Written by Jimmy Z
Longtime 'head, here -- been lurking for yrs., but not one to post until now! Just wanted to offer my $.02 from last night's show.
I thought the show was excellent. Flawless? Naah. You could tell they were not particularly well-rehearsed as evidenced by some rough transitions, mostly in the song structures rather than the jams. But it mattered little, except for St. Stephen where it was a buzz-kill when they derailed! Having said that, it was a night of really dark, thick, exploratory, spooky, funky, dense jams that made my face melt on multiple occasions. To my eyes, everybody was in good spirits. Mickey walked out pumping his fists to the crowd, Phil had one of the longest hugs I've ever seen with his wife on the side of the stage before assuming his position, and Bobby came on last once everybody else was ready to roll and received thunderous applause which he acknowledged. Phil was all smiles the whole night.
I was most struck by how much the core four was physically clustered together on stage. Phil and Bob were frequently facing each other and turned backwards toward the drummers forming a tight quartet of sound and stage presence - - they were really playing off each other and watching each other. I thought the music was very free-flowing and democratically distributed.
As reported, Warren was understated and deferred to the core four and the group ethos more than ever which was a joy for me. He picked his spots wisely and laid back when appropriate, all the while weaving in and out of the bed that was being laid down -- he was quick on his feet and comped everybody nicely while also steering the ship when he chose.
Ditto for Jeff who really shined on Unbroken Chain with both his crazy, crazy jazz solo on the grand, then his rockin' organ swells on the 2nd jam. He was super-tasteful all night and really added a beautiful dimension without being a wallflower.
What can you say about Phil and Bob and the drummers that hasn't been said a million times before? Each brought his A game and his distinct signature sound to the mix with great effect. Hearing Billy and Mickey together again was a polyrhythmic force to reckon with, esp. with Phil's thumping and Bob's angular voicings. Very powerful.
Bob was in fine voice right out of the gate and the jams were explosive beginning with some great ensemble playing in Truckin'. Great crescendos.
US Blues was raw and fun -- nothing special, there.
The HSF was off the charts, though -- particularly Slipknot. Yes, Bob flubbed the 1st line in Help (as well as a verse in Touch but who's counting). Didn't matter.
The Playin' was powerful, and the ensuing jam was spooky.
Ditto for Dark Star.
St. Stephen caught me off guard when the 2nd jam, usually, the most rocking one, went into deep space -- very different and cool. Unfortunately, they didn't quite know how to pull out of it and get back into the tune and it was a bit of a wreck.
Unbroken Chain was great -- excellent jamming. I think Bobby had a rough time in the beginning remembering the chord progressions as it sounded like he hit a couple of clunkers in there and seemed to be reading the sheet music off his prompter, but he def recovered before the jams took off and it was all good.
I missed most of TOO while stretching out in the hallway and getting some deliciously refreshing Paterno Peach ice cream (a real flavor -- seriosuly) -- but it sounded pretty damn good out there. In fact, the sound system was crystalline from where I sat in contrast to the ABB where it was a little muddy.
Throwing Stones was solid, again great jams and very funky at the end -- they all had fun with it.
Playin' reprise was nice and compact and uplifting.
Touch featured a great Warren solo with was really melodic and light on its feet -- not his strong suit, imo, so I was really pleased. After such a dark, intense, outer space show, it was a nice moment of levity.
NFA was par and fun.
For me, the jams were just wonderful and I thought there was an interesting musical conversation taking place most of the night with some good ideas that were built on nicely -- it didn't sound meandering or self-indulgent, it was actually pretty spry.
Interesting that besides Franklin's, there were no bouncy tunes (US Blues in its current rendition no longer has much bounce, imo) -- no Scarlet or UJB or China, no 1st set ditties like FOTD or Dire Wolf, etc. Def a brooding stew instead!
Speaking for myself, it was a hell of a lot of fun and the music was extremely satisfying. I was happy how well Warren integrated with the band without making it too southern-fried. His psychedelic playing is rich and he has big, generous ears. The only disappointment with his playing is that his solos don't smile and grin like JG's -- like everybody, I miss the round, playful bounce of Jerry, esp on a song like Franklin's which just sounds a little more balls-out than lyrical with Warren playing his power chords on the chorus and blazing his solos -- not that it's bad, just different. Again, nothing surprising given the last 8 yrs. that's Warren's been in and out of the GD world. Still, when you hear the core four, you can't help but yearn for the ethereal, sparkling joyous leads that JG dripped out effortlessly when he was "on." Not to get too sentimental! Anyway, as reported, Warren's lead in Touch was a nice surprise and here's hoping they tour in the spring, keep the music evenly distributed across the stage, and that Warren turns up the warm colors in his arsenal when called for on the right songs!
Soundcheck video from 10/13 is up at the Grotto!
6 hours ago