Monday, July 6, 2015

Grateful Dead-Fare Thee Well (revised)

I tend to think that I was born at the right time to see and hear most of the important bands of my lifetime. But for all intent purposes I rarely ventured out to see most of them.  I was too young for Woodstock and the Haight Ashbury Love In of 1967, saw the future of FM underground radio only to be brought out by Corporations and turned into the same 13 songs of the past 40 years, likewise the major labels morphed into three bloated behemoths that would threatened even the ones trying to preserve  the chart topping ratings of the billboard top 100.  The resource that I used to find chart positions of songs back then bullfrog's pond, got sued by one of these corporations (betcha I know which one) so that resource got taken down for a while.  Strange to see that our love and hobby of music,  and trying to preserve the legacy of the forgotten artist is always being tested by one of the big three and their high ranking lawyers.  Basically things started going downhill by the late 70s and early 80s when corporations begin to buy up the independent labels and what was promised for more music ended up being the opposite.  If nothing else, I've seen the regressing of music, to the point of today that new music on a major label sucks.  When you have Kayne West trying to bullshit people thinking he's rock and roll, is laughable.  He couldn't have done this without his processed auto tuner voice.  At least Miley Cyrus is more into the spirit of rock and roll than Mr. Kadashian.

The Grateful Dead......truthfully I never was a big fan of theirs, not when Jerry Garcia was alive but when they came into town, it was a big event, with The Dead Heads hanging around the Five, it must have been nice to do that, go from town to town, dancing in the aisles, toking up a joint and getting that free loving.  But their records remain somewhat spotty.  I thought their WB debut was hippie fun, Anthem Of The Sun, trippy freaky, Axomoxoa a bum trip and Workingman's Dead and American Beauty their flawed classics. I don't recall the United Artists era all that much, the records were boring and it was strange to see Clive Davis sign them to Arista for more unevenness.  Oh, once in a while they would score a decent track (Passenger, Alabama Getaway) but by then, the Dead were more interested in playing live and letting people record it on their own, but Go To Heaven sucked.  The surprise hit of In The Dark and overplayed Touch Of Gray, still good but I'd rather not hear it anymore.  In The Dark turned out to be their best since American Beauty and while their final effort Built To Last got poor reviews, I find it a better listen than say, Go To Heaven.   But there's tons of their live shows available via bootlegs, or regular releases. Mike Gallucci might disagree but I like Dead Set.  And the Skull and Roses album of 1971 which gets my vote over Live/Dead, both classic albums but the S/T album having a good time jam and better songs.  The Dick's Picks series, which Rhino started out and now taken over by Real Gone Music gives the listener the whole ball of wax of being at a 3 and half hour Dead show, the 1978 Madison/Cedar Falls shows of that year I got simply of the fact it was recorded at home.  But a document of the past, it works well for me but I don't play it too often.

And so The Dead continue to play live up till 1995, twenty years on after the passing of Jerry Garcia, the band came to an abrupt end.  And strange things happened, Bob Weir grew out his beard, Phil Lesh continues with friends and once in a while make a album and Mickey Hart went back to do his Planet Drum projects.  Weir started Ratdog, and once in a while get back with Lesh and Hart as simply The Dead, but without Garcia, that special feeling was gone.  This year to celebrate The Dead's fifty years of music, they started The Fare Thee Well tour, with Trey Anastasio  replacing Garcia on guitar and vocal.  Last weekend they played in California and this weekend, they're playing at Soldier's Field in Chicago.  So basically this is their last go around, the return of Bob, Mickey, Phil and Bill Kretzman.  The set lists are varied and different than most and they promise that surprises are in store.  Judging by the July 3rd Set list.  They are right.

 7-3-15 setlist

Box Of Rain
Jack Straw
The Wheel
Crazy Fingers
The Music Never Stopped

Mason's Children
Scarlet Begonias
Fire On The Mountain
New Potato Caboose
Playing In The Band
Let It Grow
Help On The Way
Franklin's Tower
Ripple (Encore)

The second night brought out more surprises and more obscure songs, some were a chore to sit an listen through, Lost Sailor comes to mind. But what better way to end a Dead show on the Fourth Of July with U.S. Blues.  While Trey Anastasio shined the first night, tonight belonged to Bob Weir.  Even if Lost Sailor wasn't one of the better numbers, The Dead sounded pretty tight, even going into different songs without missing a beat. The fireworks at the ending of US Blues is the stuff of rock legend.  Even with all the money grabbing crapola that's going around during the run of shows.

Set One:"Shakedown Street"
"Standing on the Moon"
"Me & My Uncle"
"Tennessee Jed"
"Cumberland Blues"
"Little Red Rooster"
"Friend of the Devil"

Set Two:"Bird Song"
"The Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion)"
"Lost Sailor" > "Saint Of Circumstance"
"West L.A. Fadeaway"
"Foolish Heart"
"Drums" > "Space" > "Stella Blue" > "One More Saturday Night

Encore:"U.S. Blues"

The final night: July 5th

They saved the best show for last, as if they knew this would be it and nothing more would be heard from the Dead again.  Beginning with China Cat Sunflower, they even pulled out Terrapin Station before the Drums and Space sequence.  The interesting inclusion of Days Between, one of the last songs Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter wrote together has to be noted since it's one of more darker Dead songs written. However, they pick up the good vibes with a very rocking Not Fade Away one of the highlights of the show with Trey Anastasio and Bob Weir trading licks and vocals.  Then have the band leave off the stage one by one till only the drummers remains and playing.  Somehow this led to the encore of Touch Of Gray at which Trey and Bruce Hornsby took turns singing as Bob and Phil would sing the chorus.  And the show ended with Attics Of My Life, a problematic song which somehow was a perfect ending to a wild weekend of ups and downs of a storied career of a band that invented the long standing jams.   After five decades, two of them without Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead survives and still does with the many many live bootlegs and official releases of their concerts over the years.  I'm certain that these shows will be epic and must haves.  For a band that started out On The Golden Road to unlimited devotion, they end up in the attics of our lives and changed it for the better, or to some the worst.  To the beginning of Pigpen's Vox organ, it ends on Bob Weir's acoustic guitar and Trey Anastasio and Phil Lesh singing along.  Nothing left to say but....fare thee well.

Set List:

China Cat Sunflower
I Know You Rider
Estimated Prophet
Built To Last
Samson & Delilah
Mountains Of The Moon
Throwing Stones

Terrapin Station
Unbroken Chain
Days Between
Not Fade Away


Touch Of Gray
Attics Of My Life 

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