March 17, 1995
Set List:Here Comes Sunshine
Wang Dang Doodle
Queen Jane Approximately
Laszy River Road
China Cat ->
Know You Rider
Samba in the Rain
New Speedway Boogie ->
Standing on the Moon ->
E: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Attendees of this show
Friday, March 17, 1995
In which we encounter the big hum, microwave pizza and espresso, and old age.
The show started with Here Comes Sunshine, which is a gem of a selection. Driving down to the show from Manhattan I could see the sun pouring through the clouds (and over the wasteland along the Jersey Turnpike...) so this was a great choice.
Unfortunately, I am reminded immediately why I haven’t gone to a Spectrum show since the ‘70s. The sound, at least on the middle level, halfway back, was AWFUL; if not the worst sound I’ve ever heard at a Dead show, certainly in the top 10. I can tell that the band is doing interesting things with the song, but I can only guess at what they might be. Phil is reduced to a vibration and a hum; as if there was heavy construction equipment operating next door. For the first time in 19 years of shows, I seriously consider leaving. I am halted by the wonderful acapella singing at the beginning and end of the song.
Wang Dang Doodle is next, and Bobby’s voice is inaudible. For a second I thought they would stop the song entirely, but they press on, to strange effect -- the verses are invisible, the chorus comes through. They start Pegio and I know that if I am to avoid becoming a grump for the entire show, I must move.
I wind up behind the stage, a spot I highly recommend. Look, even though I love watching the band work -- it’s great to watch the smiles, the grimaces, the raised eyebrows -- the fact is that after all these years we DO know what the band looks like! There are speakers behind the stage and relatively few people. I walk up a step, down a few steps, until I find the sweet spot. And I...sit down. On the stairs, and stretch out as if I was on the sofa at home. For all I complain about the bands old age, here I am, in my dancing gear (shorts, T-shirt, Capezzio jazz shoes) and I am...sitting. And it’s nice. Old age; or at least middle age, is creeping up fast.
Queen Jane Approximately is great, or maybe I’m just happy to stop running around the hall and settle in. This song has progressed wonderfully from the days when the Dead first started playing it, when Bobby did little more than shout out the verses. A nice, up-tempo version with an interesting beat.
Lazy River Road has progressed too. I can’t see if Jerry is using the much rumored TelePrompTer, but he does seem to get most of the words right. A nice sleepy song for what is turning into a VERY sleepy set.
Bobby pulls out the acoustic for Eternity. I am apparently the only person on the planet who likes this song. The verses do drag a bit, but the jam is the first serious guitar playing we have heard so far tonight (not counting the inaudible Here Comes Sunshine). Cool.
Loose Lucy is terrific, but Jerry still seems to forget some words (No TelePrompTer after all? Not paying attention to it?) Great rhythms, and a swell party song.
During intermission I spot a sign at the Wharf Rats table titled “Last Time” (thank you Tennessee Jed, whoever you are.) The sign listed the last time about 20 songs have been played in descending order; from songs that were played as “recently” as the late ‘80s back to songs that haven’t been played since the ‘60s. Now I REALLY feel old; I’ve heard about half of them! In fact, I can remember back to when some of these were played so frequently that we moaned and groaned, much the way folks do today about Liberty or I Fought the Law. (e.g. Deep Elum, Lost Sailor, Monkey & the Engineer, Brother Esau) I also realize how luck I was to have seen some of them. (The Cosmic Charlie I saw at my third show -- in ‘76 -- was apparently ONE OF the last in ages. More signs of impending old age! But I digress...)
Back behind the stage for the second set, where we can see a small kitchen set up. Crew constantly coming and going while they re-heat food in a microwave (!) and someone makes espressos and cappachinos for everyone, some with a dose from a bottle of cognac or other liquor. Oh for the backstage life!
The second set opened with China Cat. At last! Real hard, real loud, playing, thanks in large part to Mr. Lesh. (“When Phil’s in the driver’s seat...ya got nothin’ to worry about!”) The lyric, “I know you rider gonna miss me when I’m gone” draws big cheers from the crowd -- a new one for me. Jerry’s impending old age (too) getting to people? (By comparison, hardly anyone cheered the “Living on reds, vitamin C, and COCAINE,” line, which used to draw a huge roar in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Dear Nancy Reagan: it worked! -- GG)
Samba in the Rain is most noticeable to me for two reasons: it’s pseudo-Brazilian rhythm is different compared to other Dead songs, and Vince gets to play a large trumpet part with the synthesizer. The band seems to dig it, but I am relatively unmoved.
