Dead and Co

For the second time this year, fans that bitched about the guitarist that was chosen by our favorite musicians were served with the official “Shut The Fuck Up” notice yesterday. This morning the only question that had to be answered was, “How does it feel having a musical hard on for a bonafide mainstream pop star?” October 29th is the day that Mayer became Mayor of Grateful Dead Land. There’s a few things I personally don’t like about him. He’s not old, he’s not fat, women absolutely love him, he gets to hang out with my favorite musicians, and he’s much better at life than I am… Other than that, we’re practically equals… It bothered me internally that I felt like he may be a better fit for the position than Trey. Women that are’t into grey hair and long balls are thrilled to have him in the band. When I say long balls, I’m not talking about The World Series either… Mayer is the new Weir. He’s doing for Dead and Company what Bob did for the Dead for decades. If Deadhead women wore underbritches, they’d probably throw them at John. There’s one thing we can definitely gather from Thursday night’s opening show in Albany and that’s THE BAND ALWAYS KNOWS BETTER THAN YOU DO!

There’s a reason why some players are big names because they’ve played with the members of the Dead and some were big players before they ever played with Dead members. The undeniable attribute that has put John where he is today is an abundance of musical creativity and pure talent. He seems better suited for the task than many guitarists that the fan base might favor. John’s contributions were tasteful and full of life. He added fuel to a fire that has burned brightly for 50 years. He wasn’t at all rushed in his approach to the music and seemed to let the moments come to him as opposed to trying to create moments. In doing so, many great moments were created. The more confident he gets in his role in this band, the more we all have to gain. I saw a blogger write that Mayer breathed new life into the The Dead but in all reality, The Dead breathed new life into Mayer. The Dead won’t likely acquire a bunch of new fans because John is playing with them but John will definitely acquire a bunch because he is playing with THEM. Either way, the music that was born through the experience last night was infused with passion and sounded fresh and clean. The potential for transformational experiences for a generation that wasn’t able to have their ears blessed and anointed by Garcia has entered the world of possibilities. That is a tremendous benefit for all of US.

Oteil is a bad motherfucker. Most of us knew that already but the evidence will be apparent to anybody that may not. If you’re looking to find somebody that can stand on Phil’s rug, there’s no better find than a brother like Oteil. He’s been immersed in the same family of folks we follow for a long time and his presence is extraordinary. We’re really blessed to have him handling the bass for this tour. If it can’t be Phil, Oteil is the next best choice in my opinion. He was powerful and prominent in the mix, unlike Jeff Chimenti, who once again was WAY TOO LOW IN THE MIX. If I’m not mistaken, Derek Featherstone, from UltraSound is the man at the helm of the soundboard for this tour. The same guy that was there for the Fare Thee Well Shows. You can be sure of a few things with him. First and foremost, the sound will be outstanding in all of the venues. He’s obviously a genius in the world of sound reinforcement. Secondly, you might not hear shit from Jeff all tour. Can somebody give Derek the Spring 90 CDs? Here is one of our favorite keyboard players, Jeff, playing a legendary instrument that belonged to his predecessors in Grateful Dead lineage, with amazing chops and a thorough knowledge of the material that can hardly be heard once again. I don’t know what the problem is with giving the keys the volume they deserve and require but it may continue to be a problem. They add so much power and authority to the experience when properly placed within the mix and in my opinion, they continue to be way too light. Go back and listen to Jeff solo on Franklin’s and tell me whether or not that should’ve been turned WAY UP! Imagine that solo at a volume similar to John’s guitar. By the reaction of the crowd, the moment was definitely appreciated and with some more volume on Jeff’s keys the roof would’ve been blown off of that place. Anybody else feel this way? Maybe it’s just me… What the hell do I know anyway? I’m just a hack…

