows were widely praised as pretty good-to-excellent. This was, without a doubt, a grueling tour for the band and crew, as it was considerably longer than a typical Grateful Dead tour of the 1980s and 1990s, which usually ran about 13-17 shows, with many of those shows being three, four, six and occasionally eight or more night runs at one venue. The shows themselves back then must have been exhausting (these guys work hard!) but the touring itself was less strenuous than it was this time around. There was one stretch on this tour with five shows in six nights, in five different venues. And on the night off during that run, the band and many of the crew members had to be at the Letterman studios for the entire day into the evening for the TV taping. That would be tiring for anyone, not least of all to guys in their 60s. And through this schedule, they really didn’t show any signs of fatigue.
The people who most-enjoyed the shows were the people who went in with no specific expectations for the music, going out to simply have a great time dancing with 18,000 friends and see where this new being would take them. And if that was your intent, I guarantee you left the show satisfied. For those looking to hear the Grateful Dead, disappointment was bound to set in, as this was something entirely different, but remarkably the same. The music was played by some of our favourite living musicians, featured some of our favourite songs, and every single show provided an inspired, occasionally draw-droppingly insane set list. Songs most of us never thought we’d see live (Cream Puff War, Born Cross-Eyed, etc) were polished off and played well. Of course, the Grateful Dead scene was about music first and foremost, but the other major element was the community that grew from the Grateful Dead world, and no matter what your take on the music was for this tour, there is no denying that the genuine Grateful Dead community was present at every show, and was perpetuated through the online world. One of the coolest things was the huge number of people who brought their kids to the shows so that they, too, could experience one of the most defining aspects of their parents’ personal growth. And just as the saying goes that loads of babies are born nine months after a major urban power outage, there sure did seem to be a lot of 12 and 13 year old kids accompanying their parents, born around 1996-1997. And loads of toddlers. It was pretty darn amazing. It was also fun seeing people from back in the day, 20 years later with the same smiles. A personal anecdote: around 1989, I used to see a taper in the tapers’ section at virtually every show who had a pronounced German accent. We all just figured he was a German living in America. All of being so busy taping, I never actually met this guy. But there he was on this tour, taping the first 10 shows. It turns out he lives in Frankfurt, Germany, and used to come over for every American tour, with his first show being 4/24/72 Dusseldorf. Peter, it was great to finally meet you! And Paul as well!
No one knows what the future will bring for this band. Whether they get back out there again remains to be seen, but in the meantime, there’s still some great stuff going on with Phil and his band, RatDog, and the drummers doing their always-interesting things. The Dead mightn’t be the real thing as it relates to the Grateful Dead with Jerry, but it’s close enough to pretend and have a good time with 18,000 of your closest friends. Thanks for the good times, guys, and to everyone checking this site out during the tour, a heartfelt thanks.
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