Thursday the 11th of November dawned to absolutely awesome weather in the Gateway City. The day was warm and sunny and the evening was balmy. It was a perfect night to go see Phil and Bobby do a show. On this gorgeous evening, all members of our crew were happy to be together and we all felt blessed to get to see the boys again. At this point it always feels like it could be our last “Dead” show and since we are all still walking we were sure that we could dance!
We rambled over to Shakedown Street to visit with our friends from Cosmic Dyes before the show. Sadly, parking lot security was giving our friends a bit of a hassle. We thought the Billikens would be cooler than that. After visiting the lot and getting some fine tie dyed Christmas gifts, we decided to go check out the venue.
The show took place at Chaifets Arena on the SLU campus (as mentioned, home of the Billikens). The Arena was a decent venue and the crowd that started to arrive was looking quite festive. The backdrop for this tour was done by Courtney Pollack and is called “Eyes of the World”. It is definitely worth taking a look at here: http://courtenay-tie-dye.com/eyes-of-the-world-backdrop/. The artist’s inspiration as described on this site is quite moving.
The house lights dimmed and a collective sigh of pleasure was heard as the first strains of “Uncle John’s Band” began to fill the arena. A pleasant “Cassidy” followed and the crowd was on their feet and dancing. Phil was riffin’ large and Bobby’s voice was sounding rich.
It was a good thing the crowd came to dance because the “Cumberland Blues” that followed “Magnolia Mountain” (which featured lovely keyboard work by Jeff Chimenti and swelling harmonies by all in the band) was funky and kickin! Joe Russo kept people’s feet movin with a fast paced driving beat. Phil and Kadlecik definitely brought the boogie aided by Chimenti’s jammin keys. This song gave new meaning to the lyrics “I Gotta GET DOWN!” and get down we did.
“High on a Mountain” touched eloquently on the journey of the band members and its “Deadicated” followers. Phil and Bobby switched off verses and sang it with love and sincerity.
Then “Here Comes Sunshine” began and I was taken back to warm sunny days when we would lounge in the parking lot for hours before a show with our tour budz. It was light and lilting with that nice funky backbeat, a very tasty version. “So Many Roads” and “Next Time You See Me” closed out a very enjoyable first set.
The vocal prowess of Sunshine Becker (who may be either Jerry Garcia or Ken Kesey’s daughter) and Jeff Pehrson (of Bay area group “Box Set” fame) created beautiful harmonies that added to the lyrics, rather than distracting from them. One member of our crew commented that the addition of Becker and Pehrson made Bobby and Phil rise to the occasion vocally. Excruciating vocals from the boys in the band have been endured by every member of our crew, from Phil’s debut of “Box of Rain” on September 17, 1970, at the Fillmore East in New York City to Bobby loosing his cheesy mind on several occasions to Mickey Hart rapping “Friend of the Devil”. Not to mention the Godchaux experience. So we were truly grateful for Sunshine and Jeff’s contributions.
We got to visit with many of our St. Louis peeps during the set break which added to the fun. The crowd-watching (always a favorite past time of mine at any “Dead” show) was great because the people were definitely there to party and the first set had everyone grinning and carrying on.
The second set of this show can only be described as sensational. Furthur kicked it off with George Harrison’s “Any Road”. This was a great song choice for this assemblage of musicians. John Kadlecik’s voice had just the right grit, gravel and bass to keep it fresh yet relatable and fun.
It’s always nice to hear “Fake Jerry” as he is regrettably known, sing something else. Not because he doesn’t do a wonderful job but because many purest Deadheads really resent his presence in the band. Personally I am grateful to the man for having the courage to stand in Jerry’s space and “dust off those rusty strings just one more time”, which he did in a truly beautiful “Stella Blue” later in the set. This is no Vegas Jerry impersonator. He seems to channel Jerry more than mimic him.
What happened next would bring a tear of delight to any Head. In one fluid hour we were gifted with “Wheel – Eyes – Saint Stephen -11-Truckin-New Potato Caboose”. Yes, that’s right, and it. was. AWESOME!! It was spacey at times, noodley only slightly and jamful always. The segues were brilliant and pretty seamless.
The vocals on “The Wheel” were magnificent. To my surprise and delight, Phil was the one who got cheesy on the lyric “If the thunder don’t getcha then the lightening will” and then dropped a huge Phil bomb. Good stuff.
Getting a “Here Comes Sunshine” and an “Eyes of the World” in one show is so fantastic, especially when they are done well. The crowd was really enjoying themselves. I think all of us would have been satisfied with just that, but to throw “St. Stephan” in the mix was like a cherry on top. All of these songs are so harmony heavy that it was clear to see that Furthur was utilizing the talents of this variation of the Dead to its fullest.
Everyone was up on their feet and rockin’ it for “the Eleven”, “Truckin’” and “Caboose”. Then the boys slowed it down for “Stella Blue”. I loved it. I have already said what I have to say about John Kadlecik and I am unapologetic for enjoying the hell out of this song. To top it off, Bobby did a very solid “Let it Grow”. Wait…it was time for “Donor Rap” already?
As everyone knows who has ever been to a Dead or Dead related show, it was time to play guess the encore. What could they possibly do to end such a great show? To thunderous applause the band came out to the front of the stage. They carried no instruments. They stood side by side (Except Chamenti who went to his keyboards). To the accompaniment of Chamenti’s simple organ keys they sang “Attics”. It was spectacular. The vocals were incredible. The whole arena was filled with the rich sound of it. When they finished the song, Chamenti came forward, they all bowed and quietly left the stage, the perfect finish to a stellar show.
Set 1: Uncle John’s Band, Cassidy, Magnolia Mountain, Cumberland Blues, High On A Mountain, Here Comes Sunshine, So Many Roads, Next Time You See Me
Set 2: Any Road, The Wheel, Eyes Of The World, St. Stephen, Millennium Jam, The Eleven, Truckin’, New Potato Caboose, Stella Blue, Let It Grow, E: Attics Of My Life