The Dead at Madison Square Garden no matter how you view it is an epic event. It always has been and this night showed the “Greatest Arena on Earth” can still put on quite a show. Intensity is something that goes with Madison Square Garden.
I initially didn’t have a ticket for the Garden show, Saturday night in the middle of the The Dead tour, but I was resigned to only seeing the Albany show, as well as the two Byrne shows coming up this Tuesday and Wednesday. I was happy Kathy was going with me to these three shows and she really liked the Albany experience we had.
After going to the Albany show Bruce Levine called me and asked how it was and we discussed how I wanted to get to the Garden. Bruce didn’t have Garden tickets either but he had a Craigslist connection for a pair and we decided to go together. I felt bad about Kathy not getting to the Garden but it is a tough ticket and she had a busy Saturday planned including the Passaic River Kayak trip and working at the Restore. Come Friday afternoon I get a call from Kathryn from the Planning Board at work, we recently discovered we were both old Deadheads, and she told me she had 2 extra tickets for tomorrow night’s show and I spoke to Kathy quickly and convinced her to go. This was a lucky and serendipitous scenario. I met Kathryn in Morristown following the Friday night critical mass bike ride and I had a pair in my hands.
It was a gorgeous Saturday and the world seemed to be at play. Fortunately, Kathy was able to get out of volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, and we were off to the Dead soon after the Kayak trip. Not much time to rest.
We picked up Bruce at his house in Livingston at 4:15, which we thought was early, but when we got stuck in traffic on the Pulaski Skyway for the Holland Tunnel, I was happy we left ourselves so much time. We had at least an hour wait at the tunnel but once we got into the city we zipped up to 30th Street. We found a lot for $30 on 29th that seemed like it would be a bitch to get out of at the end of the night but we were parked by about 6:30 and ready for a show. Well no quite ready, we needed food.
We had to meet Scott for selling the one extra ticket at 7:00 in front of Gyro II so we quickly headed across the Garden to 7th to find a place to eat. The streets were packed, not all Deadheads, but just super nice Saturday afternoon in spring get outside and shop crowded type of intensity. There was no place to eat; everywhere had a long line. Holy cow, what is going on? I know the The Dead are in town. We wandered and eventually panicked a bit and landed in Andrews Diner at 35th and 7th. Scott joined us; I had the fish, Kathy a mozzarella and pepper paninni, Bruce a hamburger and Scott a cheeseburger with well done fries. After dinner we met his friends at the Gyro II and went on into the concourse leaving Scott at that point.
The entry at the Garden through security 15 minutes prior to show time seemed crowded and frantic when we got there but the Garden security got us through safely and quickly. Up the escalators we went and we found our seats at Bruce’s Craiglist pair in Section 315; row D on the aisle. The seat was on the side of the stage but facing the guitarists as they naturally turn toward us. This was similar to the seat I had in Albany but further back on the side of the stage.
Therefore the PA system didn’t block my view as it was in front of me and gave me a real nice close angle on watch Bob and Warren. There was some cable work and ladders going into the lighting that bisected the drummers in my view and in addition, a monitor of Bill’s blocked our view of him. Therefore, the enjoyment of watching the drummers working together was impaired.
The Garden was two-thirds filled when the lights went out. There is power in the air. A little chant of “Let Go Rangers” emerged as the Garden hosts their game six in the NHL playoff on Monday. I hope the zambonie sprays Ozium.
The first song was Cosmic Charlie. I thought it was muddy and did not come close to matching the energy of the room. The whole thing seemed off balance.
China Cat started like so many The Dead songs do with Bob working with the drummers on a subtle beat that you can’t put your finger on to make sure it sounds like a multi-flavored jam gruel that is more substance than direction. Like a giant blob heading toward you and you don’t have a fire extinguisher to fend it off. And I paid $100 for this!. All kidding aside; it was worth every penny of it.
