Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tipper Gore on drums!http://www.dead.net/4-14-verizon-center?page=1 Not the first time Tipper's drummed for Bobby though-http://www.rockument.com/fobbs/dead/gore1.html

Live Dead setlist updates at http://twitter.com/grateful__dead

Obama meets privately with The Dead!

The surviving (and formerly feuding) members of the Grateful Dead had a secret impromptu meeting Monday evening with the man they credit with reuniting them: President Obama.

The president welcomed all the members of The Dead, who are performing tonight at the Verizon Center in Washington, to the Oval Office just before dinner last night. They didn't talk music as much as they did history - history about the Oval Office, and the president's desk.

Apparently the band was quite taken with how tidy the president keeps his desk. And how down-to-earth he seemed, according a source who was there.

"The president was so gracious. Really, really nice and so welcoming. It hit you: you're in the Oval Office, but it was so normal," the source told us.

The entourage included the four surviving members of the Grateful Dead - Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann - plus keyboardist Jeff Chimenti (from Weir's Ratdog) and Warren Haynes, who is joining the Dead on their 2009 spring tour as lead vocalist and guitarist. Some of them had their wives in tow.

As if chatting with the president in the Oval Office weren't cool enough, something remarkable happened on their way out. Just outside the Oval Office, Phil and his wife, Jill Lesh, spotted a vase full of Scarlet Begonias sitting on a table.

For the uninitiated, "Scarlet Begonias" is one of the late Grateful Dead band leader Jerry Garcia's most famous songs. (Check out a youthful looking Jerry Garcia singing "Scarlet Begonias" in this 1977 video, and be sure you have a tissue.)

After admiring the Scarlet Begonias, the band went next door to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to meet with the most prominent Deadheads in the Obama White House: senior advisors David Axelrod and Pete Rouse, and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina. All three are planning to go to tonight's one and only Dead show in Washington, we're told.

After leaving the White House, the members of the Dead - none of whom, surprisingly, wore tie-dyed t-shirts to the Oval Office - walked over to their favorite Washington restaurant, the Old Ebbitt Grill, for dinner.

Given that the Dead sparked the "Deadheads for Obama" movement when they reunited during the 2008 presidential campaign to play a fundraiser for Obama, we expect to see plenty of happy Deadheads at the show. We'll give you a full update, so check back.

The Dead: A valid reincarnation
TUESDAY, APRIL 14 ( updated 12:15 pm)

Concert Review

GREENSBORO — It’s Easter Sunday, and the Dead have risen.

Yes, the cultural institution known as the Grateful Dead — and now simply “The Dead” — kicked off their first tour in five years at the Greensboro Coliseum on Sunday night. It was a virtual sellout, with every corner of the arena filled with dancing, delirious Deadheads. A total of 17,500 tickets were sold, making this the 13th-largest concert crowd in the coliseum’s history.

The Dead’s lineup includes four original members — bassist Phil Lesh, guitarist Bob Weir and drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart — along with longtime confederates Jeff Chimenti and Warren Haynes on keyboards and guitar, respectively.

Although Jerry Garcia, the group’s late guitarist and the broader counterculture’s reluctant guru, is fundamentally irreplaceable, The Dead is a valid reincarnation. They played for close to four hours and seemed intent on re-establishing the experimental side of the group’s legacy.

They began with “The Music Never Stopped” — a choice that made a subtly implicit point about endurance.

Later in the first set, they performed “He’s Gone” and “Touch of Grey” back-to-back, again alluding to their own history — both Garcia’s death (“Nothing’s gonna bring him back”) and their own will to persevere (“We will survive”).

Throughout the evening, the songs themselves were well-played, although the jams that ended or connected them sometimes lacked focus and coherence. “I Need a Miracle” and “Truckin’ ” were rousing and tight, but the tricky, reggae-accented 7/4 time of “Estimated Prophet” seemed to throw the band into disarray. A cover of “All Along the Watchtower” — Jimi Hendrix by way of Bob Dylan — elicited a fiery reading from Haynes.

Phil Lesh played a nifty bass with glowing blue LEDs embossed into the neck. The graying, laconic Bob Weir stood front and center, and though he appeared expressionless, he seemed to relish the opportunity to step out more than usual on guitar. Weir and Haynes didn’t mesh particularly well as guitarists, but perhaps their chemistry will evolve as the tour progresses.

Haynes brought a gritty, bluesy energy to the band, but he also nailed Garcia’s lighter touch in places, especially the unique duck-quack tone Garcia got from the wah-wah pedal.

On the other hand, Haynes isn’t Garcia, and he’s ultimately better-suited to the earthier Allman Brothers Band, which he joined back in 1989, than the Dead.

That’s no knock on Haynes’ fabulous musicianship but an acknowledgement that the era-specific nuances of vintage psychedelia and the ability to play in a free-form “outside” style are not his strong suit.

This was especially clear in a second-set segue from a techno-style long jam that followed “Caution: Do Not Stop on Tracks” into a painfully long “Drums”-“Space” interlude. The whole sequence had a meandering, amorphous quality, and it chewed up a huge amount of time.

Once the Dead exited that train wreck, they redeemed themselves by exhuming the trippy oldies “Cosmic Charlie” and “Born Cross Eyed,” to the delight of hard-core Deadheads.

They ended the second set with a spirited “Help Is On the Way,” ”Slipknot!” and “Franklin’s Tower” trifecta, highlighted by tight parallel climbs from Lesh on bass and Haynes on guitar.

The deafening screams and applause that greeted the Dead when they returned for an encore was enthusiastic and heartfelt, and this outpouring didn’t go unnoticed by Lesh.

“It’s good to be back with you folks,” he said. “The hair is standing on the back of my neck.”

Parke Puterbaugh is a freelance contributor.

Be sure to check out Alan Hess's new blog