The Dead, Tweeter Center, Mansfield, MA 7/30
It's all about decisions. A bad decision might include, after having switched guitars and mistakenly tested out the new one through the PA at the end of Mountains of the Moon, and seeing there was less than fifteen minutes before curfew, starting a China > Rider, knowing there was no way to do justice to either song. But we all make bad decisions.
We all make good decisions too. A good decision might include, the day after John Kerry's acceptance speech- the "help is on the way" speech- opening the first Boston show with a stunning, insanely tight Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower (available, by the way, as a free soundboard sample at The Dead's website). No tuning- the band simply walked on stage and charged into the trinity. Slipknot! was short and focused on a direct guitar solo, Phil and the rhythm devils taking it right to the heart of where it had to go- explosive. At the transition, Jimmy crested the split second gap between the instrumental and Franklin's Tower with a wicked, fiery solo- absolutely perfect and so damn clean. Definitely a good decision.
Another good decision might include opening the second set, while a nearly full Blue Moon hung low over the amphitheater, with a full Terrapin. As much fun as it is to hear Lady with a Fan and Terrapin Station frame jams, sets and shows, whether by Ratdog, the Q or the Dead, it was a real treat to hear the unified song rendered so full and weighty. By the end, the night was thick and the journey was well underway. And that was before the St. Stephen > Eleven > Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain- a monster run that was every bit as good as it looks on paper, or screen. A soaring dose of music and musicianship to make even the curmudgeonliest Head bust out a smile and bust into a boogie. At the close of Fire, Billy cranked out a lengthy traps solo before going up top with his cohort and digging into the rhythm zone. Eventually, after working lightly on the Beast, he left Mickey alone on the Beam. The percussionist stayed on stage as his band mates crept back out for a Space that gently, excellently coagulated into Mountains of the Moon to end a truly inspired suite for the East Coast opener. Yes, definitely a good decision.