Bob almost sang the China Cat but he relied more on the crowd to sing the China Cat than doing it himself. He does this a lot. Sometimes it is very cool and works and other times you wish he would grab the bull by the horns and just belt it out and lead the song. In the end the China Cat jam was really good and Bob’s guitar sounded really good. He was playing with a lot of wammy and sustain and it worked, especially on his classic riffs in China Cat and the jam.
There was no Rider but they played a Shakedown Street out of the China Cat. The crowd intensity level rose during it but the band let the air out of that sail with one or two meandering moves that excited people didn’t know how to react to. For the most part I find that Warren and Bob’s guitars sonically overlap a lot more than Bobs and Jerry’s ever did. I found lot of the jams disorienting and overly confusing without enough structure to hold them up to make them meaningful. I say this because that was the end jam of the Shakedown Street but I’m not expecting anything different either so I am not disappointed. I didn’t like Bob wah sounds for the most part, but he was tweaking that sound through the night so it sometimes worked but it was a bit to weird for my taste. When the wah was minimized or off, Bob’s guitar sounded really good in and in front.
The Ship of Fools was a nice change of pace from the meandering jamming. It was peppy and precise with Warren singing soulfully and playing the song cleanly. It felt good to hear something that was crisp.
He’s Gone was really good, you felt Jerry’s presence during it all and the crowd was right on with it. Going into the lead Bob was messing with his wah and kind of screwed up the F#m part. The vocal of He’s Gone were nice with its mixing with the crowd. Ironically, the Grateful Dead would play a space jam at the end of He’s Gone and the The Dead played no jam at the end.
Cassidy was well done, Bob sang this one well and I was glad to see their whip in their jam had more similarities to Deadstein’s version than I would have expected. Sugaree ended the first set. While it played well to the crowd and Warren sings and plays it well, it was a disappointment to me as I saw one in Albany that was very good. I don’t like how Warren drones a bit on the vocals, but that is a real nit-pick on my part as he really does sing it well.
We didn’t move during halftime and just relaxed in our seats.
The second set started with Drums and I decided to walk around the Garden a bit and get some pictures from other locations than my seat. I went behind stage during the Drums to start the second set. I was walking around taking pictures during some of the greater moments of the second set so my recollection isn’t as good as other parts of the show.
Phil came out of the Drums and hauntingly sang excerpts from That’s It for the Other One. I though this was really well done and was some of the best singing I ever heard Phil perform. It also brought visions of Jerry to me. They went into the Other One and while I saw this at Albany I didn’t mind it here. Even the meaningless jamming seemed to have a bit more meaning during the Other One. Bob was playing well during it.
Born-Crossed-Eyed was next and I barely know and recognize it, I am embarrassed to say. It had plenty of jamming and spacing to it that was Other One-esque. During the end of the jamming of this song I wandered a lower level of the Garden and took some pictures when they went into St. Stephen and the Eleven. Sadly, I really wasn’t listening closely to this as I was fighting the crowd and taking pictures. Hopefully, it was worth it.
I got back to the seats for the end of the show including the Uncle Johns, Unbroken Chain, Gimme Shelter and the Saturday Night. Uncle Johns was really nice. I thought Phil once again was sing well during it. This was not the case during the Unbroken Chain as his weakness show. Didn’t really matter as the song stands up by itself and is a great vessel for the jamming the The Dead do. When Warren powered into Gimme Shelter the place exploded and this was this most powerful part of the evening. He sang it great and the leads were strong. His dirty guitar sounded really cool during it. It reminded me of a Watchtower. One More Saturday Night was the predictable closer and of course, it was a rocker.
Brokedown was a surprise encore to me. They broke it apart a bit but did a nice job on it. The vocals were sweet, the crowd joined in and before you knew it the show was over and it was time to battle the crowds walking down the escalators.
We left the building and walked away from the Garden’s crowded promenade. Fearing what we may face at the parking lot we were pleased to find out there was not wait for my car. We also feared the waiting to exit the city at the Lincoln Tunnel but my route down 29th street to 10th got us into New Jersey quickly. A stop at the Tick-Tock Dinner was great and Kathy and I got home at 1:30am with the buzz of the The Dead at the Garden.
Thanks for listening and let me know what you think.
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