Regardless, second sets that start with Sailor-> Saint, Help-> Slip-> Frank are always going to bring endless smiles and kickoff dance parties for the ages. That segment really nailed it for me except for the transition from Slipknot into Franklin’s. I’m not sure why that transition seems to have acquired a speed bump over the years but it definitely has. It suffered the same rough patch in Chicago. It’s still better than hearing something other than Franklin’s in that spot. As much as I love Weir, I’m not the biggest fan of his approach to some of the Garcia tunes. He’s always been an artist that’s utilized unique phrasing in his delivery of lyrics and it’s been great for all of us through the years. His phrasing on Jerry’s tunes doesn’t translate for me. Whether it’s intentionally sitting back in the song to purposely rush the lyric to its place or moving out in front to intentionally let the song catch up to the lyric, those things have always made Bob a brilliant and completely unique singer. It comes across as awkward to me on some of the Garcia tunes he sings. It seems almost as awkward for him as it does to me. I guess it’s just not very easy singing anything that Garcia once sang. If I was Dylan I’d probably put a few of my own songs away after Garcia got a hold of them. I know we’re just supposed to blow rays of sunshine up everyone’s O-Ring and there’s plenty of folks that hate any kind of critical statement pertaining to our favorite band but that’s my 2 cents. Even with his limited movement and paces of songs that have slowed down pretty dramatically, Weir has gained strength this year like I’ve never seen before. It’s awesome to watch.

While I’m at it, WE have a problem. What the hell is wrong with US? Has everybody forgot how to properly do the Not Fade Away chant at the end of the show? What an epic fail for US. We used to be STRONG and totally in unison. OUR chant would shake the house that we cheered it in. Last night’s NFA chant sounded like a bunch of overly medicated seniors trying to have a sing-along at a nursing home that involved a song nobody really knows. I expect a little more from US. We can’t chant worth shit since Jerry died. FUCK US for that piss poor chant that closed the show. I hope to hear US a little better in the shows to come. When the band leaves the stage, we don’t cheer for them, We take up the chant with complete conviction and we keep it up until they take the stage again. Last night’s chant fell apart quicker than Lamar Odom at a brothel. Listen to the recording and you’ll see what I mean. There was an attempt to get it back together but it was mediocre at best. We have plenty of shows to clean that up a little, we’ll try again tomorrow…

Overall I think the opening night in Albany sent a shock wave of increased expectations for the shows to come. It wasn’t perfect but it was explosive enough to let everyone know that there will be MANY Magical nights on this tour. Once these guys all get a little lubricated and connect with each other with increasing regularity, there are gonna be some moments that become so much bigger than the song, the singers and those being sung to. Any time Bob, Billy and Mickey are together, expect wild shit to go down! This band ROCKS!!! In and Out Of The Garden We’re Going! See ya at MSG!

Dead To The Core,

Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
@gd50th on Twitter
Grateful Dean on Facebook

21 thoughts on “The Day Mayer Became Mayor: Dead And Company Knock The Knickers Off Of Albany!

  1. Chad

    I gotta agree Dean. Mayer just knocked one out of the park. This might be my favorite lineup since Jerry. I haven’t been to there yet, Chicago was phenomenal but I did wince a few times. Mayer on guitar and vocals were totally alright with me!

  2. John Munson

    Dean, I totally agree with you about the totally lame mix for Jeff’s Hammond B3 playing at the Chicago shows. Brent‘s mix was much much louder and prominent. That was my favorite part of Dead shows in the eighties and nineties. If last night’s mix was the same as last summer’s, then the ultrasound guy must learn how to turn up Jeff’s volume.

  3. dwight

    Another great piece as usual Dean, you really nailed it. But being in the o-ring business, I have to know if that was an intentional reference or some king of weird spell-check error… I don’t think I have ever seen if used in that context before!

  4. sean

    Mayer killed it. I listened to the stream up until d/s, and was blown away. I would love to know what his guitar-amp-effect combo was last night, because I felt he hit Garcia’s tone better than most of the other cover-tribute acts out there- which really surprised me, because I’ve only seen him use a Paul Reed Smith electric while playing with Phil, and those guitars do not bring out the Jerry…

  5. Trevor Cape

    Thanks, Dean.

    You really nailed this review. It resonated with our experience in so many ways.

    Jeff Chimenti is a total legend, and we strained and struggled to hear him all night, while we could see that he was working way more magic that was audible.

