Thursday, January 01, 2004

Blair Jackson has okayed my request to reprint his NYE review(originally posted @ Deadnet) on my iblog -So, here goes!
Blair Jackson-
My .02, FWIW. Had a great ol' time last night. Usual pre-show screw-ups--like trying to not open the lots until 4, despite the fact that folks like me showed up hours before that. So you've got folks driving around aimlessly for hours or (my choice) parking on weird side streets, lining up, then, when they opened the gates for cars (and people) at 3:30 (rather than 4 as they told all the cars they'd turned away)I had to re-park (for 15 bucks!). Line management was shoddy, the entrances inadequate and over-crowded. Not up to old BGP snuff, to be sure.

Once in, though, the vibes were good and surprisingly relaxed considering it was NYE. Helped that it was WAY not full. In fact, it wasn't until around the time the Dead came on that the upper reaches started to be populated at all. Well, the 70 buck ticket price was pretty intimidating to many (including me!). Tickets were much cheaper outside, of course.

Hunter came on a little after seven and played one of the best sets I've seen him do. Opened with a nice "Doin' That Rag," tossed a "Loser" in there, somewhere, and "Might As Well," but the coolest were the three newish songs (all post JG), including a new epic about keys to a room or some such, which had some very cool passages, as well as some odd chordal moments that could use some re-thinking IMO. But Hunter was ON, and the crowd was amazingly attentive for the most part--not always the case with his sets, I'm afraid. A GREAT "Standing on the Moon" was the big late winner...cut the "be with you's" (unfortunately) to charge right into a warm "Ripple." "Boys in the Barroom" is always a rousing good time, 'specially if it's been a good set, and this one was. Kudos to Mr. H. I'd love to see him go into a studio with a full band and record songs like "Keys to the Room" or whatever it's called), the magnificent "Blow Wind Blow" and any other new 'uns he has. Billy on drums. Phil on bass ('cause let's face it, he owes Hunter for delivering so many good lyrics the past few years), Barney Doyle on guitar...Great album there somewhere...

Funk Brothers were awe-inspiring on a certain level, and I basically dug their trip, though frankly, a lot of that material has been so over-played through the years, and because their arrangements are EXACTLY like the hit records, some of it was just like listening to a loud radio or a really good cover band. I liked what Joan added on her couple of tunes and really got off on a handful of favorites ("I'll Be There"! "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"). It was a little long for my tastes. Needless to say, it would've been a bit different if we he's had Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Junior Walker and all the other "real" singers, rather than the very capable and talented but essentially faceless singers who did front the band. But only a Grinch would diss the Funk Bros. and you'll get no true diss from me. They rock!
Really enjoyed the Dead's first set, which had a disntinctly jammy second set feel for much of it, especially the whole "Westher Report Suite," with the long, long "Let It Grow." But we're jumping the gun..."Good Times" was sweet...but useless, just as it was with the Grateful Dead--a way to ease into the show, but without much to offer. (Did like Joan doing verse two, though) "Jack Straw" got things cooking, as it always does--very nice version. I still have the memory of the wonderful Shoreline "Peggy-O" in my head, and this one didn't kill me the way that one did, but it was still pretty nonetheless. Greg Osby was onstage for much of the night (less in the first set, I think) and he occasionally added some nice sax solos and punctuation. The guy definitely has chops, but IMO he rarely soared. He didn't have the Jerry-like melodic genius or assertive power of a Branford Marsalis, but he picked his spots pretty well. I was sick of saxophone by the middle of the second set, though. There's plenty of noise onstage and noodling without another solo element. Needless to say YMMV. Loved "Rubin and Cherise" (another Shoreline highlight). I am so pro-Joan. If ever a band needed a capable on-key singer, this is the one and she is it--she does justice to the Jerry tunes in ways that Phil and Bob do not. If this was her swan song, I bid her a fond adieu. "Rider" was a nice kick-ass ending to a very strong set.

The midnight moment was a total bomb, a mess-up that must have had Bill Graham spinning in his grave. At about ten til midnight, a huge flying saucer started decending slowly from the ceiling and gliding across the crowd toward the stage. There were a few blips and pops and odd sound effects, but NO music or giant build up, and it's still not exactly clear to me what the point was. It finally ended up hovering over the front lip of the stage, but there was no one onstage, and as I said, no music of any kind. It stayed there a minute, then slowly made its way back up to the rafters without anything having emerged from the spaceship or having any interaction with anyone on the (empty) stage. Bizarre. So there we were at five to midnight with the big visual effect over, still no band onstage. Finally, someone started the countdown (beginning at 8!)there was the big Happy New Year moment, balloons and confetti falling (actually, the one over us wouldn't open at first)..but still the stage was empty! For the second year in a row, we had a music-less New Year's moment! How lame is that?! At last the band came out and whipped out the expected (and greatly appreciated) "Sugar Magnolia"--a full version with SSDD. Excellent! Joan looked fantastic in her slinky black dress and New Year's top hat! Style-y! That was then followed by a typically explosive "Saint Stephen" (complete with "High green chilly winds..." Yay! My first time ever hearing it live...when I started seeing the band in '70, they'd dropped it already). "Born Cross-Eyed" was also cool. I kind of thought the rest of the set would build on this raucous energy, but it quickly turned spacey (neat "Mountains of the Moon" in there somewhere)and it really ended up being a pretty spacey affair for most of the show. Now, normally that would be exactly what I like the most--I'm a jam man through and through--but quite frankly, last night I was in a rockin' mood and the second set didn't satisfy me in that regard. I thought there was an awful lot of what felt like pretty aimless jamming in between fine versions of a whole slew of great songs: "Dark Star" (another complete version), "The Wheel," etc. Can't truly complain about the songlist, I guess...just the pacing of the set which was so drawn-out and lacking in focus--having Greg Osby up there did not help that.

Encore was nice treat--Joan warbling "Must've Been the Roses" and what seemed like it was going to be "Help-Slip-Frank," but there was such a bloody trainwreck as the band attempted to shift gears going back into the last part of "Slipknot," that it crashed to nothing, but the jubilant "Truckin'" emerged--I was happy to be rockin'!

All in all, a fine time...