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The Dead MSG 4/25/09 Return To Garden

The Dead's Spring Tour carnival rolled in to New York City at The Garden on April 25th, the site of so many incredible Grateful Dead shows in the past, as well as so many other incredible events and home of the Knicks and Rangers. As I already said, Nassau Coliseum was a good show, but the Madison Square Garden show was a notch above Nassau. The energy inside The Garden was apparent even before the show started, as I was seated behind a group of college age kids from upstate New York who were obvious tripsters complete with court jester hats and tye-dyes. As we talked they told me they had never seen Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead and this was their first time seeing the Core Four of Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart together. I thought this was cool - the fact that the scene is being kept alive by this kind of stuff, and that there are still young kids being turned on to it. And the MSG show was a big mix of kids like that with older hippie Deadheads and NYC Yuppie types and their spouses, all abuzz with anticipation of the new Dead to this classic venue in the city that never sleeps.

Photo By Dave The Dead at MSG

The Dead opened the show with Cosmic Charlie, a nice surprise that I really didn't expect. Phil sang the lead with Warren playing slide and making the song sound like The Grateful Dead meets The Allman Brothers Band, finishing up belting the harmony behind Phil on the "Come on home your mama's callin' you line. Next up was China Cat Sunflower. The band was right on for the China Cat, unlike earlier in the tour at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA, where they didn't quite mesh on the China > Rider. This time around it was very tight and they hit the nail on the head with Warren playing quick bursts of notes that were Jerry-like and sweet, going into a China > Rider like bridge, but they didn't go into I Know You Rider, as they did in Worcester. Instead they took a sharp right turn into the pulsing Shakedown Street, which got the Garden rockin' as it always did for the Grateful Dead in years past, only now Warren Haynes wailed the vocals with Phil and Bobby behind him. Warren and The Dead create their own jam with a uniquely new yet somehow familiar sound to it, going into the new twist "Shake it down, Shake it down, down" chorus of this Dead configuration (similar to Ratdog's arrangement and the past Dead tour arrangement of 2004). That was followed by a great jam which touched on a common Warren Haynes guitar theme remeniscent of Eleanor Rigby. The pace then slows down and the band slides into Ship Of Fools, sung by Warren, which has a very interesting almost calypso/reggae feel to it. This featured a sweet piano solo by Jeff Chimenti, and Weir on some nice twangy rythm guitar set against Haynes' lead riffs. At the end of Ship they stop briefly and yield to He's Gone (Bobby on lead vocals), an unneeded reminder of Jerry's absense, yet potent proof that this band can still play without him...."He's gone and nothin's gonna bring him back". The first set ends with strong versions of crowd pleasers Cassidy and Sugaree (sung by Warren) which has some nice playing on the jam in the middle. On the line "I'll meet you at the jubilee" Warren instead inserts "I'll meet you at MSG" and the crowd explodes with cheers. Great first set!

Photo By Dave The Dead at MSG

The second set starts with an unusually placed long Drums >Space > Jam segment which leads to Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One > Born Cross-Eyed > St. Stephen > The Eleven (all ala 1969 Grateful Dead). The opening Drums sequence ran the gamut from Rainforest sounds to Mickey Hart on "The Beam", to the African or Indian Chanting they've been using on this tour. It's almost remeniscent of Pink Floyd at times (as the Drums have been on alot of the spring tour). The Cryptical and the jam leading up to it were long and spacey, with Phil singing the lead with some eerie playing behind him. Cryptical bubbling and finally erupting into The Other One. Very unique. This whole portion of the show was a great piece of music which rivals anything else played on the whole spring tour and might have been the turning point of the tour, where the band really hits their stride. It's almost as if they're saying "Here we are! We have arrived! And we're gonna be a force to be reckoned with from here on in!" Just some real strong medicine; I know it was the potion for my pain. They briefly stop at the end of The Other One and then just go into Born Crossed Eyed, which was really tight, almost sounding like Anthem Of The Sun. This is followed by a hot St. Stephen > The Eleven combo. Great Stuff! The rest of the set they just don't let up - with a sweet Uncle John's Band to slow things down, followed by Phil's epic Unbroken Chain to bring the energy level right back up. Warren plays Unbroken Chain with an authority, due to his familiarity with it from his Phil Lesh and Friends days, when it was a regular in the rotation. That goes into a surprise rockin' Gimme Shelter sung by Warren, who plays Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on this one, and really smokes it up! Bobby throws in his One More Saturday Night; fitting for the occasion. And they wrap it up with Bobby barking on the encore Brokedown Palace, with Warren fixing it with his sweet vocals and guitar. All in all another great night at Madison Square Garden with The Dead, and hopefully these guys do this thing again real soon. It's been a long wait since the last time, but certainly worth it.

Here's the complete setlist from 4/25/09 The Dead at MSG

Set 1: Cosmic Charlie, China Cat Sunflower> Shakedown Street > Ship Of Fools > He's Gone, Cassidy, Sugaree

Set 2: Drums> Space> Cryptical Envelopment > Other One> Born Cross-Eyed > St. Stephen> The Eleven, Uncle John's Band, Unbroken Chain> Gimme Shelter > One More Saturday Night, E: Brokedown Palace

What did you think of this show? This Tour? Let me know with a comment!

