The angle SCI had on the material was exquisite. They played these great songs from the inside out. The JGB, however, seemed all surface to me. The False Jerry kind of weirded me out. It seemed like more gloss and showmanship than anything else. They're a professional outfit, of course, but w/o Jerry there, or Kahn, it didn't really have much meaning for me compared to Nelson/Rothman, SCI and the RatDog sets. I'd have to say that JGB was the weakest set of the night, not that they weren't entertaining though...
To me, RatDog is attempting to sound like one huge Jerry lick. It's Weir's baby, and he sculpted it to that end. My point is that, on the one hand, you have Jerry's actual brother in arms, who lived with him and Owsley eating only steak and LSD and performed 2,500 plus shows with him. On the other hand you have a band that provided Jerry with a nice break from the opprobrium of the high expectations that come wih the GD, and all the other bullshit. I certainly don't think Jerry spent a lot of time with Jackie and Gloria, or Melvin for that matter, when he wasn't on stage with them. The Weir connection goes much, much deeper, obviously, and I certainly got that feeling from the JGB set. Don't get me wrong: it was a fine set. But it is what it is and what it is doesn't have the subtext of what Weir brought to the table, imo.
One thing I clearly got from this show is that if somehow, politically, Bobby, Phil, Billy and Mickey could do a full tour with Trey on lead guitar we'd all be back in business. No, it wouldn't be Jerry, but it would be seriously great.
I had a blast at this show. I was annoyed about the seating situation, especially since I couldn't even get near the seat I paid for. But I ended up in an equivalent space. The jostling and rancid smells and sweat didn't ruin the experience for me. What would bother me was when the playing was good, yet it could've been great, it remained only good. Good is fine in my book, but not when great is standing right behind it with a pot of rainbows.
The problem on TOG seemed to be that they didn't know who was supposed to sing it, and worse, who was supposed to play lead on it. What Trey was doing seemed actually humorous to me in that he seemed to be playing Bobby's rhythm parts, which only made Bobby have to find another level to take his own playing, which was a cool dynamic.
My only objection would in places where you'd have Trey onstage with Jimmy and Jimmy's soloing. Why? It sounded, basically, like vomit against a blackboard, really, especially when compared to Trey, who was so obviously more prepared in every way shape and form to approach this great music. And then when he'd be onstage an Warren was up there too, Warren would induce these call and response things with him which were kind of a waste and ridiculous and unimaginative. Anyway, after ten years of the assorted stumblebums out there trying to fit into Jerry''s shoes, Trey is the first guitarist who actually able to get them VERY, VERY close to that sublime level. I don't know about technical, or chops, or whatever, but the guy is a true force and one of a kind. He was having so much fun with the music, playing with it, teasing it, letting it tease him and us...a lot of fun.
Well, it was like the whole ticket price thing went out the door as soon as night fell. Not only that, previously I noticed that the only difference between me in the first row of "B", for $100, and the last row of Pit Right, for $250, was the goodie bag on the seat. By the midway point, drunken, disgusting people were destroying the trips of those who went through the effort of getting nice seats and paying for them, etc. The ushers didn't seem to check anyone out. I don't know why they didn't just make this a GA show from the get go, because that's what it was. By the time the tribute band was on, anyone in the "good" seats were being overrun by sweaty, elfin people stinking of patchoulie and human excrement and vomit. Other than that, the pit area smelled like chewing gum, dogshit, smoke and piss. The best deal, from what I witnessed, was the Section Five seating situation, sound-wise too.
Hard to fault Weir other than relying so much on Herring and Warren. They should've just let Trey be the guitarist and been done with it. It's like Weir, and Phil, seem to insist on handicapping themselves with the stiffs Jimmy and Warren - two players who are some of the most clueless when it comes to the GD context. Look, Warren is great in his own right, certainly, but after a half hour of hollow body Gibson cat-like snarls and southern fried slide licks, as professionally done as they are, and as great as they can sear through your brain, it gets fuckin' old and gets there quickly. Trey wasn't even paying attention, so to speak, and blowing Warren and Jimmy off the damn stage, really.
I think Weir should still get incredible kudos for setting it up so beautifully. If this were a three night run, or even a two night run, they'd have certainly nailed the whole thing. Still, as an overall experience it's right up there with any post-95 stuff I've seen though...
