John Mayer, Bill Kreutzmann & Bob Weir - photo by Michael Sherer
Citi Field holds approximately 45,000 people, and on this splendid summer night a strong sense of nostalgia for the past and of closure for what’s left of the Grateful Dead was palatable as they perform what could be their last tour. Over fifty years on since forming as The Warlocks in Palo Alto, CA., this can hardly be a surprise.
Original members consist of Bob Weir on guitar and vocals and Bill Kreutzmann on drums. Mickey Hart, who joined in ‘68 as a second drummer, is also in the band. Missing is bassist Phil Lesh. Oteil Burbridge is in his place, and Jeff Chimenti is on keyboards, a chair that’s had several musicians after the death of original keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” Mckernan, who passed in ‘73 from a burst ulcer as a result of excessive drinking. The heart of the band, guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Jerry Garcia, passed in ‘95 from heart failure.
The Dead embody the ethos of free spiritedness, openness, non confinement and embracing of others that the 1960’s came to represent for many of their generation especially. Remnants of the band’s heyday were on hand here, such as what’s known as Shakedown Street. This is the name of a song of theirs from ‘78 and consists of a public area cordoned off by the band offering affordable grilled cheese sandwiches, beverages, balloons and general hippie like souvenirs.
Tie dyed shirts abounded as that ‘60’s garment hung from loads of fans that bounced and swayed to the music emitting from the huge sound system. High end sound has always been a priority for the Dead, and they had THE most elaborate and sophisticated system in the ‘70’s as the first band to use a massive array of speakers, horns, tweeters, etc., made by the company Alembic, which was top of the line. Sophisticated lighting has been in play as well.
The bouncy Shakedown Street was the opening song as well, and set the tone for the night. In Garcia’s place was John Mayer, who’s young enough to be Garcia’s son. While Garcia used to sing more than half of the songs with the rest sung by Weir, Mayer sang a mere four songs during this show, including old standbys “Sugareee” and “Althea.” Weir sang the rest, and both he and Mayer enjoyed back up singers including Donna Godchaux, who was a member of the band throughout the ‘70’s, as was her husband on keyboards, the late Keith Godchaux.
After an intermission the band opened the second set with a big time classic and fan favorite, “Dark Star.” From ‘68, it has always been a song in which the already highly improvisational group stretched out the most. The jam was a highlight of the concert. From there the classic “Scarlet Begonias” morphed into another, “Fire on the Mountain.” Soon ten minutes of vigorous drumming by Hart and Kreutzmann thundered through the stadium. With their huge drums behind their regular kits, this is a booming part of the Dead experience for their hard core audience, baby boomers like them. (Wordplay intended.) And answer this: What other band or artist in history has shaped and shifted their audiences’ lives to follow and experience them, or has had more audience made recordings of their countless concerts where the band was happy to allow it than the Grateful Dead? Absolutely NONE.
1) Shakedown Street
2) Jack Straw
4) Loose Lucy
5) Ramble On Rose
8) Casey Jones
1) Dark Star
2) Friend Of The Devil
3) Scarlet Begonias
4) Fire On The Mountain
7) The Other One
8) Wharf Rat
9) Throwing Stones
One More Saturday