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Potent brew: John Mayer adds a kick to the Grateful Dead

Potent brew: John Mayer adds a kick to the Grateful Dead

Within The wide world of the Grateful Useless, trade has always been a tricky thing to accept.

There are still enthusiasts who yearn for the bluesy years of Ron “Pigpen” McKernan; regardless of sitting In The keyboard seat for a full decade between 1980 and 1990, Brent Mydland incessantly felt he didn’t win the glory of fans. When the band announced it is 50-year anniversary reunion and farewell, an enormous debate ensued over whether or not Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio was the correct particular person to be filling Jerry Garcia’s sneakers.

However change is inevitable in a band that is been around in one style or every other for five a long time, particularly one whose actuarial tables have by no means been that favorable.

Then what Had Been we to make of this John Mayer child? A “radio-pleasant” Grammy winner who got on the bus only a scant 4 years in the past after hearing Garcia’s tune “Althea”? A singer-songwriter-musician who’s referred to as much for his ex-girlfriends and his worrying relationship with Steve Jobs as he is for his guitar abilities?

I was keen to offer him the benefit of the doubt. “Hiya, he worships in the correct church,” I told a pal Just A Few weeks ago. And in interviews best up to the new Dead & Firm tour with Bob Weir and the band’s drummers, Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, Mayer made it clear he used to be doing his homework.

Whereas doubts lingered, for me and many others, the first little while of the band’s convey at Madison Square Garden swept them away. The Latest new release of a band whose first gig was in a pizza parlor in 1965 launched into a grand rendition of “Jack Straw,” and by the point Mayer uttered Jerry’s first strains, “I just met the watchman,” the audience roared in approval and he was once enveloped Within The excellent graces of 20,000 Deadheads.

However he infrequently left issues there. All The Way Through just that first music, Mayer’s virtuosity with the guitar allowed him to not most effective echo the fashion and tone of Jerry Garcia But drive the band into highly effective crescendos. By Way Of the end of it, the generally taciturn Weir was certainly energized and animated, slashing thru chords to fulfill the thick riffs of his new taking part in companion. Even essentially the most hardened cynic would have found the combination exhausting to withstand.

Oteil Burbridge , John Mayer, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Jeff Chimenti

Oteil Burbridge, John Mayer, Invoice Kreutzmann, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Jeff Chimenti of Useless & Firm at Madison Sq. Backyard.

Picture: Robert Altman /Invision/Related Press

From there, the band labored their approach in the course of the coronary heart of the Grateful Dead’s Seventies repertoire, with songs like “New Speedway Boogie,” “Brown-Eyed Ladies” and “Ramble On Rose.” Bob Weir treated most of the vocals, and as he did right through the Grateful Lifeless’s “Fare Thee Neatly” concert events, he sang with power and center of attention. The shakiness and frailty we noticed in Weir’s final 12 months touring with Furthur was once long past. Bobby was once used to be making a commentary that There May Be a lot of fuel left in his tank.

Bear with me. There May Be more to claim about this show, But just a little historical past is in order.

Some readers might be asking, wait, failed to the Grateful Lifeless declare it OVER with these live shows in Chicago over the July Four weekend?

They did, and Phil Lesh, the fourth surviving unique member, reiterated that in an interview this week with the new York Times. “I’m simply now not into traveling, and those guys are,” Lesh stated of his former bandmates.

So Weir, Kreutzmann and Hart joined forces with Mayer and lengthy-time Allman Bros. bassist Oteil Burbridge to create Lifeless and Firm, and spark off on a move-country fall tour harking back to people who received the Useless so many followers during the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

However wait, There Is more. Because It turns out, Lesh, While now not visiting per se, is doing one among his widespread residencies On The Capitol Theater in Port Chester, big apple, together with his ever-altering Phil Lesh and Friends band. This Provides us an excellent chance for an outdated-college Battle of the Bands at two venues, 31 miles aside. Friday Night with Phil, Saturday Night with Bobby and John Mayer.