When Trey was soloing, Warren would comp on rhythm, but his chordings were so "spell-it out-typical," like Dead by numbers, as if he doesn't understand what the hell Bobby is there for. Warren, to me, is like the kid in the fourth grade school play who knows everybody else's lines and you can see his mouth moving while the others are acting. In truth, Warren played great last night. He's a monster. But I'm tired of seeing his mediocre vision constantly crap all over the GD legacy. And Herring...forget it. The guy is just lost, really. I am so sick of both of them in the GD genre... Trey's mic was certainly low. He was definitely ripping it up on the Eyes, though, and also on the HOTW, even with the sound problems. As great as they were playing it actually worked, believe it or not, I thought. Hornsby's voice is never loud enough. So I assume that's his own choice or something. Even on his own DVD and DirecTV Town hall thing his voice is too low. The Loser was nice, especially the start of it, how they slinked into it...
Let's be honest: and again, I've never seen Phish and have never had any interest in doing so:
Trey: original thinker, great player, carved out his own niche and created a huge fan base based on that. Jerry set the template, yes, and Trey followed up a generation later. But in the end, this is an original, cutting edge, brilliant, creative player with his own voice. He could NEVER sound like Jerry. But he can play GD music. Because the secret to this music isn't sounding like Jerry, it's understanding how to approach the music.
Warren: makes a career regurgitating the brilliant ideas of other greats who preceeded him. Has it completely dialed in in terms of almost Spike Jones sound effects, like in old cartoons with a blues vernacular, which is great. But it's ultimately all a derivative of a derivative of a derivative. The idea that he's out there on that stage, with Bobby and Mickey and Billy and Hamza El Din is ridiculous. Greg Allman, okay, fine. But Warren isn't at this level intellectually. He's just not. When a guy like Trey who has hardly even approached the GD oevre in front of people can make such a marked distinction compared to the two frauds who have now been playing with TD in one way or another for 5, 6,7>10 years, well, that speaks volumes. Last night Trey exposed Jimmy and Warren in terms of not being worthy of being on the same stage with the Core Four (Phil or no Phil).
Additionally, it only gave me a "what could have been feeling" as opposed to the waterered down bullshit I've been gagging on, at least for the most part, since Phil and Bobby have brought these cats into the fold. At some point it bites Phil and Bobby in the ass, because however convenient it is to have these "versatile" players like Jimmy and Warren in the TD thing, just think what another week or two of rehearsals might bring had they chosen more wisely. All Trey said to me, ultimately, was that there's others out there as nicely suited as he, if the Core Four just took the time, rather than quickly choosing Dill and Doe, the two shmucks they seem to have settled on to smear the bile of their greatness on a bathroom wall. It's too bad they don't have more respect for themselves...
This is the straight up truth. I'm just calling it like I see it. If I'd had some rotten fruit on me last night I'd have hurled it at Warren and Jimmy after awhile because I AM SO SICK OF THEIR MEDIOCRITY. It's a travesty, all the more because I can see how, on the surface, they actually get over on people. But it's a bald faced lie. Just the fact that they were on the same stage with Trey Annastasio is a joke, really, when you think about it.
The Dead are old now. They've started to see themselves as museum pieces. Bobby sees the GD context in this way, clearly, so RD keeps him young and fresh. But there's no need for RD if they just had their shit together in the first place. Phil buys into the museum thing totally, so he's already a lost cause in terms of his own perception, as his ego/legacy situation are at the front of his mind 24/7. Still, he picks Warren and Jimmy as they make it easier for him to spend time with his kids. I'm not knocking the latter, but hell, pick the people who work in the band the best, not who make it a month easier for you in long run.
Phil: not as bright as he thinks he is...And he's a dipshit for not being there last night either. The bass player they had, Johnny B. NotPhil, was pretty damn good anyway...
Hey, Warren and Jimmy are great players. They are. Truly. So what? They do not fit into this vernacular, period. As far as they take it, like when they do play well for brief stints, they always blow it. It's not personal. It's no different than if I were a Met fan and I'm saying: "Fuck it. Glavine has to go." Or "Piazza can't get around on the fastball anymore."
The Core Four are so talented and have so much to offer and all I get is, as great as it can get, is ultimately a watered down trip when, jeez, with a little extra effort, and cash, of course, bring in the EQUAL, as in peer, to these guys. Not necessarily Trey even. But he IS a peer and he earned it. And his presence held up the glare of the mirror to all concerned last night. I don't dislike Jimmy or Warren personally at all. And I actually admire their talents greatly. But you're obviously too close to it and/or them to see the true reality.
Do you really go to these shows for some nostalgic reminiscense or to be blown away? These guys have so much to offer. It doesn't have to be over and everything about Warren is "it's over" and everything about Jimmy is "I still don't get it."