Truckin’ starts from a complete stop. I kinda like it that way...very relaxed, instead of the power cheer it can become in the middle of the set. Phil’s vocals way out in front... hard to believe that it wasn’t so long ago that we thought he would never sing in the band again. (Remember the excitement the first time you saw them set up a mike stand for Phil again?) The jam at the end of Truckin’ is either very interesting (yes!) or botched, depending on how you read these things. The jam that follows features a walking tour through Spoonful, The Other One, and the final exhibit, New Speedway Boogie, a song that has eluded me for 19 years. I thought it was swell, but I am obviously biased on this one. Jerry seemed to get lost in the lyrics. This never bothers me the way it seems to irk others, but IF he was using the TelePrompTer, it raises some interesting questions. FLASH -- the TelePrompTer, the video wall, the earphone monitors, and Bobby quickly switching electric guitars for certain songs are all doing a lot to kill off the old theory of Grateful Dead telepathy -- “How does everyone in the band know what they’re going to play next?” I’d be curious to hear your theories on HOW FAR in advance the band decides what to play. But I digress...again.
The jam after New Speedway takes its time heading into the drums. In fact, Jerry stays on stage for quite a while, doing his Art Tatum impersonation as he plays quick little phrases along with the drums. I’m not sure if the music he played moved me a lot, but I thought it was great that he was showing enough interest and energy to want to stick around while everyone else went on break.
Drums was great, with Mickey and Bill giving us a tremendous wave of the magic wand that shot us into deep space. The rest of the band came back pretty soon. A nice space -- more rhythmic and focused than I’ve heard recently. Jerry and Vince get to play around a lot with a saxophone and trumpet MIDI voices, wishing they were John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Not fully developed yet to my ear, but I think Jer digs it, and I also think we’ll hear more “horn” parts from him.
Many people think they hear The Wheel coming out of space -- a swell transition piece -- leading to much off-time clapping and applause, but it is All Along the Watchtower. Never really been my tune, and the second Dylan tune in the show, but whatever.
Standing on the Moon is wonderful and I cry, cry, cry. Not a record-breaking version to be sure, and Jerry does get lost at the end, but it was STILL wonderful to these old ears.
Sugar Magnolia seems sadly weak to me, with the exception of Phil, who blasts all over it. Bobby’s bald spot reflects in the spotlight.
With all the kvetching recently over encores, I can tell you that the introduction to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was as good or better than anything else I heard them play tonight -- intelligent, thought out, carefully crafted, and handled with care. They were doing so well with it (and seemed to pass the starting point so many times!) I thought they might skip the words entirely and do it as an instrumental! (Now THAT’S the kind of creativity I’d love to see from the Dead! Can you imagine if they came out and did a flawless, but WORDLESS St. Stephen one night? People would go nuts! Especially the folks who spend the entire show fretting over their set-list books.)
All in all, a pretty interesting way to spend an evening, no?
No more fun! Late at night, and there’s another show tomorrow. I actually have a decent seat tomorrow night (thank you GDTS) but I’ll look for all of you behind the stage on Sunday night! I’ll be the old guy with the dancing shoes, sitting down in the aisle.
(Written immediately after the show)
My last 4 shows in a row I got New Speedway boogie, this being the 4th. Not a complaint at all,I love the song and sing it often, but I should have been paying closer attention. "one steps done and another's begun, and I wonder how many miles?" Not so many as it turned out.
Eternal Consciousness Enjoyin the Ride,
Not a bad run for me - 1973 to 1995 - I was really looking forward to Jerry turning into a Doc Watson type and doing small shows in his old age with Tony Rice - all acoustic at the Birchmere or some such venue. You know after the band was no longer hip a few dud albums and they hit their 70's and 80's. Well it might have gone that way. Last show great seats big fun, big group must have been eight or ten of us. The mike cut out for Lucy in the Sky and they did this extended intro - until the techs got it working again - it was pretty funny seeing Jerry trying to sing into a malfunctioning mike - all part of the hoopla - taken in stride - shrugging shoulders - sense of humor about the whole thing from everybody and a cheer went up when they got it working again
Ending on a positive note, a cosmic giggle and an extended intro jam which actually gave us a little more bang for our buck - the muse of mischief with a universal "I don't want it to end yet" notion and my last encore - not a bad way to go out.
I also remember a rippin Watchtower and Samba in the Rain feeling light and fun - also really vibing with Jerry on Standing on the Moon - arms up palms opened facing Jerry (who cares what I looked like) doing the sway and energy exchange thing - miss you big guy - maybe we'll be able to get together for an acoustic set in the halls of heaven....looking forward to it....
May you stay forever young...