Dead & Company’s Fall Tour took its final bow in Vegas Saturday night and everyone left as a winner! A group of guys known for breaking records in the past have officially become the comeback kids of the year. For most parts of the world the Fall is when things begin to die and prepare to hibernate. It’s fitting for our favorite musicians to do what they’ve done their entire careers and defy every expectation of nature as The Dead came to life in a big way this Fall.
Prior to the announcement of FTW this Sumner, VH 1 had called to inquire about possibly running a “Where Are They Now?” show centered around a band that sold out arenas and stadiums for many years and had spent the last 2 decades playing in small clubs for the faithful while completely off the mainstream radar. Kreutzmann took some time after sound check yesterday to call the producer that contacted him about doing an episode last year. “Where are we now? At the fuckin top, you lower than whale shit, bottom feeding cocksucker!” He hung up and smiled as Katy Perry walked by in thigh high boots.
As much as the band has always maintained a somewhat humble demeanor, Bob has been seen frequently wearing a crown as of late. This tour has proven that Weir is king and fully capable of steering this ship well into the immediate future. If I’m not mistaken, the last time he came through Vegas with his own band he wasn’t able to take the stage due to circumstances well within his control. When I saw the Weir movie earlier this year I wondered why an entire segment was spent talking about Garcia’s drug problems. Garcia may have gotten fucked up but he waited until he got home to fall down. Instead, we saw Bob as the exercising Yoga enthusiast trying to save the unsaveable. Maybe some time should’ve been spent talking about his own shit. The one thing it did was give people named Garcia a chance to steal the show once again. Without even trying, Carolyn and Trixie became the highlight of the entire documentary. I’m just happy to see that it appears Bob has his shit together again. That’s all I’m gonna say about that… It’s clear that Bob has so much left to give and a fan base that’s entirely Grateful to receive it. He held up great for the first 18 shows and the tone of his voice at times reached deep into the memory banks of my nervous system. When it comes to Dead & Company, make no mistake about it, Weir is King!
One thing I always thought was interesting was listening to Weir and Garcia’s interviews. They sang completely opposite of each other and talked the same way. Garcia had the slow loping vocals, always coming at ya slower than you’d think but, in conversation, his words came across much quicker. Weir has always had the faster paced songs and vocals but in conversation, his words come at ya much slower than your expectations. They were a perfect pair of artists to perfect a unique sound together (See what I did there? Same word totally different pronunciation). Weir sings like Garcia spoke and Garcia sang like Weir speaks. Really incredible to observe…
It’s clear that the band is doing the most important thing they can do. They’re doing what makes THEM happy with whoever THEY feel like doing it with. When THEY are having a blast you can be certain that WE will be having one too! Never has that been more obvious than the past month. These guys have way too much life in them to play small and so do all of US. Hearing this music again in large rooms has been the gift of the year. It’s great to hear our favorite musicians in small theaters as we have for the past two decades but hearing this music being created in big arenas again has given US a sensation that’s hard to come by otherwise. I don’t know what this year was for the calendar in China but in America this has been The Year of The Dead! Our community is once again at the forefront of human experience. Not that we ever left, it’s just become really apparent once again.
While many of US were at the tables in Vegas having the time of our lives, my wife lost the ongoing bet I have with my Life Insurance Company as I survived another year on the roof hanging Christmas Lights. As soon as I win the Lotto, I’m hiring Candace Brightman to do my Christmas lights. This tour missed you Candace. Even though they used your blueprints from 25 years ago it wasn’t the same without you.
The last show of Fall Tour was a moment for all the assorted pieces of the puzzle to fall into place, all at the same time. The first set was fine and I’ll let other reviews cover that but the second set put a huge exclamation point on the entire month. When Help-> Slip-> Frank and Scarlet-> Fire make up the first half of the second set, It’s obvious that you’re in Vegas because you just hit the jackpot! All the cards fell into place and in perfect order. Drums and space were spent resuscitating older folks that hadn’t experienced that kind of cardiovascular activity in decades. It’s no wonder why we were in such great shape in all of our old pictures from Tour. 3-4 hours of cardio 4-5 nights a week will do that to ya. Not to mention those nights when you were so high you danced through intermission, drums, space and at The Disco Bus for a couple of hours in the parking lot afterwards. Coming out of Drums and Space to Cryptical-> Other One, Dew, Lovelight is as strong a post Space segment as you could ask for. I’m not sure about Weir giving John some verses on Lovelight but it was kinda like The Lion King giving Simba a chance to hunt I guess… Weir is King on Lovelight! Brokedown is always a perfect way to end a stretch before Going home… Going Home… By the waterside I will rest my bones…
The entire month has been an ongoing and epic dress rehearsal and the final night of the first portion of these shows was like the recital. Some rough patches that were obvious along the way got corrected to some degree and the bones that make up the loosely assembled skeletons of our favorite songs were all put together. Listening to these tunes is a lot easier than making them happen. The awkward added spacing in between verses of songs was killed early on and all of the songs benefited from scrapping that idea. Cryptical found it’s mate in The Other One and for the first time Oteil slammed the intro with the thunderous bass line that’s so familiar to all of US. Mayer finally figured out there’s 2 separate and distinct solos in the Dew and saved all fanning motions for the second one. Little things that the discerning listeners notice are getting cleaner and were clearly better with time. If there’s anything that was a tremendous advantage for Mayer playing guitar this time around it was the time and repetition. Trey spent a HUGE amount of effort to play all of these songs once and then it was over for him.
Closing this one out, there’s some things that are really obvious here in Grateful Dead & Company Land. The first being that DeadHeads will absolutely love anybody that does at least a decent job playing guitar for them. Escalating levels of talent have come through the lead spot and for the most part fans spent 20 years hearing those parts played by musicians with far less talent than we’ve heard this past year. Sammy Hagar talked about Weir being the best number 2 guy of all time. As tremendous and accurate as that is, being the best number 2 around doesn’t go as far without a really strong number 1. Our favorite musicians clearly create the ideal environment to bring out the very best in anyone that sits in that spot. John brought the fresh energy and talent that the band required but the band provided the environment, including US, that brought out more in John than would have ever been possible otherwise. Who the hell would’ve thought we’d get hammer-ons in Dead Songs? Oteil and Jeff were fresh fuel for the fire and infused the experience with new juice that was needed to add more life to The Dead. Oteil was the Power behind the renewed experience while John got most of the credit. If you want a great example of a song that Jeff absolutely makes happen in a big way, listen to the Ramble On Rose. Jeff’s keys on that tune drive the whole thing into a higher dimension. His solos as well as everything he adds to the experience are second to one. (Not a typo)
There will undoubtedly be more Dead & Company in just a few weeks and then some more in Summer. Since Shapiro was at MSG on the 7th, you can be fairly certain these guys will be at Lockn’. I could be totally wrong but I doubt it. Shapiro doesn’t tell me any shit like that because he’s probably afraid I’ll write about it. The truth is, I keep everything he tells me a secret. It’s pretty easy to do because he’s tighter than a clam’s ass when it comes to giving up any information. As for the longer term future of Dead & Company, one only has to look at the list of women Mayer has dated throughout the years to see that he isn’t afraid to walk away from some outstanding material. It’s one thing to go fishing or on vacation for a while with your dad and his pals, it’s another thing to buy a boat with him and start a business. There’s a lot of decisions that will be made in the future…
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
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