The Other Ones, Fleet Center, Boston- 11/19
As the Other ones demonstrated this summer at Alpine, the band's music is much closer to the Dead than what you'll get from say Phil & Friends or Ratdog (which frankly is a good thing on all accounts). Jimmy Herring is a fine addition on guitar (freed from the constraints imposed by Phil & Friends we finally get to see what he has in common with Garcia- i.e. the propensity to play too many notes…in the best way possible).
There are a few ways to assess this night- one could compare it to the preceding night in Boston (this show was head and shoulders above), or judge it in the context of other live music out there (ditto) or place it up against Live Dead (to that end, it had its moments but it was not as consistently gripping or profound).
The evening started out strong with the Jam into "Uncle John's." "Minglewood" and "Doin' That Rag" were adequate and there were some decent moments during "West LA Fadeaway" with Weir on vocals (I mostly enjoy seeing him pick up vocals on the Garcia tunes as he is singing and playing quite well lately). The "China">"Rider" which closed out set one was the other early highlight but one wonders where Susan Tedeschi was on harmony vocals (more on that later).
The second set was the keeper- as a jam led into 'Morning Dew." Frankly Phil's vocals on "Morning Dew" often prove disconcerting particularly as part of the song's impact was the climactic close where Garcia dug down deep but the instrumental component made up for much of this and this led into a solid version of the crowd pleasing "St. Stephen" Tedeschi then emerged during "Bird Song" where Herring had some nice phrasings on guitar. "Dark Star" followed and while this song lacks some of the gravitas of the Dead versions- it feels speedier- it remains compelling. From here, "Tomorrow Never Knows" was either real interesting or a bit off-putting depending on one's perspective- I opt for the former as I thought it was haunting and effective, although some of my companions disagreed. The evening closed out with a "Dark Star" reprise and then "Lovelight" (more on this in a moment) followed by a decent "Aiko" encore (one complaint all around has been the band has been pushing to make curfew, which has led to some abbreviated endings- it would be cool if they could start earlier or drive on past it if need be).
As for Susan Tedeschi, this was her second night with the group and it will be interesting to see what role she will have, as on this night she had next to none. She didn't come out until the second set and even then she was beset with technical problems related to her monitor. At times she looked bit awkward (maybe they should give her a guitar- unlike Donna, she can play). In addition, it was apparent she didn't have the benefit of rehearsing with the band so some arrangements need to be worked out- for instance "Lovelight" should have been her opportunity to shine and there were some cool and response stuff with Bobby towards the end but she never really took it all the way home (nor did Weir, he didn't step it up the way he usually does)
Oh yes, I forgot to mention, Robert Hunter stormed around the stage during set break. His rapid-fire pace and delivery resonated as he moved from tune to tune delivering his poetry which so essential to the Dead experience. He dropped in some interesting segues (working from "Lazy River Road" a couple of times) and even name-checked Bob Dylan. But while he certainly lends a presence and belongs up there, a little goes a long way. I would have preferred to see him scale his set back slightly to give us a bit more of a breather before the Other Ones returned (in part because there so many familiar faces there, it would have been nice to reconnect).
All in all, a beguiling night of music, one that referenced the past yet did so in the present, in the moment. As it should be.