The Dead @ Red Rocks | 6/15/04

Article Contributed by gratefulweb | Published on Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Navigating the undulating route of HWY 93 from Boulder, our trusty VW Bus, along with the countless others migrating from the north, was a spectator to a spectacular lightning display. There's an ongoing jest between my friends and I about the contrast we experience when we leave our tranquil Boulder bubble, venturing into Jefferson County where factories and urban sprawl replace our cherished open landscapes. The bulk of the journey is undeniably beautiful, yet it's frustrating to witness how the Golden city council, despite possessing some of the most breathtaking geography in America, has allowed it to be transformed into a mirror image of any other city. But I digress...

Upon arrival, I made a beeline for the queue. Red Rocks, with its usual open seating policy, allowed me the chance to snag a front row seat, albeit in the farthest stage-right corner. I spread out my blanket, made friends with my neighbors, and sipped on my beer.

The charismatic Warren Haynes graced the stage around 7PM, treating us to a blend of original tracks and Hunter/Garcia compositions, including 'To Lay Me Down.' We had braced ourselves for scorching heat and relentless sunshine, but were graced with a brief pre-show rain, which left us with a near-perfect temperature.

Let me clarify my inevitable cynicism. 'The Dead' is a commendable band, and judging by their performance, I anticipate they will deliver some exceptional shows this summer. This being their second show, I'm already partial to this year's line-up compared to the previous one. Warren Haynes injects a much-needed dose of energy and soul, relieving the burden on Jimmy Herring. In my view, even a full orchestra couldn't fill Jerry's shoes, so having two proficient guitarists (excluding Weir) seems indispensable. The band kicked off with 'Shakedown Street'—a promising start. Their excitement to be back at Red Rocks was palpable, and who could blame them? The venue lives up to its reputation, offering a stunning experience for those fortunate enough to be within the first 30 rows—beyond that, wind can interfere with the acoustics.

Following 'Shakedown Street' was a Miles Davis instrumental 'Milestones' and a lively 'Dupree's Diamond Blues.' As Phil initiated 'New Potato Caboose,' my friends and I, under the influence of our microbrews, took a moment before identifying the song—a rare live treat for our generation. It transported me back to my youth in New Jersey when we'd cross the GW Bridge to see a Dead cover band at Wetlands, aptly named 'New Potato Caboose.'

Next came The Byrds' 'Eight Miles High,' a song whose lyrics I've struggled to comprehend. Unfortunately, Weir and Warren didn't offer much clarity. However, 'She Said She Said,' a classic Lennon piece, came alive under Warren’s soulful rendition, bolstered by Jeff Chimenti's evocative solo. This track was undeniably the crown jewel of the first set.

Standards like 'Ramble on Rose' and 'Cold Rain and Snow' kept the crowd engaged, singing along with fervor. The set culminated with 'Playin in the Band'—a piece characterized by commendable jamming and a touch of noodling.

Set 2 started with a pretty sloppy El Paso.  I love this Marty Robbins song but this time it just didn't flow well. Weir started out solo with his acoustic, before each band member made their way on stage joining Weir in a discombobulated fashion.  After the rough start to set II, the band started a loose jam before making their way in the Van Morrison classic, Into the Mystic.  Warren may not be the guy to take the place for Jerry on guitar – his voice is oozes soul and with a song with perfect lyrics, Warren nearly brought us to tears.

Weir started into a pretty inspired West LA Fadeaway, but after 7/19/89's Alpine Valley's West LA... I'll never be the same.  :)  Next we were back into some Playin teases into a bouncy Pride of Cucamonga. Phil was singing it with a big ole smile on his face. Uncle John's Band followed, keeping everyone singing and dancing along.

'Strange World,' a new Mickey Hart tune, was next.  I'm glad Weir and Warren took turns singing this, because I really don't care for Mickey singing any tune.  It's has a pretty catchy little riff, but probably not a song that will have a long shelf life.

Drums followed.  Unfortunately even tonight's drums were nothing to write home about.  Mickey put on some funky outfit when he hit the beam. Almost like a big white doctor's suit. His time on the beam was short and didn't do much for me.  Weir hit the stage to start off a short space, which led Warren singing Days Between.  He had a teleprompter but still didn't articulate the words too well.  This is a song I believe would have grown with time – it’s a powerful song, haunting, eerie.

Weir started up the China Cat Sunflower riff, before Warren, Jimmy and Phil joined in. The jam into 'Rider' was fair. But once I know You Rider' started, the energy really turned up a notch and everyone was in prime time.  There's nothing more special than singing 'I wish I was headline on a northbound train... I'll shine my light through the cool Colorado rain’  that here at Red Rocks Ampitheater and boy did we all belt it unison.

An Uncle John's reprise followed and was pretty tight. Weir immediately followed that up with a Playin reprise to end the set.

Phil came out and did is spiel on donors, etc. but the real coolness was next when Bobby told everyone to vote!  Weir said: 'this might be the last time you can.' Keep it up, Bobby! In this election more than ever we need you guys to speak your minds!. 

Ripple was the encore (around 12:30 A.M.) and had everyone leaving mostly satisfied and some of us wanting more.  For those who do, there are still four more shows to go.. Ahh, life is good in Colorado!