I agree about Karan. He's a much, much better fit than the other two, completely. I thought his work during the Ratdog set was nothing short of spectacular. He's so tactile-aware too, meaning in his complete approach, which really works in the GD situation. Like, he really "gets" how to make those great GD sounds like "PLINK" and "PLOINK" and PWIIIINNNK." See, the other two aren't even aware of the qualifiying sound effects. Karan definitely is. Still, you want a guy who can also shred, in the Jerry way, in the real way, like Trey. I realized last night why so many people really think Trey is as great as he is: he is. he's unique and tasty and wild and dangerous and sick and depraved and loving and everything Jerry or any great musician is: as nuts as Coltrane, Miles, Bud Powell, whoever... I get it more from Warren than Herring, certainly, but it's like Warren has a big weight hanging from his neck. Look, he certainly had his moments last night. I mean, some of those licks he was pulling off on that blonde Gibson were just mind boggling.
But there's great and then there's GREEEEAAAAATTTTT. Why should I, or you, or any of us, have to settle? They could charge twice as much and we'd all go. It's true. was really getting the feeling that RD is now the closest thing to what the GD experience was. Karan's playing in the Dog set was spectacularly exquisite too. This Doggie set was right up there with the best of them. The 1/2 Step into the Lazy River Road was incredibly sublime, beautiful and scary all at the same time...
I thought the tribute band was pretty damn good, at least through Loser or Eyes, whichever came last. The Stella was abysmal. Personally, I think it's an insult to Jerry to have anyone sing that particular number, especially Warren, who, somehow, seems to have been designated as the "official" Jerry ballad singer. Warren's a fine singer in his own right, but when it comes to the Jerry tunes he's not only all wrong, he's loud wrong. The Stella should've been instrumental, or maybe they could've had Donna sing it, which might've been a nice twist.
I don't know...a lot of it was a playoff performance: the RD set was exceptional, as was SCI and Rothman/Nelson and JGB. The tribute band was great too, as long as Trey was the main guitarist. The first half of the tribute set, at least, was fairly great. The idea that this wasn't about the music but about the vibe or whatever...I disagree. It's always about the music, and it's always about the vibe. The vibe was great. But these things go hand in hand, really.
On another note: it's fascinating how the same people who seem to get extremely and vehemently upset because of others' criticisms of this show have no problem criticizing those who actually went to the show who took the time to post their honest opinions. In other words: it's not okay to criticize aspects of the show itself, the show that this page is based on, but it it's okay to attack those who've stated opinions that run contrary to what they think those opinions ought to be. That's fairly misguided in my estimation.
Interesting how different people have different takes. To me, while the JGB set was emotional and a very good set - and I mean very good - it completely paled in comparison to the brilliance of the Ratdog set. Not even close. There was a lot of superficiality in the JGB set. The "Jerry guy" guitarist was certainly a weird trip, at least for me. You throw some gospel out there, what have you...I don't know, it had this Broadway-ish or Vegas-y feel or something. It definitely wasn't nearly as organic as Weir's moving eulogy via Ratdog.
At the end of the day, as great as Melvin is, or the fake Jerry, or the back-up singers, all their efforts can never compare to the work of Jerry's running buddy Bobby. And that's how it should be.
Bobby knows the deal and he proved it Saturday night. And in the end, even after all he did, that Ratdog set was one of the most heartfelt and brilliant pieces of music I've ever seen performed, hands down.
I never have preconceptions about Warren. And I even said how great some of the stuff was he was doing. I get it, believe me. I understand his value. Everytime I see him I try to have an open mind. As for Jimmy, if you dig deep in these folders, I was one of his biggest defenders, like at RR '03 and 2.14.03. But in the end, I just don't think either of these cats are suited to play THIS particular brand of music. Look, Segovia wouldn't be suited for it either. Or Clapton or George Harrison and many other great guitarists.
At the end of the day, the Grateful Dead was more akin to where Jerry was at than JGB. For myriad reasons. JGB did standards Jerry loved in a more traditional manner, as well as his own material, but in a more showbiz traditional way. Weir and his band have basically expanded, or at the very least carry the GD torch, meaning musically they're closer to the heart of what Jerry was really all about. The GD was also more drug-oriented, as is the Dog, and, like it or not, Jerry was a guy who liked his drugs two fists at a time. That's just reality, like it or not. In fact, without the GDs rampant drug use, there is no GD. hard to swallow for some nowadays but the truth nonetheless.
All excerpts reprinted with permission by Jon Ezrine.