Friday, June 2, 2017

Dead & Company at The Hollywood Bowl, 6-1-17 Concert Review

The first of the two Dead & Company shows at the Hollywood Bowl, the one on Wednesday, was really good. But last night’s show was fantastic. It was the best show I’ve seen this band do so far (admittedly, this was only my fifth Dead & Company show). A glance at the set list will tell you that the song selection was excellent, but that’s only part of it. Their playing was remarkable throughout the night (apart from possibly a few minor points in the first set), full of heart, full of joy, and there were several times when I was surprised at the direction a song took (and these are songs I’ve heard countless times). They were jamming basically straight out of the gate, and they really went for it throughout the show, and to a large degree got there.

My friend and I got to the venue much earlier this second night, but for some reason they were late opening the gate, so we ended up getting to our seats at exactly the same time as the night before. It was weird while waiting at the gate, a sort of uneasy vibe. There was a lot of gathering of forces, lots of preparation. And then, seemingly, a standoff, as both groups looked at each other across a thin stretch of pink tape. We were just waiting for someone to yell “Play ball,” I guess. Some folks got a little impatient in line and made stupid comments. But at 5:48 p.m., eighteen minutes later than we were told, the gates did open and we did pass through them.

Our seats were in a different section last night, N3, closer to the audience left side (or stage right side), and slightly closer to the stage. We could see the Hollywood sign from our seats, nestled between two hills. And then there was the fun of getting to know our neighbors. There’s always a brief moment of question or doubt. Is that guy in that hat going to be obnoxious? I had a great couple to my right. They’re doing much of the tour, but have to miss at least one show to go their granddaughter’s wedding. Personally, I would choose a concert over a wedding, and maybe they ultimately will too. Who knows? The woman was sweet. She said to my friend, “Did anyone ever tell you you look like somebody?” My friend responded, “All the time.” She continued, “I don’t know who, but somebody.” And holy moly, it’s a workout getting to the loo on this side of the venue. You’ve got to struggle up the steepest hill, through the woods, past a campsite, and so on. Shit, just walking up the stairs to get to the path was a workout. And these edibles got right on top of me, erasing the reality I’m not facing. You know? Hard to remember what’s supposed to be there anymore. But talk was about how good Bob sounded the previous night, and everything seemed right.

The first night they started at 7:08 p.m., so at 7:13 p.m., I got a little nervous, thinking that perhaps something has gone wrong. It can be so easy to leap to the worst these days. But a few minutes later, at 7:16 p.m., the band took the stage and launched into “Hell In A Bucket.” It’s interesting how excited everyone is for this song nowadays. I always loved this tune, but I recall that love not being shared by everyone in, say, the late 1980s, when the band played it often. Bob sounded excellent, and things were off to a great start. They then went into “Next Time You See Me,” a song that had been in my head often the previous several days. John Mayer sang lead on this one, and delivered some wonderful stuff on guitar. They followed that with “West L.A. Fadeaway.” Hey, did it get almost eerily quiet at one point in this one, just before bursting back into the chorus? The group is doing good stuff with this song, and this was a superb rendition.

But it was with “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” that the first set really became something special. And everyone could feel it immediately. All the folks around me were singing along. And I dig that echoing of the vocals they do with this song these days, sort of like in the round. This was a wonderful rendition. After that, there was a bit of a pause before the band went into a very bluesy and delicious “Little Red Rooster.” There was a little pause after that song too, during which we attempted to determine what the next tune would be. Whatever guesses I had were all wrong, as the band surprised me with “Uncle John’s Band,” and this was where the jamming got even more interesting. That led straight into “New Speedway Boogie,” which a lot of us guessed would be the last song of the first set. But they surprised us again by going straight into “U.S. Blues.” At this point, the whole country has the U.S. blues, right? The first set ended at 8:34 p.m. (that is, if I recall correctly; I meant to write it down, but sometimes I will think something and not write it but believe that I have written it; such was the case often last night).

Spirits were very high in my area during the set break, and that guy in the hat had settled down. During the break I went to the bathroom on the opposite side of the venue, figuring I’d rather go the distance than struggle up the steepest incline this side of Devil’s Tower to get to a toilet. At 9:14 p.m., the band returned for the second set. And as good as the first set was – and it was fucking great – the second set was where the real magic was.  They kicked it off with “Estimated Prophet,” a song my friend had been eager to hear. Bob’s in the habit of tossing in long pauses between lines in a few songs these days, eh? Listen to him growl, “Might and glory gonna be my name” indeed. This is when things started getting good and weird, and the band tossed in a bit of “Eleanor Rigby” at the end. When they started “St. Stephen,” the crowd went nuts. Certainly this song was a highlight of an already-fantastic show, and the jam here was great. They kept things going in the right direction with “Terrapin Station.” The jam became delicate and soft for a bit, and was wonderful. It eased so subtly into “Dark Star” that it took some folks a moment to recognize it. Interestingly, after jamming a bit on it, they essentially did an instrumental version, with John Mayer’s guitar doing the vocal line, and then after that actually kicked into the song. As that slid into drums, I realized they’d only done the first verse.

“Drums” quickly established a great rhythm, and just got better and better from there. This was a seriously fun “Drums,” the energy kept high by the presence of a guest drummer up there with Bill and Mickey, Jason Hann (who also sat in with the band last year at the show in Irvine). In a second set that was delicious from beginning to end, this “Drums” was actually one of the highlights. Soon we got into some Mickey weirdness, which led into “Space” and then back into “Dark Star,” with Bob repeating “nightfall.” This was an excellent and unusual version of “Dark Star,” and it led into a stellar rendition of “Morning Dew.” Yes, it was an otherworldly set, and “Morning Dew” was the perfect conclusion. The band then lifted us up and brought us together with the encore of “Not Fade Away.” The show ended at 10:55 p.m. As we made our way back to the shuttle bus, I heard over and over different people saying what a fantastic show it was. Absolutely.

Set List

Set I
  1. Hell In A Bucket
  2. Next Time You See Me
  3. West L.A. Fadeaway
  4. Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
  5. Little Red Rooster
  6. Uncle John’s Band >
  7. New Speedway Boogie >
  8. U.S. Blues
Set II
  1. Estimated Prophet
  2. St. Stephen >
  3. Terrapin Station
  4. Dark Star >
  5. Drums >
  6. Space >
  7. Dark Star >
  8. Morning Dew
  1. Not Fade Away

Dead & Company next head up north to Mountain View for a couple of shows at Shoreline.

No comments:

Post a Comment