The Dead | 04.12.09 | Greensboro

Words & Images by: Stratton Lawrence

The Dead :: 04.12.09 :: Greensboro Coliseum :: Greensboro, NC

Lesh & Weir - The Dead :: 04.12
Reunion and rebirth may mark 2009 in the annals of history, both in our music culture and within greater society. Hampton brought new Phish energy (read up on that here), and the gathering of friends (many new to the experience) felt like the start of something wholly new. That's not necessarily what folks expected at The Dead, who hadn't toured in five years and were debuting a slightly new lineup.

"This is what it's all about," said 'Papa Bear' during Set One's "He's Gone," grinning his incredibly Jerry-like smile in the seat behind me. The man had a tattoo of Garcia on his arm, a contagious positive energy to his demeanor and a pair of binoculars he handed me to closely inspect the happenings on stage. "They're just an extension of your eyes," he clarified to my glazed over friends.

The Greensboro crowd was an even mix of old and young free spirits, 9-to-5ers donning their old tie-dyes and the expected contingent of ratty wooks. One car blasted RJD2, another MOFRO. The lot felt like a gathering of all hippie/jam/positive/conscious factions of our music loving society.

And it was the tour's first show. How would Warren Haynes fit in without Jimmy Herring by his side? Would they pull some old favorites from the vault? Would they let things get weird?

It was clear from the first strains of the opener that thought had gone into choosing a set list. "The Music Never Stopped" was a fitting kickoff to a show whose songs played out as perfectly as Phish's epic set lists a month prior. "Jack Straw" and a wah-heavy "Estimated Prophet" played out at over ten minutes each, but without much deviation from the musical themes. The band sounded tight, hiccupping here and there, but holding their own as a cohesive unit.

Warren Haynes - The Dead :: 04.12
The first real highlight came in "He's Gone," during the relaxed, staggered harmonies of "nothing's gonna bring him back." The same man was on everyone's mind as Lesh, Weir and Haynes jammed vocally on the refrain, while the crowd roared in approval. The Dead's lyrics gain new flavors and poignancy with age, and the band seemed to take that into account throughout the set. "He's Gone" was followed nicely with the "I will get by" sing-along refrain from "Touch of Grey."

Set One ended with a rather straightforward, short rendition of "I Need A Miracle" (including awesome lead work from Haynes) and a "Truckin'" solid in its delivery but a bit lackluster in its outro jam. At about an hour and twenty minutes, the set was clean-cut and concise. A few segues could have included cleaner transitions (lots of nearly complete pauses in the music), but no one was complaining. The band sounded good - certainly better than any of the other thousand bands out there playing the same songs these days.

After set break, the group emerged loosened up and ready to do some trip traveling. Returning to the stage with several minutes of meandering noodling, the band soon featured Haynes with "Shakedown's" first booming chords. "Maybe you had too much too fast," sang Haynes to a crowd that likely included many veterans enjoying their first psychedelic experience in some time. The audience roared in knowing acknowledgement.

By the end of "Shakedown Street," it was evident that Haynes (as he was five years ago) is still the perfect fit for the band. The man knows a thing or two about filling shoes, having served as the Allman Brothers' provider of blazing rocket fuel for two decades. The dirty/smooth guitar licks he laid into the subsequent "All Along the Watchtower" showed Haynes to be the key ingredient The Dead needs to avoid becoming a cover band of their former selves.

Over twenty minutes of "Drums" and "Space" followed a "Caution" highlighted by Lesh's spooky walking bass line, showing The Dead have rediscovered their comfort zones in freeform improvisation. As "Space" should be, looking around the room at slack-jawed faces, no one knew what was going on.

The Dead :: 04.12
Any band that can explore aimlessly on stage for twenty minutes while a sold out crowd of 18,000 listen in wide-eyed amazement is fortunate. The Dead practically invented 'space' and they use it well. Leaving the lengthy mind-trip with the classic "Cosmic Charlie" had the crowd moving again. "New Potato Caboose" was a fun and much-appreciated classic from the early days, before transitioning smoothly into an epic "Help On the Way" > "Slipknot!" > "Franklin's Tower" package. No notes were taken at this point - only ecstatic dancing.

The "Samson and Delilah" encore rang as a perfect cap to Easter night. Lesh's appeal to the audience to become organ donors seemed all the more appropriate on the holiday, closing a concert that glowed with the sensation of rebirth.

Jerry Garcia left behind big shoes. In the 14 years since his death, the various reincarnations amongst the Grateful Dead's surviving members have been enjoyable, but perhaps, at times, lacking in a unified spirit. The 2009 version of The Dead seems genuinely promising.

Looking down at Greensboro Coliseum from the nosebleeds, the corn-rows of seats on the floor seemed a bit odd. With everyone assigned to a seat, wandering through the crowd and enjoying the scene from anywhere but your designated seat wasn't possible. Security was a bit much at times, scurrying dancers out of aisles and into the seats. But The Dead's fan base, while growing and gaining young blood, is also aging. Many likely prefer the knowledge of having a seat and not having to push and shove to a view.