    And we were stunned by the end of concert audience clap/chant mess.
    What happened??? Chicago was the real deal on this front but last night: sad.

    And we can agree to disagree about Bobby’s delivery of Jerry songs. Sometimes, like on Stella Blue last night, hits it way outta the park for me; Stella’s not even in my top 100 in the great canon, but thanks to Bobby it’s climbing fast!

    No our love will not fade away … ..

    Cheers,
    Trevor

  6. Jules

    I thought Mayer and the chief were awesome together. They played off eachother very nicely. I saw it when Bobby did the late late show with JM. It really translated well last night. I heard the x factor several times last night. The Playin jams were super juicy.

    I promised myself that I would not go to these shows. I lied. I scored a pair of NYE tickets right behing the board for 65 bucks a piece, then the same for dec 30th. Awesome suite for 100 a night (4 nights), and flights from Seattle for 280 round trip. How could I say no? Once again, the band wins. And when the band wins, WE WIN! So grateful. I had goosebumps all night last night. They had that GD sound all night. Mayer did his homework. And it showed.

  7. zoe sullivan

    I love that you make me laugh….
    Bobby’s still #1 for me although he could pick up the pace several notches and leave the dirges for some other band.
    Jeff, in his awesomeness, must be heard! Perhaps bribery is needed.
    Love you, Dean

  8. Derek Lewis

    Great Post as always…

    I’m adding to the chorus of everyone’s new favorite game: “Where’s Jeff (in the mix)”.

    WTF? It has to be deliberate. I’m leaning towards your first hypothesis… He slept with someone on the sound crew’s GF.

    I recall a solo at Chicago where the video guy had Cimenti up on the big screen going to town and what did we hear? Nothing for the first run through of the progression. Thank goodness they turned it up to barely audible the second time.

    At least they didn’t repeat the ROOKIE mistake i heard several times this summer: Where anyone besides Bobby or Phil would not have their mic turned up to lead vocal level until they were halfway through the first line of the song. Come on! That S$#@ was weak.

    I really enjoyed the AUD posted by Keith Litzenberger on bt.etree. The fact that I could hear it in full the next day with great sound: Priceless.

    I want a shirt that says “Turn Jeff Up” on the front and “Let John Sing at least a Couple More Songs A Night” on the back.

    I enjoyed Mr. Mayer’s playing. Period.

    Any chance of Katy singing just one Donna trademark caterwaul before the end of the tour?

    Keep on Writing – We are reading!

  9. Mike L

    I’m so psyched for Sunday then again on the 7th. I knew this band was gonna be hot and made it known. So glad to hear all the reviews are coming up roses. I agree wholeheartedly. .Oteil is definitely the only man for the job other than Phil. You’d think with such a good soundman that all instruments would be up in the mix. That’s a shame if Jeff is barely registering. Mayer has always been a phenomenal guitar player so it doesn’t surprise me that he’s fitting in so well. He’s the type of player who can play any style and he’s especially well versed in blues and jazz so that fits in with the band perfectly. If they go out with Not fade away again I’ll be clapping and chanting like crazy. Could also be that there were alot of folks New to the Dead experience and they might not be familiar with proper procedures but still, I’m sure there were plenty to pick up the slack.

  10. Viktoria Grover

    I’m With You Dean. Bass, Bob, Jeff, Chant – ALL, except John has always been more than a pop star. The Mayer can play. He listens, he collaborates…
    I will just blurt it out–better than Trey, that’s for sure. Into the garden we go!

  11. EightyEights

    Nice write up Dean. I appreciate that you give your honest opinion of the good and the not so good. I thought Mayer played really well, and have accepted that Weir will sing Jerry songs without the soulfulness that Jerry did… but for me the biggest issue is the slow tempo that Weir chooses for so many of the songs. When GD performed, there were always some slow ballads, but there were some upbeat rockers to balance things off… now it seems like even the mid-tempo and rocker songs are played with purposefully slow tempos. That said, there was still plenty to enjoy musically and I am looking forward to seeing them when they come to Worcester, MA!

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