Last night proved that whether you’re on the rail or in section 699, on Nugs or Mixlr, on your couch or wearing headphones on a train, a great show is a great show! If you had to be there in order to love it, it probably wasn’t all that great. Dead & Company brought the circus to Boston and showed up BIG on Friday night. From the first few notes of Jack Straw, you could tell that the music had undeniable power behind it. It was being pushed by something greater than the musicians as opposed to being pulled by them alone. The mystic force that often accompanies the more wild rides was in full bloom and relentless from beginning to end. Following a night in Philly that was dryer than a popcorn fart, the machine arrived in Boston tuned up, turned on and set to 11. I experience far greater joy in celebrating the great ones than talking about the not so great ones. This one will be fun to talk about!
There have been so many great nights in our history spent in the city of Boston. Whether I was at the shows or have listened to the tapes repetitively over the years, Boston obviously brings out the best in the band. It was less than a minute into Jack Straw and you could tell things were exceptionally strong. The New Speedway had a bite to the bounce and where open spaces appeared, Oteil’s bass lines were quick to fill the void. Weir’s vocals were strong and sung with certainty and he was more fierce than animated. Althea was sharp and Mayer had the fat strings providing that low-end groove that innately moves your body in a way that’s much cooler than you ever thought possible. I remember back in the day, Garcia would approach that first solo and it would sound like he’d drop a hand full of notes to the ground all at once to start it off and then spend some time entertaining each one as he picked em all back up. That shit didn’t happen but Althea sounded great. I’m gonna have to say something at this point though. The ad lib on Altbea was kinda wrong. John sang “Gonna want a bed to lay your “pretty” head”. During that segment of the tune, she’s speaking to him. “When the smoke has cleared she said, That’s what she said to me.” In reference to the lyric, that ad lib didn’t fit the context of the conversation. No big deal I guess. I’m sure most folks didn’t notice it at all but I did. The jams after every segment were stellar! I can also take the pants that were made from a sofa that came from Sanford and Son’s and I can deal with the way he says “Toodeloo”, but I hope that falsetto note that he tried to end Althea never shows up again… John, you should get in touch with Heather Doomis. She can make you some awesome britches! Oteil has her contact info, call her. Half Step was next up and there was obviously no letting up on the good juice. An undeniable joy was evident on stage and it was spreading rapidly through everyone that was listening, regardless of where they were listening from. That part when they go across the lazy river gets me all the time. When you think about the words, there’s nothing that should educatedly move you about going across a fuckin river. Somehow, some way, that verse always makes me feel like everything I’ve been waiting for in life exists on the other side of that river. In my mind, I can still see Garcia’s eyebrows there. It’s wild… Big River moved along like something a little smaller than a Big River but was good enough to keep the momentum moving forward. When it comes to Sugaree, from the beginning of Dead & Company, Mayer has found a home within that tune. Al Franken has probably been singing that one a bunch lately… “Please forget you knew my name!” Mayer tore that song up backward and forward and from side to side. The jams came fast and furious and the entire band met at the Jubilee on a multitude of occasions! Mayer was nailing the shit out of it and Oteil’s fingers were a blur as he chased that moment right into the sky. Bill and Mickey thumping on that fucker while Jeff’s keys covered the whole thing with a special kind of smoothness all while Weir was throwing chords at it like darts. Everybody was beating the fuck out of it like a musical piñata! That moment was a special one and the highlight of the first set for sure! The Music Never Stopped was the perfect way to finish off a superb set. The chaotic jam at the end of that one contained all the required elements. As it rotated, it was airy and maintained its form while melting. When those jams are joined by the eternal forces they echo through the arena and before you know it, you start to feel breezes blowing and wonder how the fuck that’s happening in an indoor arena. Then in the pop of a string and a snare you’re back to being right on top of the beat you were somehow able to maintain even when there was no beat at all… That’s pretty much when you know you’ve been had by the power of Grateful Dead music! Outstanding!
After an intermission filled with sweaty people hugging each other and posting to Facebook, the lights eventually got turned off again…
Any time you get Scarlet-> Fire, the show is a good one! Except for the benefit… Let’s not do that again! This time around, the Scarlet had the magic and those runs that caused the wicked ball of musical mayhem to spin uncontrollably. The beginning found a sluggish moment or two but when they’re playing as good as they were, it feels that way by design. Once they got it all rolling downhill they were almost ablaze! It transitioned into Fire relatively quickly and Oteil sounded fantastic on vocals. He finally seemed like he was back to full blown Jam Band Beyoncé mode. I’m grateful that he stuck to the verses of the song that Garcia used. Nobody’s musical sensibilities were better than Garcia’s and there’s a reason he used the verses he used. That’s all I’m gonna say about that… The jams in Fire continued to build on what was already an immense amount of energy and the party was shaping up to be one we’ll listen to regularly for decades to come. He’s Gone was next up and the scat jams between Oteil and Mayer at the end of that were outstanding. Then they dropped the ragged chord that signals the beginning of Viola Lee! Viola Lee Blues is another tune that gives you Dead & Company at their very best. Those jams got dank in a hurry and stayed that way throughout. Every segment was tough as nails and as the band went into drums, it was already an extremely memorable night. Mickey did crazy shit on the beam while Jay took pictures…
I love the jazz segments out of space and Milestones by Miles Davis was awesome! You don’t get to hear jazz on a huge stage very often and Dead & Company doing those jams out of Space is spectacular. I’m a little tough on Weir at times but the Wharf Rat that followed was sung brilliantly. It triggered within me this deep sense of gratitude for the paths my life has traveled. Weir delivered each piece in a way that was beautiful in its approach. It wasn’t overstyled or even styled at all. The lyrics stood on their own as he delivered each one clearly and powerfully. The lick that proceeds the big moment on that one seemed really thin to me. I’m not sure if you understand what I’m talking about but when Garcia reached that moment before we get up and fly away, that brief lick was so vast that it would fill the entire building and all of the inhabitants. That lick shook me to the core more times than I can count. I understand that this is a different band but that lick definitely needs to gain some weight. It’s probably the most vital 7 notes in the entire song. Maybe I’m overthinking it and I should go fuck myself.
The Wheel came out of Wharf Rat and before ya know it, Mayer is singing “Won’t You Stay” like Frankie fuckin Valli. Mama Mia, I couldn’t decide if it was terrible, hilarious or wonderful so I’ll go with wonderful! The Sugar Magnolia that closed the set proved that Weir is totally capable of keeping up with the tempo that drives these songs to their fullest potential. Bob turned back the clock and absolutely killed it from beginning to the raging end of Sunshine Daydream! The song wasn’t held back by weak pacing but was catapulted into the stratosphere in a way that I haven’t heard in a very long time. Bob, you KILLED it bro! I can’t break any balls tonight because it was all strong for Bob from start to finish! The last notes that get slammed down to close the show were immediately followed by an arena full of people giving each other the “HOLY SHIT” face! There are not many better ways to close a night like that than sending everyone to the lot with Ripple! Nights like tonight are good for everybody! Regardless of where you were seated, front to back or in the living room, this one translated to a memorable night of incredible music that was definitely wrapped in magic!
Love You Forever! See ya soon!
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
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