The show was great, but too short... by Dead standards. For most folks, two hours would be more than they expected. One set only because of the constraints of time. Also, it was the largest crowd of the tour, about 4000 to 5000. The band didn't really open up all the way, like they have at some of the smaller, more intimate (500 people) shows. Bobby did get his big rock star persona going at times though, particularly on She Belongs to Me & One More Saturday Night. And he still has the shaggy beard. Several of us were debating who else Bob looks most like these days.... My vote is Kris Kristofferson (but we still missed hearing Bobby McGee by one night...). Mark Karan was great, as always, and the new bass player, Robin Sylvester, is fitting in real well. He was really tight all night, and laid down some great rhythm.
I was standing up against the front barrier most of the show, within spitting distance of Bobby. We moved back a little about half way through to let some girls who were 5 feet tall get up close (they'd been making their way through the crowd the whole show). I got a glimpse at the printed set list as they were setting up the stage, so I knew that Uncle and FOTD were opening, which I was pretty thrilled about. The crowd was mostly college kids, but up front, it was primarily kids that were really into the show. Myself and the two guys I was with were the "old men" in the crowd--all in our mid- to late-thirties. Most of the kids I talked to had either never seen the Dead or only went to a couple shows in 94-95. Overall, the crowd was pretty cool, except for two drunk Barbie-lookalike sorority chicks who were chugging Bacardi all through the set and kept adjusting their makeup. About halfway through, when they were on their cell-phones (ten feet from the stage) several people sternly suggested the leave. They moved back about ten more feet.
Me & My Uncle -> Friend Of The Devil: Both songs totally acoustic, with stand-up bass. Loose, and very country - FOTD was upbeat and fun, with a lot of a capella stops - the way it always should be. Jerry saw this song as a slow, sad piece, but my personal opinion is that he totally dragged the life out of it.
When I Paint My Masterpiece: Bobby & Mark on acoustic; electric bass. Bobby forgot a lyric in the middle so sang the second verse out of order. He did include the "lost" Dylan verse: "Sailed around the world in a dirty gondola, can't wait to get back to the land of Coca Cola."
The Music Never Stopped -> She Belongs To Me: Bob on electric for Music and acoustic for She Belongs. Music was totally rocking, starting with a slow, funky jam, with lots of sax, then building to a real rocker. She Belongs was beautiful and poetic, and toward the end, Bobby picked it up and did the full jamming, screaming rock start thing. Very tasty. The rest of the show was all electric.
Youngblood: Classic old song by the Coasters, Bobby did it with Kingfish and Ratdog. The Dead soundchecked it a bunch, but never played it live. All of the drunk college kids were scratching their heads when they started playing this. A couple kids asked me about it, and they had never heard of The Coasters. Of course, they were born in 1984, so, what can you expect..........
Loose Lucy: The last time I heard Lucy live was 11 years ago at the Charlotte Coliseum. This was different but just as sweet. And just as unexpected today as it was then...
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl -> Ashes and Glass -> Space Jam -> Dear Prudence -> Cassidy -> One More Saturday Night: The old Sonny Boy Williamson classic, but done very upbeat and fast, in the original style, not the slow, brooding, dark blues version that Pigpen made his own. Very fun and playful. A&G was very good, with several distinct tempo changes; it had Bobby sounding very speculative and pensive. The jam going into it sound soooo much like when the Dead were about 7 or 8 minutes into Bird Song, when they are jamming, but still in that key, with a kind of hesitant "where's it going" context. They jammed a lot before, during and after. No one was sure what they were playing until Bobby sang "Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?" Prudence was very slow and exploratory; the chorus was upbeat, but the verses were very spacey.... Just when it looked like they would pick it up, and the crowd would be able to shout along, Bob would step back from the mic and they would jam a little... very much a big tease. When they slowly started into Cassidy, everyone was very excited. This built up into a real crowd pleaser, then stepped back into uncharted space for a jam... then came back in for the closing verse, then stepped back out for another jam, then came back in for the closing verse a capella. As Bob sang the last "Let the words be yours; I'm done with mine," before he could play another note, Mark ripped open the riff to Saturday night. The crowd erupted, as expected; we were waiting for an outlet to release the pent-up energy from the set. This was definitely the loudest song of the set, and everyone's playing was totally there and completely focused. Then when the energy was spent, all the players hammered out the big ending... then Bobby faked out the crowd as he, Robin, and Mark, turned around and bolted out the closing again. It was like a post-closing super-climax. Like I said, Bobby put on the whole screaming rock star persona for the song, and the crowd just licked it up.
Encore: Brokedown Palace: Some shows have been like a religious experience... this song was definitely like going to church. Slow, poignant, and soulful, Bobby's voice was in perfect form, and the whole crowd was singing along... not singing over the band, but with them, respectfully, a big communal sad, sweet, and beautiful moment. It was such a wonderful closer.
At the end, the whole band came on stage, and took a bow. You know the thing that struck me most about this show? Bobby was smiling the whole time.... The guy doesn't need to do this; he has all the money he could want. He is fairly recently married, has a beautiful baby girl at home, and has another gig already playing huge venues with the Dead. And here he is with his band, playing small (1000 seat or less) clubs, and he's doing it just for fun. That's the thing that struck me most. For several guys in the band, this is their primary job, but Bobby is just doing this for fun, and letting us share in it. Even though I paid to be there, I feel privileged to have been a part of it.
Rich Willis, Charlotte, NC