Useless & Firm

First and largest affect: This band feels comfy together. I understand that seeing the primary “Fare Thee Well” exhibit in Santa Clara, California, in late June. It was once the first of 5 outings with Trey Anastasio, and there used to be a tentative feel to the express, as if everybody was getting used to one another. That simply wasn’t the case Saturday Night.

All The band carried out with confidence and, dare I say it, precision. Mayer handled Jerry’s components effortlessly, faithfully recreating many of his signature lines in music after track, and then exploding past them. If There Were any lingering doubts, they Had Been erased with the first notes of his first solo in “Eyes of the sector.” He would go on to attack the song further, strumming and shredding chords with depth.

Mayer did it once more with Weir’s late-70s anthem, “Estimated Prophet,” replicating Jerry’s Mu-tron guitar filter for a devoted word-for-note rendering of the track’s intro, then working via an aggressive three-approach alternate with Weir and bassist Burbridge. Weir punctuated the music with equally emphatic vocals, as he sang, “And would possibly and glory gonna be my title…”

Bob Weir, Mickey Hart

Bob Weir and Mickey Hart with their new band, Useless & Company.

Image: Robert Altman /Invision/Related Press

And he was once equally assertive with the music that offered him to the Grateful Dead, “Althea.” The Group replied with wild appreciation as he sang “this Space is getting sizzling.”

Right Through the convey, Mayer played and sang with almost boyish enthusiasm. At The end of the first set, he used to be jumping pogo-like Whereas slashing in the course of the chords of “Deal” While Burbridge pounded his way through the upper registers of his six-string bass.

A Kind Of skeptics was sitting at the back of me in Part 119. Because The show used to be beginning he told his date he wasn’t convinced John Mayer was once the right fit. With the final chorus of “Do Not you let that deal go down,” he introduced to her “I’m bowled over.” He intended it in a great way.

Caveats: There Were Occasions where Mayer’s enthusiasm possibly got the simpler of him. He treated the vocals on the “Woman With a Fan” section of “Terrapin Station,” But where Garcia would undertake the mild tone of the wise previous storyteller Within The song, Mayer was approach too boisterous, occasionally shouting his means via a tune whose magnificence lies in its gentleness.

It was once additionally peculiar to hear him sing lyrics that Had Been embedded Within The Lifeless’s vast repertoire of Americana, those songs about miners and railroads and scoundrels. Come What May his superstar persona just didn’t jibe with phrases like “red-eyed gin” and “tumble-down shack in Big Foot county.”

However on balance he proved he belonged. Like the man sitting in the back of me, I was once greatly surprised.

Here’s how it went down:

Set 1:
Jack Straw>
New Speedway Boogie
Brown-Eyed Women
Ramble On Rose

Set 2:
Wang Dang Doodle>
Truckin’ coda
Estimated Prophet>
Eyes of the sector>
Woman With a Fan>
Terrapin Station>
Drums>House >
China Cat Sunflower>
I Know You Rider>
Morning Dew>
one more Saturday Night Time

Encore: Werewolves of London

Phil Lesh and Pals


Phil Lesh and Pals, with Jason Crosby, keyboards, John Kadlecik and Stanley Jordan, guitars, and Tony Leone, drums, At The Capitol Theater.

A Couple Of weeks ago, Phil Lesh used to be undergoing remedy for bladder cancer.

Friday Night Time he used to be doing what he steadily does Within The fall. Fronting his band in an East Coast gig.

I’ve seen Phil in scores of shows since the loss of life of Jerry Garcia 20 Years in the past fractured the Grateful Useless in many components, and I Will Be Able To honestly say I Have Not viewed him appear more healthy or sound improved. He introduced his A sport to the Capitol Theater.

He also introduced a primary-charge band: John Kadlicek and Stanley Jordan on guitars, Jason Crosby on keyboards and Tony Leone on drums. Kadlicek taken care of many of the vocals and, as he did for 5 years with Weir and Lesh In The band Furthur, supplied a caring and respectful rendering of Jerry Garcia’s guitar elements on Grateful Lifeless requirements like Bertha, China Cat Sunflower and Scarlet Begonias.

