Monday, August 09, 2004

The Dead - Tweeter Center, Camden, NJ, 8/08/04

I'm firmly convinced that Warren Haynes has replaced James Brown as "the hardest working man in show business." Not like he wasn't already active enough as a member of the Allman Brothers Band while still maintaining an active career with his own band, Gov't Mule. This year he's released a solo acoustic CD recorded live at Bonnaroo, plus he's become a member of the Dead for this year's summer tour. He's even doing solo acoustic concerts on his days off from the Dead tour which rolled through Philadelphia (at the Camden waterfront) this weekend Saturday and Sunday, with Haynes doing a solo concert Monday at the Zellerbach Theater.

The progression of my interest that led finally to the Tweeter began with the Allmans' other guitarist Derek Trucks, whose excellent solo records came to my attention in 2003 (thanks, Dave) which caused me to check out that year's first new Allman's album in many years, Hittin' the Note which featured the excellent twin guitar work of Derek Trucks & Warren Haynes; which led me to check out Gov't Mule (thanks, Robert) and their excellent concert recording, The Deepest End. Even though I've enjoyed the Dead's music since the sixties, it was Haynes joining the Dead this year that gave me the last little push I needed to spend way more than I ever normally would, to attend this year's Dead show.

I should also mention at this point, that I'm one of the rare few who genuinely like the Grateful Dead solely for their music. Although the stoner/slacker/party crowd that follows The Dead on tour helps them be successful and pay the bills, I personally have no use for that aspect of the Dead phenomenon. The Grateful Dead are amazing to me because during any given concert they can draw from a repertoire of literally hundreds of songs - they play multiple nights in a city and play completely different sets every night and never repeat a song; this tradition continues with the current lineup.

Jerry Garcia was a human encyclopedia of American Music and it's no wonder that when he died it took the surviving members a good eight years to figure how to go on, which they did starting last summer (2003) by inviting guest musicians to join the band for their summer tour. I didn't attend but I did pick up several of the shows on CD; all Dead shows starting in 2003 and continuing this year are available on CD at a fraction of the ticket price. Last year's shows really sounded great, especially considering the giant missing piece, but Jimmy Herring provides some amazing lead guitar work so much in Garcia's style that the band's sound remains intact, and Joan Osborne added some real vocal firepower to the live shows (she sang on key too).

In this year's Dead, Warren Haynes is onboard as the third guitarist and he also takes on a huge share of the vocal work, and as good as the Dead sounded on last year's concert CDs, I'd say they sound even better now. Haynes seems to have totally energized the band and with three guitars, there is more electric lead guitar work in a Dead concert than ever before. I don't know how Haynes ever finds time to record, what with his schedule, but there's a new Gov't Mule album and tour ready to drop in September as soon as the Dead tour comes to an end and Haynes plays a few late summer Allman Brothers dates. This would actually be a great time for the Dead to attempt a new studio album - that's how great these guys are together in the current lineup. Haynes may not yet be Garcia's equal in terms of the depth and breadth of his musical well, but his work in his various bands displays a similar wide range of interest that crosses genre lines - Haynes is as proficient in the various rock forms from blues based to jazz influenced as Garcia was expert in folk and bluegrass.

What I'm getting at is that Haynes is the only musician I can imagine who might have the capability to one day replace Garcia as the leader of the Dead. Garcia lived and breathed music and the Grateful Dead was his main gig but he also had the Jerry Garcia Band plus numerous side projects like the series of albums he made with David Grisman, Merl Saunders, etc. You can see numerous parallels in Haynes' career. Although Garcia may have been more of a private person with a bit less penchant for self-promotion, Haynes has shown he can match Garcia's sense of the dramatic, with most every Gov't Mule project becoming a momentous event as conceived by Haynes. In their prime, the Grateful Dead loved to adopt the party holiday (Fourth of July, Halloween, New Year's Eve, etc.) and established traditions of celebration that elevated these holidays to mythic status.

In any case, Haynes blends perfectly into The Dead, taking lots of leads and providing lots of lead vocals, and also laying back while others do the same. His guitar style occasionally lends a surprisingly funky or soulful feel to some of the tunes. The other members of The Dead can sing when needed, especially Weir, but Garcia did the majority of the singing in the Grateful Dead, and apparently the other guys are happy to have Haynes do likewise in the current band. While Haynes will never be mistaken for Garcia (if he sounds like anyone else it might be Greg Allman), but his voice is powerful and can easily take command of a song. Incidentally, a quick look at the set lists from the two Camden shows reveals two totally different sets with no songs repeated. Great stuff. In his Monday afternoon WXPN interview promoting his solo acoustic show at the Zellerbach that night, Haynes discussed the fact that the members of the Dead take turns creating the setlist for the Dead's shows, revealing that the song selection and sequencing is as much an act of artistic expression by one of the band members as the actual performance; knowing this I'd kind of want to know the setlist credit for each show.

Here's the setlist from Sunday night courtesy of The Dead's website.
Set 1: Sitting On Top Of The World> Bertha> New Speedway Boogie, You Remind Me, Stagger-Lee, Baba Jingo> Milestones> Baba Jingo, Brown-Eyed Women, Mason's Children.
Set 2: Friend Of The Devil (Bobby acoustic), Feel Like A Stranger> Eyes Of The World> Cold Rain & Snow, Hard To Handle> Samson & Delilah> Drumz/Space> Stella Blue, Night Of 1000 Stars> Gimme Some Lovin'> Not Fade Away.
Encore: After Midnight> Brokedown Palace.

Lifelong Dead lyricist Robert Hunter opened the show with a solo acoustic set that not very many people listened to as most folks were still busy tailgating in the 7pm hour. Warren Haynes is opening certain portions of the Dead tour with a solo acoustic set as well - he's the Energizer bunny of rock musicians. The Dead's portion of the show lasted a good four hours including a forty-five minute break between sets. My daughters and I were totally entertained by the scene going on outside in the parking lot where a tent city of grassroots merchandising and partying apparently had been going on for days. "Ganja" cookies were freely offered for sale at $5.00 each, along with all manner of food, drink and clothing, mostly of the tie dyed variety. Charlie asked whether the crowd was predominantly drawing from the first generation of Deadheads, but actually the Dead's constituency includes party people of all ages.

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