The Other Ones, Madison Square Garden, NYV- 11/26
Hi. My name is Dan Greenhaus and I've never seen the Grateful Dead.
Standing outside the Garden on a cold and windy Tuesday night, I couldn't
help but feel relieved that I've never seen the Grateful Dead. Yes,
relieved. The 1990s were a tumultuous time for the band, that produced very
few good shows, none of which I had the option of attending. After the
passing of Jerry in 1995, the band went their separate ways to pursue
individual interests, interests that had taken a back seat to the mammoth
and virtually unstoppable touring machine around the band they had spent
their entire lives in. At the time, it seemed as though this was the "end",
and in many ways, it was. However, as The Other Ones took the stage at
Madison Square Garden over seven years later, it became very clear that
Jerry's passing was also a beginning.
The Other Ones, on this tour at least, have proven to everyone that they are
a band unto themselves. It may have taken seven years, various
disagreements and countless side projects, but the remaining members
of what was once The Grateful Dead have thrown off the
chains that held down that band for so many years. The spontaneity has
returned. The true "jamming" has returned. And, most importantly, the fun
has returned. And the result is one of the best tours of the year, or, more
likely, of recent years. Most every show the band has put on has garnered
rave reviews from even the most skeptical fans. Of course, there are those
who find fault with the band for a variety of reasons, but I believe that many
of those people haven't been listening. Truly "listening".
MSG could be considered "A Tale of Two Sets". The first set, while strong
on paper, lacked the energy and power of recent sets. The opener of "Viola
Lee Blues" was fun, and it was clear from the crowd's reaction that this was
going to be an enthusiastic crowd. The roar was deafening as the song
segued into the Mickey Hard led "Aiko Aiko", and the roar returned at the
jam's completion. The Dead never opened a show with "Viola—>Aiko Aiko"
and this pairing stems from the resurgence of energy and desire that was apparent
throughout the night. Playing shows at huge venues like Madison Square Garden
is no longer an every-tour occurrence, and this offered something special for everyone.
The Dead members were making their return, this was keyboardist Rob
Barraco's first show here (he's a Long Island native) and Jimmy
Herring is now being showcased in a powerful and often profound setting.
This evening was also special for the fans who were getting treated to something
many had thought they would never see again.
Back to the music…......"Music Never Stopped" was also fun,
but again wasn't huge. "Alligator" followed and while it did
feature Jimmy Herring's absolutely searing lead playing, Bob unfortunately
ended the jam just as it was peaking, sucking the energy out of the song.
"Shakedown Street—>Good Lovin" is worth mentioning for two reasons. One,
once again the roar of the crowd at the start of "Shakedown" was enough to
shake the walls. The jam was solid, as was the segue into "Good Lovin", however after
all the positive reviews coming in from recent shows, I couldn't help but
feel slightly disappointed by the first set.
Of course, I had no idea exactly that was in store for the second set.
Maybe it was the fact that I met up with fifteen or so of my good
friends…..maybe it was seeing Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes milling about
backstage (coinciding with rumors)...maybe it was the change in my "state of
mind," but everything clicked in the second set, both for me and for the
band. "Tomorrow Never Knows", a staple of Gov't Mule's repertoire for some
time now, opened and was played with an increased tinge of
psychedelia. I couldn't help but be amazed and the tightness of the band as
they segued, seamlessly, into "Dark Star", igniting the crowd into an
unrestrained frenzy. Truth be told, I don't think I've ever heard the
Garden as loud as it was at points on this night. The "Dark Star" jam was
fantastic, featuring some incredible interplay between the two keyboardists,
Rob Barracco and Jeff Chimenti. Having two keyboardists in the band
raised more than a couple of eyebrows, however night in and night out, the
two have played perfectly together, complementing each other as well as any
two guitar players would. The jam went into "All Along the Watchtower" sung
strongly by Bob, before stopping on a dime, to go back into "Dark Star".
This sandwich has to be heard to be believed as few people understand
exactly how difficult it is to, in general, slow down as a band. But to go
from a full on rock song to the slow psychedelics of "Dark Star".....well,
lets just say more than a couple of bands wouldn't even think about it,
leave alone actually do it on stage at the Garden.
Without missing a beat, the band launched into "Cryptical Envelopment—>
Other One—> Drums —> Space — > Other One". One of the Dead's oldest
songs, "Cryptical" has provided some highlights over the years, and this
one was no letdown. It demonstrated how well the whole band works together,
as they trade little more than a glance or a body motion to indicate their intent. Jimmy
Herring's fluid playing shined on this jam, playing on top of Bob's stellar
rhythm work and Phil Lesh's thumping bass. Phil's innate ability to avoid
the root note of a song is remarkable, and is necessary to allow a "jam" to
happen. "The Wheel" followed with the willing assistance of 20,000 people singing
along. At this point, both Warren and Derek took the stage
to close the set, predictably, with "Lovelight". The jam soared as all
three guitar wizards traded licks. Bob's voice is as strong as ever as he
belted out the lyrics. Everyone was still singing along and clapping as the
song concluded what was an incredible set of music.
The band returned to the stage, encoring with a relatively quick "Sugar
Magnolia", disappointing some who wanted a huge encore. However, the second
set was great and trying to equal or top it would've been futile, so a run-through of "Sugar Mag" was perfect. The band left the stage to a rousing
ovation, well earned both by the both length of the show, and the
musicianship displayed. Many in attendance had never seen Jimmy Herring
before, and their introduction was as good as you could hope for. Filling
the shoes of a legend is not an easy task, but he more than lives up to it.
As well, those of us who had never seen the Dead were treated to what is the
closest we will ever come. The Other Ones may not be The Grateful Dead, but
on this particular night, I couldn't have cared less.