The Dead rolled into New Jersey’s Meadowlands on Tuesday night for the first of two nights in the swamp. Although I’ve seen Phil and Friends a bunch of times (a great band), and seen two Ratdog shows (which was two too many), this was to be my first time seeing The Dead, the 2009 edition.
There are many people that could dissect the set list and tell you that “dude, this was the best ‘Eyes’ since 1987,” and “bro, they haven’t done ‘New Potato Caboose’ into ‘Estimated Prophet’ since 1979!” I am not one of them. What I can tell you is that I thought the opening run of “U.S. Blues,” “Scarlet > Fire,” and “Birdsong” was great. I also dug the second-set closing “Eyes of the World,” with some fantastic harmonies.
With an ever present smile, Phil was something to behold on bass. I may not be a huge Deadhead, but I’m a big fan of Phil Lesh.
Kreutzman and Hart were solid. And Bobby was, well, Bobby. His voice was never a strong point and is less so in 2009.
This one is my favorite shot of the night. It’s a nice shot of Bobby, but what makes it for me is Phil in the background. He’s watching Bobby do his thing and the beaming smile on his face says it all. The man is happy to be back with his brothers on the road.
Warren Haynes was solid in the Jerry role. For much of the night he seemed restrained, and it was a bit unusual to see him not stepping up to take the lead. However, when he did, it was the highlight of the night for me. After Bobby’s attempt at the first verse of “Turn on Your Love Light,” Warren took over and the result was a real burner. If there was one Grateful Dead song meant for Warren Haynes to sing, this is it. With all due respect to Pig Pen, Warren tore it up. His voice has a power and energy that Bob Weir could not possibly muster. “Dear Mr. Fantasy” was another song where he took the lead and another highlight for me.
Branford Marsalis sat in for much of the night, and while his sax was a welcome addition, at times it made the already mid-tempo night verge into light jazz territory. Although a valiant effort, their cover of Miles Davis’s “Milestones” never quite went anywhere and coming right before the bathroom break of “Drums/Space” was part of a long dead spot in the second set that didn’t hold my interest. That said, having Branford joining in on “Drums” was a nice change from the usual.
I found the show to be a bit on the mellow side, without the energy that I would have hoped for, on the part of both the band and the crowd. Maybe my expectations were too high. Something inevitably changes when a band is made up of guys in their sixties. Some of this was a result of the venue, for sure. The Izod Center is famous for eating sound, without much of the liveliness that other arenas have. In addition, the entire area behind the stage was closed off, as was the upper deck across from it. Add to that “plenty of good seats available” in the upper reaches of the arena in general, and there was a a lot of space to be filled. I have no doubt that the vibe in a sold-out Garden the Saturday night before was very different.
It may not have been the Grateful Dead, but I can put a Dead show on the list of bands I’ve seen. I’m glad that I schlepped out to Jersey to catch this show but, much to my surprise, don’t feel the need to catch another on this tour. I’ll wait for Phil and his Friends to come back into town.
My full set of photos from the show can be found here.
Fire On The Mountain*
Feel Like A Stranger*
Turn On Your Love Light*
New Potato Caboose>
Dear Mr. Fantasy>*
Eyes Of The World*
*With Branford Marsalis