Kudos to the Greensboro Police Department for allowing the lot's 'Shakedown' to carry on late into the evening. Those unable to drive or traveling in buses and RVs were even permitted to spend the night in the parking lot - a very welcome invitation indeed. All things considered, The Dead still provide one of the grandest, most amazing experience for fans to trip out in because of they're willingness to push it so close to the edge that at times they stumble (like they say when you're skiing, skating or surfing, "If you aren't falling down you aren't trying hard enough"), and they're also able to still take old songs to entirely new places. Greensboro demonstrated that they'll never become a tribute band - the songs sounded fresh and exciting. They still know how to get you hopelessly lost in the music, but more importantly, they haven't forgotten how to bring you home.

The Dead :: 04.12.09 :: Greensboro Coliseum :: Greensboro, NC
Set I: Jam > The Music Never Stopped, Jack Straw, Estimated Prophet > He's Gone > Touch Of Grey > I Need A Miracle > Truckin'
Set II: Jam > Shakedown Street > All Along The Watchtower > Caution (Do Not Step On The Tracks) > Drums > Space > Cosmic Charlie, New Potato Caboose > Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower
Encore: Donor Rap Samson & Delilah

The Dead are on tour now, next show is Friday night in Albany, NY. Complete dates available here.

Order the show for Download on LiveDownloads.com.

Continue reading for more pics of The Dead in Greensboro...

Continue reading for more pics of The Dead in Greensboro by Jay Blakesberg...

Images by: Jay Blakesberg

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Comments

SkiBumK27 starstarstarstarstar Thu 4/16/2009 11:56AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

SkiBumK27

Good to hear their back in full force, cant believe I'm only gonna be able to see em once this summer

onearmguitarist starstarstarstarstar Thu 4/16/2009 12:00PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

onearmguitarist

cant wait for denver! Gonna be EPIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

moemoe6434 Thu 4/16/2009 12:05PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Looks like a great time! (minus dudes wearing bunny ears that is.)

Ter starstarstarstarstar Thu 4/16/2009 12:10PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Ter

WOW!! Some positive comments nice to see up here... finally. THE DEAD is what is is. Not what they were with Jerry - but that is just it - they are not the Grateful Dead anymore. But what they are doing is giving some of us loyal deadheads what we want - and i personally thank them for it. $120 or $50--it is what it is. I thank Jambase for posting all the pics and the reviews. I am sure there will be more to come. And Warren is doing a great job so far and things are only going to get brighter for the DEAD!

Sixmilliondollarman Thu 4/16/2009 01:41PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Sixmilliondollarman

Fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!

Armedaneian starstarstar Thu 4/16/2009 03:25PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Armedaneian

Yummy stuff, I can't wait to see them. When I finally make it, I hope I don't get stuck behind someone wearing a foot-tall hat or those bunny ears. Really "cute" guys... but did you think about the people behind you? Trust me, nobody wants to see the silhouette of your hat in front of the stage all night!

bdub Thu 4/16/2009 05:42PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Sweet pics, pretty good review. Reading/seeing it, I would ask --is there a keyboard player in the Dead? Not a mention--but...awesome setlist.

irtimed Thu 4/16/2009 07:18PM
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irtimed

hahahaha Deb Koons in the 3rd pic?

PoisonOrchid starstarstarstarstar Fri 4/17/2009 06:28AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

PoisonOrchid

Good review good show. I saw them the next night in DC and to was blown away at how tight they are getting. Im a huge fan of jazz and certainly didnt mind the Dc jazz fill starting with Dark Star goin to King Solomons it was tru;lly a blast. really liked this show and DC and Charlottesville. awesome show keep it goin boys cant wait till Rothbury( Please do 2 Nights fulfill the fans)

ReeDiddy starstarstarstarstar Fri 4/17/2009 08:51AM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

ReeDiddy

Hey_Bobby!__Don't_you_hate_pants?

Short_shorts_weather_is_just_around_the_bend.

docpeter starstarstarstar Fri 4/17/2009 10:42AM
Show -7 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
SeeTheCitySeeTheZoo Fri 4/17/2009 10:47AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

SeeTheCitySeeTheZoo

rothbury cant possibly come soon enough.... happy to see the positive comments and I cant wait to go pay homage to these guys in July. Awesome stuff... and doc peter im pretty sure its 'shakedown' for both but dont quote me on that. this summer is gonna be incredible

rkheath1 Fri 4/17/2009 11:10AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Bobby needs a new look. I cant get over him looking like Ben Rumson from Paint Your Wagon...

SAHTHEGREAT Fri 4/17/2009 09:46PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Bobby needs a shave and a nail clipping I assume. But we all could use something.

Can't wait for Denver!

futhepharmer Sat 4/18/2009 02:38PM
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futhepharmer

"Shakedown" comes from the Grateful Dead song "Shakedown Street".

The Grateful Dead's vending scene in the lot has been reffered to as "Shakedown Street" for over 30 years. It got shortened to "Shakedown" as slang and has been adapted by the Phish community.

johnnyroad Mon 4/20/2009 08:44AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

im not a big follower, but do phil and bobby get along....jsut curious