I headed south to Fort Lauderdale about an hour before show time. I had been looking forward to seeing “Scaring the Children” since I read about it several weeks ago, and was excited to see a lineup of the Dead I had never seen. I had seen Bobby and Jay Lane play together with Ratdog, and also with Furthur, but I had never seen Bobby with Rob Wasserman, one of his frequent and longtime musical partners.
I can recall a night in 2004 when I saw Wasserman play with Particle at Zydeco in Birmingham – a fun show, but far from a Dead vibe (However, Particle did a great cover of the theme from Beverly Hills Cop, “Axel Foley”).
There was little traffic on the road and we found Revolution without much trouble. Outside the venue, familiar faces were selling t-shirts, food, drinks and crystals. Throngs of people lined up outside the door in two brightly colored groups (with black and grey mixed in the crowd) and security did a fantastic job handling the eager heads.
The show was billed to start at 8:00, and I entered the venue at 8:15. I had been to Revolution once before to see Bill Kreutzmann’s band, “Seven Walkers”, thus I was familiar with the layout of the venue, but Revolution was wide open for Scaring the Children.
The balcony upstairs on stage right was open, as well as the bar in the back of the venue upstairs, which led into what I perceived as a ballroom area. The place was packed, upstairs and downstairs. The balcony outside was boisterous before the show and the area behind the stage was packed. I walked upstairs to stage left to get a good view of the equipment the band would be playing and was annoyed…no, pissed off when someone started reeling off the set list in a loud obnoxious voice. Not just saying it, but screaming it with excitement like he had discovered the eighth wonder of the world. Hey buddy, guess what? I don’t want to know the set list before the show. If I did, I would look at it myself. When I realized the spoiler was yelling about what the band was actually going to play before the show started and I bolted from the spot, and my memory (or lack thereof) protected me; I did not remember what the guy was saying. Feeling out the jam and anticipating what the next song will be is one of the best parts of show.
Clock time never really matters much to musicians in my experience, and Bobby (or Mr. Weir, as I would probably call him, if I were to ever meet him) had the crowd waiting for nearly an hour.
When the show opened I was upstairs and Jay Lane threw down a solid beat. His kit had one tom and was clearly stripped down from his setup with either Ratdog or Furthur.
We were dancing in the hall, and Bobby played some chords that were hinting at The Music Never Stopped. The electric he was playing was a hollow body with natural honey wood and dark brown tones and black pick guard. During the night Bobby was switching between an acoustic and beautiful hollow body electric.
When TMNS opened the show, the place started rocking, and it was apparent we were going to have fun. The audience was singing along and ooooohhhhhing as the Dead would have done on back up vocals.
Participation was high. I moved down the hall and took a spot upstairs to Wasserman’s right and noticed he was playing a standup bass. It was not a full body, bass as one might see at a show in a jazz club, but it was a full height stand up.
Easy Answers is a song that reminds us that, contrary to what the title and refrain might lead the listener to believe, there are no easy answers. Lyrically, this is a Hunter/Weir creation, played by the Dead, Ratdog, and Weir/Wasserman, and musically, Weir, Wasserman, Welnick, and Grateful Dead soundman Bob Bralove were co-creators. This is a song that is relatively new to me, so I read through the lyrics on dead.net, and kept coming back to the line: “ain’t no easy answers, is what I got to say.”
Easy Answers was followed by Dylan’s Desolation Row. This is one of those epic Dylan songs (similar to Queen Jane) to which one wonders how Bobby can remember all the lyrics. Bobby forgot some during the song, but the crowd filled in by cheering and lauding, as Dead crowds are known to do at lyrical miscues.
It was now when I noticed I did not see a teleprompter on stage, something the Dead has been using since 1992. This was a special performance. Bobby did great with the lyrics throughout the show.
Blackbird then Friend of the Devil followed. The only Blackbird I have heard is from a presidential fundraiser for Jerry Brown in Bobby’s Backyard in 1992. The Friend of the Devil was great. It was upbeat like the version from American Beauty. Againthe entire crowd was singing along.
At this point I made my way downstairs to find some open air and get another perspective on the show.
The next song was another blues number I did not recognize. Bobby was playing his hollow body and Wasserman was playing deep, thick notes on the bass I could feel in the core of my body. I sensed The Other One coming, and sure enough, the familiar, heavy bass line dropped and The Other One came forth from the meandering blues tune preceding.
Out of The Other One Jay Lane impressed me with his percussion skills playing Drums, which always amounts to a special place in every Dead show.
The Scarlet Begonias was fun and created space in the crowd. Everybody around me was smiling and beautiful bright-eyed women were dancing and spinning in the open space near the back of the theater.
The band kept the energy high throughout the show and jammed into another song about the wonderful characters one meets throughout his life, Sugar Magnolia (heads all empty and I don’t care).
There was a great pocket of space near the back of the theater where we were dancing in the open air. There was probably no other open space in the theater as it was, much to my chagrin and many others, way oversold.
And then Not Fade Away began. This NFA had a particular energy that I can remember quite well. The crowd, as it had been all night, was involved. Many people were clapping. One group was chanting mmbop mmbop mmmbop bop. And another group of people was chanting You know our love will not fade away! Though there was some division in the crowd, the moment was timeless.
As I walked back to the car, through the scattered car maze, I reflected on the show and wondered why Bobby decided to call the band “Scaring the Children.” I noticed there were no children there, but this was not surprising considering it was a Monday night at a music club.
The musical experience was special. Bobby played a solid set of music without any lyrical aids, and the show was nearly flawless. My only complaint was that the show was oversold and there was not much room to dance.
There were a few songs I did not recognize, but that is true of any show I get to these days. I think it is a good thing that the artists are continuing to play new songs, and not just turning into a tribute act of themselves. The music is timeless, yet creative, new and evolving.