Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ramble on Roseland: The Dead, Roseland Ballroom, NYC, 3/30/09

Live Dead, Free the Dead, Waking the Dead...call it what you want, THE DEAD ARE BACK. Frankly, I'm a little hungover and still jittery from last night's high, so forgive me if I tend to jump around a bit. To begin, the karma was great -- markedly different from recent Phil or Ratdog shows. Everyone was cheery, strangers were mingling, beers were flowing, there were no attitudes or angry hippies. Even my fellow Weightstaffer was blessed with a free ticket(!) inside the venue when his original connection fell through. I've been to at least 20 Phil/Ratdog shows in the past few years and that NEVER HAPPENS. At that instant, we knew it was going to be a special night. Let me take a step back. I'm sure there are a few who are reading this and wondering, The Dead played Roseland?!? WTF?!? How did I not know about this?!? I'll explain. This past Friday, those registered on the Dead's website were given "secret" access to a lottery for free tickets to one of three shows: 1) an acoustic set at the Angel Orensanz Center featuring Phil, Bobby and Warren, 2) a mini-set by the band at the Gramercy Theater and 3) a finale at Roseland Ballroom. I was lucky enough to score a ticket to the Roseland show.

Naturally, my high began the minute I heard the opening notes to "Althea." Everyone's did. We all started dancing and didn't stop until we were out in the streets 90 minutes later searching for a cab home. "Cassidy" was next and I was starting to wonder if we were gonna get a recreation of the classic Without a Net. Coincidentally, just an hour before the show, we were discussing the Dead albums that changed our lives; Without a Net was on all of our lists. More on that in a minute. The band sounded great. Just watching Bobby with his stoic stance and signature head tilt, Phil with his illuminating bass, and Mickey and Billy playing in the greatest drum circle of all time, I felt like I was at the 80's Dead show I was never at. Really though, Mickey and Billy were fantastic. They were the reason it didn't sound like just another Phil or Bobby show. Some might curse me for saying this, but it felt and sounded like the Dead -- or at least as close as we're gonna get. Even Warren used some Jerry-inspired effects on guitar and Jeff Chimenti sounded VERY Godchaux-esqe at times. I have to assume that Donna will join for a few shows on their upcoming tour. Everyone was impressed.

Anyway, just when I thought it couldn't get any better, the band broke into an anthemic "Uncle John's Band" and the entire audience sang along in unison. Classic. Now, just a moment ago, I mentioned Without a Net. Anyone who is familiar with that album (and every Deadhead is), knows you can't mention it without ogling over perhaps the greatest "Eyes" ever (think Branford Marsalis). Well, last night, despite no cameo from Branford, the band pulled off an epic "Eyes" and the place erupted. Everyone was dancing. Guys were "air guitaring" and the girls were twirling around in a dream-like trance. It was very moving.

The band then launched into a killer St. Stephen> Dark Star> Sugar Magnolia. In a moment of euphoric bliss, I turned to my fellow Weightstaffer (and long-time concert buddy) and said, "I feel like we're at the Winterland!" He agreed. Well, at least we closed our eyes and imagined that much. No one wanted the night to end, no one wanted to leave. We could have watched them play for hours. But as all things must pass, the band left us on an optimistic high note with a Mickey/Billy inspired "Not Fade Away." Normally, I can do without this tune, but watching those guys hammering away at the notorious percussive heartbeat was spellbinding. What a great show; what a great night.

So the 3-show evening came to a close. Call it a slick marketing move or just a good-will tip of the hat to the fans who have supported the band through the thick and thin, it really didn't matter. It was the right move and all had a good time. I think Jerry would have approved.

The Dead, Roseland Ballroom, NYC, 3/3/0/09:
Uncle John's Band
Eyes of the World

St. Stephen >
Darkstar >
Sugar Magnolia

Encore: Not Fade Away


Anonymous said...

I am loving the new look weight. Great use of space. Great live NYC gig coverage, some of the best out there.

Keep up the good work.


David Meerman Scott said...

Excellent review. I was at the show too. Nice to hear your take which echos mine

rockandrollguru said...

I got chills just reading it...33 days until the two chicago shows and I can't freakin' wait!

Ryan said...

this may have just inspired me to hit the road and catch them in NC...

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