Bound to Cover Just a Little More Ground: The Dead Tour New York
The Dead wrapped up a busy, four-performance, single-day run through New York at around 1 AM Wednesday morning with a packed performance at the 3,200-capacity Roseland Ballroom. The gig was The Deads first official appearance at Roseland, though all the members of the group besides Bill Kreutzmann have played the room in the past decade: Bob Weir and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti appeared at the 2002 Jammy Awards, Mickey Hart headlined as a member of Hydra, Phil Lesh performed both with Phil Lesh & Friends and at the One For Woody Benefit and the New York-based Warren Haynes has commanded the stage countless times with all his primary bands. While the nights two preceding performances were limited to a shade over an hour, the groups Roseland gig clocked in at over 100 minutes and had the feel of one of the groups trademark, exploratory second sets. Like both of The Deads earlier performances, venue staff also let in ticketless fans as the show drew near.
The group opened with a Haynes’ take on Althea, before Weir stepped to the front of the stage to deliver some of his strongest vocals all evening on Cassidy. The Dead then offered a lengthy suite of music that included stretched-out favorites like Uncle Johns Band and Eyes of the World, as well as a version of St. Stephen that prominently featured Hart’s percussion work. As they had at various points throughout the day, Lesh, Weir and Haynes traded verses on a version of the evenings most experimental vehicle, Dark Star, that gradually came back around into a set-closing Sugar Magnolia. A sing-a-long based around Not Fade Away brought things to a close at the end of the night.
Ironically, for fans lucky enough to attend the groups earlier gigs as the 200-person Angel Orensanz Societyand the 600-person Blender Theatre, the Roseland gig felt like the grand finale of an otherwise intimate evening. The three performances also explored the various sides of the groups persona: the Angel Orensanz Society gig stripped the group down to the trio Lesh, Weir and Haynes and focused on some of Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcias most beloved songs. Fans could both feel the groups fraternal nature and its frailties (the room was so small that when a fan screamed we miss Jerry Lesh shot back with and you think we dont?). The bands slightly larger show at the Blender Theatre showcased what happens to that chemistry when keyboards and drums are added to those skeletal song structures. In many ways, the middle gig felt the most like Weirs longtime band RatDogthe most solidified off all The Deads current side-projects. The 65-mintue show opened with an extended jam that segued into a continuous set of music hinged on Playin’ In The Band, Good Lovin, The Wheel, Franklin’s Tower and the encore of Touch of Grey. The Wheel, in particular, symbolized the evenings theme as Weir, Lesh and Haynes sang the line bound to cover just a little more ground to a room of people scurrying across town to make it to all three performances. The set will be The Dead’s only in the Blender, which will revert back to The Gramercy Theatre now that its namesake has ceased publication.
The Dead will open its first proper tour since 2004 in Greensboro, NC on April 12. Please click hear to see Weir, Lesh and Haynes performances on The View Tuesday morning.