However what made the Night Time shine was the contribution of Jordan, a jazz fusion veteran whose two-passed tapping model provided an aggressive distinction to the extra lyrical licks of John Ok. His affect was evident from the start, offering a swirling component to the center component of a 20-minute “Help on the way in which>Slipknot!>Franklin’s Tower”, and intricate solos In The at all times beautiful “Eyes of the arena.”

Jordan additionally led the band thru two instrumentals, “Greensleeves,” hewing a lot nearer to the John Coltrane model than the “What Kid is this?” Christmas carol, and robust model of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” featuring a liberal arsenal of Phil Bombs.

Jordan’s odd guitar lines additionally made a welcome and assured contribution to probably the most complicated track In The Grateful Useless’s repertoire, “Unbroken Chain.” The tune was once initially released in 1974, However by no means performed in live performance except Garcia’s final 12 months of existence, when, alas, his bodily decline made the tune’s intricacies even more difficult.

Equally impressive was once Phil’s capacity to concentrate during the track as his grandson, Levon, scampered across the stage All Over the song, and, for the matter, most of the 2nd set. Infrequently, the toddler seemed oblivious to what was once occurring round him as he pushed and pulled a pink toy scooter. At different Times, he and granddad would charmingly level to each other without Phil missing a beat. Respect.

A Distinct shoutout goes to Jason Crosby, whose harmonies gave tunes like “Ship of Fools” and “I Know You Rider” a Rich and entire crispness that greater than filled the gaps of the vocals delivered Through Lesh and Kadlecik.

And that you can never say enough concerning the magic that envelops music At The Capitol Theater, the 1926 venue that promoter Peter Shapiro reopened in 2012 after a expensive But value-each-penny renovation. Lesh has made the Cap his 2d dwelling, performing more than two dozen displays there in 2014 alone.

The Deadheads who filled the balcony Friday Night Time truly put the structural integrity of the situation to the test as they shook their bones to “Bertha” On The finish of Set 1. Luckily for all, the balcony swayed in sync with the Garcia/Hunter tune However handled the test with no trouble.

Here Is how Friday Night played out:

Set I
Assist on the way>
Franklin’s Tower
Ship of Fools
Here Comes Sunshine>
Greensleeves (instrumental)
Sitting on Top of the sector

Set II
Unbroken Chain (PL)
All Alongside the Watchtower>
Little Wing (instrumental)>
China Cat Sunflower>
Eyes of the arena>
Standing on the Moon
Scarlet Begonias>
I Do Know You Rider

Encore: Any Highway Will Take You There

Can there be a winner?

An Actual Fight of the bands desires a degree playing container. So any real comparison would have to get rid of many variables, together with the truth that one venue, the Backyard, held 10 Instances the collection of individuals than the other.

But apparently the two bands played a couple of of the same Lifeless classics, “Eyes of the arena,” “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know Your Rider.”

And in those songs you should really feel the essential difference. Dead and Firm truly felt like a Grateful Useless concert. The free-limbed really feel imparted By Means Of the drumming tandem of Hart and Kreutzmann introduced to Weir grand, anthemic delivery gave the show the ability of most of the Dead’s easiest Garden shows of the late 80s.

Lesh and his Chums felt extra like a re-imaging of the Grateful Useless, with Stanley Jordan adding a singular mutation While holding authentic to the band’s conventional DNA.

We’ll name it a win-win.

There’s at all times any other show.

Sunday Evening in Port Chester, Phil might be re-developing, tune-for-song, one of the most most interesting Grateful Dead shows of the 1980s, Nov. 1, 1985. I used to be there 30 years ago in Richmond, Virginia, along with my traveling chum, Jay, and wrote about the experience Because The Dead was getting ready the “Fare Thee Well” run in Chicago.

Jay And That I will be there to check the passage of time.

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