the Dead at Red Rocks
I went to see the Dead last night, the last off their 5 night stand at Red Rocks to kick off their tour. I should note they were the Grateful Dead, and are now just The Dead. This is because of a couple of key (you guessed it) deaths. I was going to say it has been about 10 years since I have seen the Dead, but it has been about 10 years since anyone has seen the Dead, so that would be moot. They played last year with a slightly different incarnation. However, after experiencing the ear bleeding that came from hearing a Phil Lesh and Friends show... I had written the boys off (more on Phil's singing coming up shortly). The band features everyone from the lineup of the 80's & 90's barring Brent Mydland and of course Jerry Garcia. They were not available last week for the tour as they are dead. In their place is the amazing Warren Haynes for vocals and Jimmy Herring on guitar. Knowing that I would also get to see the amazing Warren Haynes again is what pushed me over the top deciding to go. What factored against me going (and why I only went to one show) is the tickets were over $60 a day, bro... and yes, fearing that Phil Lesh might sing again.
I wish I could even begin to describe what a Grateful Dead parking lot experience is like... but if you haven't been to one it would be pointless. Here is a little info though, every drug on the market anywhere in the world is available at a dead show parking lot. That, and you'll need to be able to deliver the word 'bro' with alarming casualness and frequency.
It has been raining in Denver every single day for the last week, and raining on the poor cold, cold souls at Red Rocks all week as well. Lemme tell you, that 'cool Colorado rain' Jerry sang about is a punishing one at 6,000 feet in the foothills of the Rockies.
Robert Hunter opened up. He wrote most of the words Jerry sang (not uncommon, think Bernie Taupin). He set was frankly boring, but that may have been more us being impatient to see the boys again. The band came out and did a lackluster first few songs. However, right about Birdsong they really kicked into high gear. Filling in for Jerry on vocals for this was bassist Phil Lesh, who is the worst mono-tone singer ever. Ever. Please Phil, stick to your amazing bass work and never sing again, ever. Anyhow, as I said, the band had really hit their stride and kicked ass for the next hour. The setlist will be here very soon.
Warren Haynes handled some of the singing duties and did an amazing job. His voice is very gravelly, soulful, & bluesy. Warren also added some nice slide work to the evening, but mostly let Jimmy Herring handle the leads as Herring really could channel Jerry's technique. You see, aside from missing Jerry's voice and presence, we also missed his guitar work. You may not know this but Jerry was a phenomenal guitarist.
A nice surprise in the setlist were two Beatles songs. The Dead never covered the Beatles before, and almost strictly did Dylan covers. Another great aspect of the show is that it did not rain at all, the whole time! It rained for the whole drive there (about 10 miles West of Metro Denver) and all the way back... but never once during the show.
The band looked great, and just as I remember them... except for Weir. Perhaps he is channeling someone, because his hair was all big and gray and he had a huge beard. The setlist was really varied, but keep in mind the band does not do the same song twice in the same stand. So, they played for 3 hours a night for five nights, never doing the same song. The band played very well through almost the whole show, and I think they had fun too. We are going to see them again in two weeks in Seattle. The music highlights were definately China Cat/ Rider jam, Built to Last, Strawberry Fields, and Brokedown Palace.
The moral of the story, I guess, is this. If you love music, there are two things you need to do before you die. See a show at Red Rocks, and see the Dead. If you ever get the chance to do both, you are a lucky person. For some strange reason, Jerry became a paternal figure to so many of us. Before you say 'bad role model', remember I came from the land of heavy metal and hair before I got into the Dead in High School. I'll take Jerry Garcia as a role model over Axl anyday. Most importantly, last night I could not help but think how much I miss Jerry Garcia. I miss being right in front of the stage in those football stadiums. I miss him always being there. I miss being able to look up at his fat, wasted, smiling face.