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New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Live Webcast

I wish I was at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this weekend (not to mention last weekend). I went five years in a row between 1996 and 2000. It's the biggest music and food orgie in the country, held every year on the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. Everyone who's anyone in music is there and all the great restaurants in New Orleans sell their food there for the tasting. What a party! If you wish you were there eating gumbo and fried green tomatoes, drinking a Hurricane and listening to Dr John and the Neville Brothers funky music then you can do the next best thing. Go to New Orleans Jazzfest Webcast, install the media player and fry up some not so ripe tomatoes (for the gumbo and Hurricanes you're on your own). They'll be Webcasting the sets this whole weekend. Todays features will be Sonny Landreth at 12:45 PM, BeauSoleil at 1:00 PM, Joe Cocker at 2:50 PM, and The Dave Matthews Band at 6:00 PM amongst others. Tomorrows features will be Allen Toussaint at 1:00 PM, Better Than Ezra at 2:30 PM, Irma Thomas (a personal favorite of mine) at 3:15 PM, Bonnie Raitt at 3:45 PM, James Taylor 4:00 PM, and The Neville Brothers at 5:40 PM. Obviously some of these sets will not be in their entirety, which you can tell from the times listed, but some will be complete sets, especially The Neville Brothers to close the festival on Sunday. So get the hot sauce ready and fire up the grill it's party time with The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this weekend. Enjoy!

If you want to share your own memories of Jazzfest please leave a comment.


The Dead '09 Spring Tour - Enjoyed The Ride

This Deadhead's Spring Tour with The Dead is over now. Life goes on. But it was a fun ride that I enjoyed and my only regret is not mailordering for a few more shows. Oh well, The Dead '09 Spring Tour is but a sweet memory (and some more downloads) now. Looking back on the spring tour, which is still in progress, it exceeded my expectations both musically and socially. The scene on this tour had the feel of the old Grateful Dead scene of yesteryear, complete with drum circles and veggie egg rolls galore; and the music definitely has come together for the band, culminating for me in two great nights at New Jersey's IZOD Center April 28th and 29th, a venue I saw so many Grateful Dead shows at when it was called Brendan Byrne Arena. These two shows were augmented by the addition of long time friend Branford Marsalis on sax to the lineup, a true treat for The Dead as well as all Deadheads in attendance. Branford always has a way of lifting these guys up to higher peaks, and these shows were no exception. I enjoyed all four shows I saw (April 24th Nassau Coliseum, April 25th MSG, and the two IZOD shows) but the band got better with each show, as they seemed to on this spring tour as a whole.

Photo: MSG By Dave

Nassau Coliseum was a sweet show for me because I had my wife and eight year old daughter with me, something I rarely have a chance to experience together with them, but musically Nassau was just good, not spectacular. It was a nice start to The Dead Spring Tour for me. The next night at Madison Square Garden, on the other hand, was a great night of music, and as I said earlier each show for me got better and better, so you can imagine how good I thought the IZOD Center shows were.... In retrospect listening to the Soundboard recording of Nassau it actually was a strong show, but in light of the following three shows for me (I missed Hartford, Sunday 4/26/09 in between) it pales in comparison. I think I was also a little preoccupied with my family and friends I ran into. My seats were also not so good for Nassau. We were in the 300's on the side of the stage. Nassau featured a nice first set opener Jack Straw and Brown-Eyed Women, followed by Dylan's It's All Over Now Baby Blue (Bobby vocals). Then came the first set high point for me; both the Easy Wind, featuring Warren Haynes on Pigpen's vocal spot and Jerry's guitar spot, and the Death Don't Have No Mercy, with alternating vocals by Weir and Haynes and Warren's tasteful guitar lead. Don't Ease Me In with Weir singing, and Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance, the Grateful Dead '80's combo was nice to hear (I don't think Ratdog does these as a combo, ironically Phil and Friends has recently done it though) but wasn't great. I don't think Warren Haynes has nailed this one down yet, but it was ok.

Photo: Nassau Coliseum By Dave

The second set started with a special acoustic treat of three songs; Dylan's Masterpiece, Peggy-O, and Looks Like Rain. This was only the second time on this tour The Dead played one of these little acoustic sets (the other time was the second show 04/14/09 at Verizon Center - Washington, DC) and was sweet, especially the Peggy-O which I love Phil Lesh's vocals on. The only problem with this added little set is that it breaks up the continuity of the second set due to added set up time after it. The remainder of the second set was electric, and nicely played; Alabama Getaway > Jam > Dark Star > Drums > Space > Knockin On Heavens Door, Goin Down The Road Feelin' Bad (Encore) Touch Of Grey All nice stuff. The Drums > Space segment was pretty intense with some really cool stuff in there resembling the Rhythm Devils Apocalypse Now sessions of long ago. This was about where my daughter fell asleep, it was a long day for her. Goin' Down The Road was really hot and the encore Touch was sweet, ending with the chorus of "We will survive, We will get by" - the old (and not so new) mantra of the Grateful Dead past and the post Jerry Garcia Dead present. To me and many Deadheads this line, like so many others, has taken on a new meaning since Garcia's death in 1995. A sweet ending to a nice concert, the first of my four spring tour shows for me; all in all a good start.

Photo: IZOD Center By Dave

I'll be back to continue my The Dead Spring Tour show reviews as well as other shows on the spring tour soon. Up next - MSG. Did you see any shows on this tour? Let us know about your experiences in the comments.

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