Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dead & Company at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, 7-26-16 Concert Review

"Cold Rain And Snow"
On the way into the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre parking lot there are creepy advertisements for some new residential development. I guess that’s what’s going to take the place of the concert venue after it’s demolished. Ah, progress. Well, that didn’t matter all that much last night when Dead & Company put on a show there. But we did wonder whether the venue’s imminent demise was somehow responsible for the lack of direction when fans arrived at the parking lot. There was no one directing us where to park, and, even more surprisingly, no one was there to take our money. Parking was free. Amazing. So people just parked anywhere they wanted to, and actually that worked out just fine. But it was certainly a topic of conversation before the show. I also wonder if the money people saved on parking ended up being spent inside the venue, because it seemed that more people than usual were buying T-shirts and posters and so on. The merchandise booths actually ran out of several shirts.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. My friend and I left North Hollywood at 2:30 p.m., aiming to get to the venue around 4 p.m., when the parking lot was scheduled to open. Apparently, the parking lot opened earlier, as I later learned. But that didn’t matter to us, as it took us approximately three hours and fifteen minutes to get there. It’s usually an hour and fifteen minute drive. But traffic sucked basically the entire way. No idea why. So no time to explore Shakedown Street (or even find out where it was) before the show, just enough time for a few beers before heading in.

By the way, they let you take in bottles of water and food, which is good. I had my pockets stuffed with crackers and peanuts and whatnot. Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, for those who haven’t been there, is set up the same way that Shoreline is, and the same way Great Woods is, with a lawn section in the back, but with no cover over the seated area. Our seats were toward the back before the lawn section (terrace 11). The sound was good, as there were speakers fairly close to us.

The band was scheduled to go on at 7 p.m., and actually started at 7:22 p.m. They kicked off the show with “Cold Rain And Snow,” with John Mayer on lead vocals. John, by the way, was wearing a white Europe ’72 T-shirt. He must be having the time of his life. There wasn’t a whole lot of jamming on this tune, but still, it got the show off to a pretty good start. The band then eased into “Jack Straw,” and the jam later in the song was both sweet and powerful. They followed that with “Bertha,” with John Mayer on lead vocals, and that’s when things really started popping. “Black-Throated Wind” was one I wanted to hear, and they did a wonderful rendition last night, with Bob Weir tearing it up on vocals. And there was some great stuff by Oteil Burbridge on bass toward the end. “Loose Lucy” was fun, and it was great to hear “Big Boss Man,” with John Mayer on lead vocals. I especially liked what Jeff Chimenti did on organ.

The band wrapped up the first set with “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” a highlight of the show for me. This was a version that just got better and better as it went along, and it featured an interesting echo of the title line, with John starting the line and Bob echoing him. There was more vocal play with the title line later in the song. Plus, there was some great stuff on keys, and a glorious end. I could feel it in my teeth, you know? It seemed like the band had intended on doing one more song, something like “Deal” or “Don’t Ease Me In,” and then decided to end the set right there. It ended at 8:30 p.m., with Bob Weir urging folks to register to vote.

At 9:10 p.m., the band came back out to start the second set, which they kicked off with “Deal.” It was a good version, with John going wild on guitar. That went right into “Scarlet Begonias,” which had great energy. The “Tea for Two” line was delivered a cappella. That of course slid into “Fire On The Mountain,” with Jason Hann (from String Cheese Incident) joining the band on percussion. He played several different instruments, including talking drum. The band ended the song with, “There’s a fire!

When they started “Dark Star,” neither my friend nor I was as excited as we used to be, as it’s become a sort of common tune. But it ended up being a really good version. I liked the little touches on keys, those high notes reminding me a bit of those late 1960s versions with Tom Constanten. And Bob stretched out the word “Lady” in the line “Lady in velvet,” holding onto the first syllable. Then Bob repeated the “nightfall of diamonds” phrase several times, and the tune got even more interesting, with a very cool groove. The visuals on the screen behind the band also got pretty interesting during this song.

Jason Hann returned to help out on the “Drums” segment. There was a second guest on percussion too, but I’m not certain who it was. Oteil also got behind a drum kit for a bit of this segment. This “Drums” built up into a crazy and powerful beast, and then Mickey Hart was left to explore stranger territory on his own. “The Other One” emerged from “Space,” with Oteil doing a slightly different monster bass part to get it going. “The Other One” is a song that has sounded different at different times over the years, and Dead & Company took it in a new direction. There wasn’t that wild, thunderous drive between lines, but rather a steady groove under them. I ended up totally digging it.

“Stella Blue” is one of my favorite songs, and Bob’s voice sounded really good, but it’s still very strange for me to hear this one without Jerry. Oddly, I could hear a lot of chatter to my right during this song. They concluded the second set with a really rocking version of “U.S. Blues.” John Mayer sang, “Been hiding out in this rock and roll band.” The second set ended at 10:37 p.m. A minute later the band came back for a two-song encore: “Brokedown Palace” and “Johnny B. Goode,” the latter featuring some great stuff on keys during the jam. The show ended at 10:50 p.m.

Set List

Set I
  1. Cold Rain And Snow
  2. Jack Straw
  3. Bertha
  4. Black-Throated Wind
  5. Loose Lucy
  6. Big Boss Man
  7. Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo 
Set II
  1. Deal >
  2. Scarlet Begonias >
  3. Fire On The Mountain
  4. Dark Star >
  5. Drums >
  6. Space >
  7. The Other One >
  8. Stella Blue >
  9. U.S. Blues 
  1. Brokedown Palace
  2. Johnny B. Goode
On the way out, we stopped at two merchandise tables because for once I was actually in the mood to buy a T-shirt. There was a cool purple one that I really liked, and a blue one that my friend wanted. But they were out of our sizes in both of those shirts. Oh well. Saved us each forty dollars. We did manage to find Shakedown Street after the show, and I bought a T-shirt from a guy for twenty, and a couple of stickers from a girl my friend used to know. The drive home took less than a third of the time it took to get to the venue.

1 comment:

  1. Good review. Also drove down from La at 2, got down in an hour and a half. Hung out in Laguna for a bit. But the lot was so backed up and line so long missed most of the first set. 1/2 the ticket holders missed it. I love the Dead, but that venue was awful. Sticking to the LA venues from now on.