After seeing two weekend shows, one in Albany and one at the Garden, this series of two shows at the Byrne, I mean Izod Center, give the real feeling of being back on tour since I am leaving from work and going back to work in the morning.
It was a hot beautiful day and I was surprised that arriving at 6:30 for a 7:30 show had no traffic associated with it. Considering the pretzel traffic patterns at the Meadowlands due to all the construction with the new Giants Stadium and Xanadu.
Jay got a ticket and went to the show with Bruce and he telephoned to tell us to try to bribe a traffic attendant to get into a lot on the Arena side of Route 120. This didn’t work but what happened is that while parking by the Stadium I saw Steve Goldstein, from SUNY Albany who I have seen for 20 years but we are Facebook friends. That was cool to see him and experience how our friendship has endured a bit vis-a-vis the use of Facebook. He looks the same and told me he was Mayor of Springfield, NJ for 2 years.
Kathy and I said good-bye to Goldie and took the update tunnel to the Arena. We headed on down to Shakedown Street and it was much more peaceful and accessible than Albany’s scene. We didn’t buy anything there but we did run into Jay and Bruce. We did a lap with them and headed into the show.
I got my camera in although there was a big sign that said no cameras so after that I was psyched. I didn’t want to have to go back through the tunnel to the car. We had seats in the back corner, 18th Row (Section 126) which were far but sonically more pleasing than sitting on the side of the stage like we did at the previous shows. By the end of the first set we found comfortable seats 4 rows off the floor in our section. I sounded much sweeter down there.
So we got there 10 minutes before the light went down and 20 minutes before the show. One thing you noticed is they didn’t see any upper level seats in the rear and it was curtained off. A little weird but what do you expect at $100 a ticket. I bet they only sold O half of the capacity of that arena. Even the promise of Branford Marsalis didn’t sell additional ticket.
They opened with a US Blues and it was a stronger opening than the other nights. It was quick and to the point and Bob’s vocal sounded good. Scarlet was next and Warren sang well also and it was relatively true to classic Grateful Dead. They ended the Scarlet as a solo song, like 1974 but immediately started a sprightly Fire on the Mountain. At that moment Branford unassumingly walked onto stage. The Fire Groove was assertive and Branford and Warren confidently started trading Fire riff with each other. It was very impressing from the get-go. Maybe some of the best Branford stuff of the night.
I notice from the US Blues the grooves were tighter and more comfortable than the other nights. They seemed for certain in their decisions. An exception to this was the Estimated lead where their bastardization of it didn’t work. Anyway, the music was tight and Branford was definately helping the cause a lot.
The music was settle into its grooves nicely and the sound in the arena was good. They went into the Birdsong, which seemed predictable, and it sounded like Branford and the Dead. He really understands it and plays along with and challenges all the others. We had High Time and Lovelight to close the first set. The Lovelight had some nice give and take once again between Warren and Branford. From my far seat Warren looks like Jerry quite a bit.
- New Potato Caboose – Good
- Estimated Prophet – Good start, didn’t like the lead, that lost all it’s energy that is a beautiful transition.
- Milestones – This was great. Every one was going nuts. May have been the best thing of the four shows I saw. Branford took a super hot long lead that was crazy, groovy, wild and just hot. Warren followed him and did the same thing. It really was great. The drummers, Phil and Bob on the other hand gave me sounds like Stronger Than Dirt Milking the Turkey that so complimented the lead players. This was my favorite Phil section of the 4 shows.
- Drums with Branford – This was also a great thing. The keyboards played a wacky vocal sample alongside Branford flutter out notes next to him. Accompanying this was drums with Micky playing his wacky beam. It was cool stuff. The sound of drums was also the best of the 4 shows I saw.
- Space – Not that enjoyable without Jerry playing his Charlie Brown teacher sounds.
- Dear Mr. Fantasy – I was excited when I heard this and it sounded good from the get-go, the vocals were nice but when it was time for the lead I though Warren was way too contained. It was disappointing. It was like the ball was “T-ed” up for him and he didn’t even swing. It felt like a lost opportunity.
- Dark Star – In many respects after all the space you hear, the Dark Star is superfluous. Nevertheless it was well done and Phil only sang the second verse.
- Eyes of the World – It’s classic for Branford. Two days later at this point and I’m writing up these notes and nothing in my mind is there about the Eyes. Oh well. I guess it was no Englishtown.
- Franklins Tower
Got home by 12:45 after spending some time on Shakedown Street after the show. My back and legs were tired, but I had to unload the camera, charge batteries and attempt to blog some thoughts down, but still I had to go to work the next day. IT’s like being on tour and it is invigorating.