Now to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the band’s formation, and the twentieth anniversary of their final concert in Chicago, the surviving band members are reuniting for three shows. The three original surviving members – Bob Weir on guitar and vocals, Phil Lesh on bass and vocals, and Bill Kreutzmann on drums – as well as Mickey Hart, who joined so early on as to basically be an original member, and Bruce Hornsby, who was a member of the band in the early 1990s, will be playing together in Chicago in July. Joining them are Jeff Chimenti on keyboards, in place of Vince Welnick who died in 2006, and Trey Anastasio on guitar in place of Jerry Garcia who died in 1995. It’s this last addition of Trey on guitar that is the first thing to give me pause about these shows.
Jerry Garcia had such a distinct style. You could pick it out anywhere. Trey Anastasio likewise has a distinct style, but it is so different from Garcia’s. I’m afraid it’s going to sound like Phish covering the Grateful Dead (which of course they often did). And don’t get me wrong: I like Phish. I saw them in concert many times between 1990 and 1999 (the last show I saw, however, was so awful that I never went back). But Phish and the Grateful Dead are completely unalike, except for the fact that both bands have accomplished musicians and both bands jam. I don’t necessarily want to see them combined.
The second thing that troubles me is the ticket prices. If the band is taking its fans back to Chicago, then how about we return to the ticket prices of the summer of 1995? Not only are the tickets for these three shows very expensive, but the band is using tiered ticket pricing, something they never did back in the day and something that I find completely repulsive. (The only thing close back then was that the lawn at Shoreline was slightly cheaper than the seats.) Tickets range from $95.50 to $215.50 for the mail order (supposedly some cheaper seats will be sold later). This means that it won’t be the biggest fans at the front, but the richest. That is so unlike the Grateful Dead.
The other thing that strikes me as peculiar is that these three shows are billed as farewell shows. Now these guys have played together several times since Jerry’s death. I myself never went to any of those Other Ones or Dead concerts, because it just didn’t feel right. I did, however, go see RatDog and Phil Lesh And Friends and always had a great time. But now the band is saying this is it. My question whenever a band does a farewell show is, How do you know? I mean, what if next year you want to do another show? Will you abstain because of this year’s promise?
I’m so torn. I would love to see these guys play. I would love to see some of my favorite songs performed live again. But the tickets are so expensive. And the world is a different place. I don’t want to see a sea of cell phones at a Grateful Dead concert. I don’t want to see a lot of blue lights in front of me. And how much is a sheet of acid these days? I have no idea.
Mail order starts on January 20th, so I have a few days to decide (and to raise several hundred dollars).