Trying To Get To You

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Thoughts On The Dead

I've been ambivalent about seeing The Dead when they play Madison Square Garden in April. For me, what I really loved about the Grateful Dead was Jerry Garcia. I loved his sweetness and soulfulness, and how he was the linchpin of an American music that took so much in and spanned so much - rock, R&B, folk, jazz, experimental, bluegrass, psychedelia and more. When the Grateful Dead were on, they had a power that was overwhelming and undeniable.

But after reading about the shows and listening to Monday night's show at Roseland, I must admit that I'm excited for the shows. They're playing tight, if a little tentatively - but that is to be expected given that the tour is just starting. And vocally, it's much stronger than I would have thought. It's not that I won't miss Jerry - I will. But listening to the show, you can feel his spirit. And more importantly, I think the tour will be less a celebration of the band, and more a celebration of the songs, which gain resonance with each passing year. While techies and futurists continue to blather on about how the Grateful Dead gave away their music (they didn't), they'll continue to miss the most important point - it was about the songs and the shows. If new bands write songs as good as the ones on Workingman's Dead, American Beauty and Europe '72, and perform with the power that the Grateful Dead did at their best, they'll need to worry far less about new business models and how to market themselves.

*Interestingly enough, Monday's shows in New York conincided with the 20th anniversary of my atttending my first Grateful Dead show in Greensboro, North Carolina. Here's an account of how I got there.

Download: "Althea" 3/30/09, New York, NY

4 comments:

Chris Huff said...

Soul man! Glad to see you love Jerry. I haven't seen a member of the Dead perform since the Furthur Festival in 96...but I've heard some of the tapes. They were ok. For me, as a guitar player, my focus was always on Jerry's solos and the great Hunter/Garcia songs. But I also was not really a fan of the JG Band...something about the 5 of them with Jerry not nodding out that created magic...

Agree wholeheartedly with this: "If new bands write songs as good as the ones on Workingman's Dead, American Beauty and Europe '72, and perform with the power that the Grateful Dead did at their best, they'll need to worry far less about new business models and how to market themselves." HEAR YE HEAR YE! :-)

People get turned off b/c of the Deadheads and the meandering, but the key is: great songs drawn from a great American melting pot played creatively with a spirit of adventure! Who does that anymore? Thanks for the post.

greg said...

is this a fucking joke?? :-)

Rockandrollguru said...

I've seen Bobby and Phil a bunch of times in the last couple years, but it will be grate to see all four of them together again.

Can't wait...32 days till the two Chicago shows.

I miss Jerry, too.

SAL said...

Amen. The songwriting talent of the Dead is highly overlooked. These are both quiet and epic folk tales of real American people. And Jerry or Bob always had the perfect music to complement the words. The Onion not long ago accurately recommended Europe '72 as the perfect intro to the Dead album. Agreed. The songs are moonshine-soaked and the performances (though not truly live) are energetic and tight.

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