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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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Anonymous said...

Warren Haynes shouldn't be on stage with these guys. He isn't that good of a guitar player and his voice is horrible. He made 04 and 09 Dead lame as all hell.

dave@davesjoint said...

Hey Anony, Thanks for your opinion. To each his own! Let me ask you a question though. Would you say Howlin' Wolf or Johnnie Winter have terrible voices? Would you say Bob Dylan has a terrible voice? How about Bob Weir? I think Warren Haynes has a GREAT Blues voice! That's really his genre. Blues and Rock. The Dead asked him to sing ballads that Jerry used to sing and I think he does a nice job of making them his own. The Pigpen material suits him better than some of the Garcia stuff. But I think he does a commendable job on this tour. The band got much better as the tour rolled on. And whether with Govt Mule, The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh and Friends, or The Dead, Warren Haynes is a class act and Rocks!

Anonymous said...

Ofcourse Bobbys got a great voice. Bob Weir was/is the voice of the Grateful Dead. Yeah Jerry's wasn't that bad but he was a legend because of his guitar work.
Dylan, Winter, Wolf are all legends compared to Warren Haynes. Warren is a d-list player and your analogy made us crack up, thanks for that laugh.
Its not just about Warrens lame guitar playing or his crappy voice, he is just really generic and has no style. He has to emulate others and you rookies eat it up.
The Dead need to listen to the real fans and not the rookies on who the guitar monsters are these days. Warren is over-rated by far.
We all can't have good to each his own is right.

dave@davesjoint said...

Hey Anony, Since I'm such a "Rookie" why don't you tell me who should be the guitar monster playing with the Dead. What's wrong with my analogy? Warren has a Great blues voice and those were great blues voices I compared him to. Certainly none of my comparisons have (had) good voices outside of the blues realm. When was the last time you listened to Bob Weir sing one of Jerry's songs? His voice pretty much sucks! But I love him anyway! He's keeping the music and the vibe alive. Why do you leave comments anonymously? Why don't you own up to your opinion? By the way - I've been going to Grateful Dead and Dead related shows for over thirty years now. I don't think I'm a rookie any more.