Dear Jerry: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
All Videos by Youtube User DC Ranger Fan.
With an incredible lineup of musicians, last night had the potential to be one of the best concerts of the year. Unfortunately for all in attendance, it came up well short.
Was the show fun? Yes. Could it have been much better. Absolutely.
Several bands and artists didn’t get to perform due to time constraints; and the ones that did were cut short. It’s almost paradoxical. Greensky Bluegrass was scheduled to perform “Eyes of the World” and Railroad Earth was supposed to play “Terrapin Station.” Both bands were cut due to time constraints despite being booked and advertised as performing on the bill.
“Eric Church got to do Tennessee Jed while Todd Schaffer sat on the sidelines. Jerry is rolling over in the grave”, said live music fan Will Fuller.
Bruce Hornsby was conspicuously absent from the entire engagement.
See the initial schedule that was not adhered to below. (PanicStream)
Last night no band was given a platform to truly improvise and explore uncharted territories: the very reason why we celebrate Jerry Garcia as a musician and the Grateful Dead as a band. Bill Graham called Jerry Garcia “The Charles Atlas of The Psychedelic Set.” We got none of that at Dear Jerry.
Improvisation is what has and always will set the Dead apart from every other rock and roll band. Trying to cram as many musicians as possible in such a short time frame on a Thursday night was not conducive to a creative environment and even lead to some of the bigger names and acts getting cut from the show. As a result, Dear Jerry felt more like a gimmicky money grab than an authentic musical celebration.
I feel the need to be honest with our loyal readers because it’s not hard to please me with any lineup of folks performing Dead tunes. But the entire charade felt forced. However, there were some parts that I would like to highlight. Some musicians really did the music justice and I thoroughly enjoyed these moments along with 18,000 other friends at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Phil Lesh’s “Wheel>Uncle John’s Band” was a pretty strong opener. The “Standing on the Moon” was a very good song choice, a sentimental nod to Jerry as the lyrics glistened: “A lovely view of heaven, but I’d rather be with you.”
David Grisman & Sam Bush performed “Shady Grove,” recalling Jerry’s avid love for bluegrass while a beautiful sunset caste its glow upon a packed MPP lawn. Given their histories and backgrounds with Jerry it definitely had some emotional feel to it more than some of the other songs throughout the night.
Jimmy Cliff singing “The Harder They Come” was a highlight for me. Anytime you get to see him perform is a treat. This song was a staple go-to in the JGB catalog so having Billy & Mickey on this one was a cool touch on things.
Billy & the Kids played a jaw dropping Help>Slip>Frank (Maybe I’m still buzzing from their show two nights ago). I was also pretty impressed with the Disco Biscuits. They definitely got the wheels turning for the crowd. They were a great follow up from Billy & the Kids. Bill even stayed onstage to join Bisco for a “Scarlet Begonias > I Know Your Rider”. That definitely ranked towards the top of the list for last night, no doubt.
moe. paid its tribute with sing-a-long “Loser.” It sounded great but this is where I found myself frustrated again: How about moe. gets the time to play both a slow and upbeat Dead song? I would have loved to see their take on “Cryptical Envelopment > That’s It for the Other One > Cryptical.” Time simply wouldn’t allow it.
Next up was O.A.R. for a “St. Stephen”. It started off okay, but the slow part somehow found itself transformed into some half-baked reggae interlude. They even tried to get the crowd to clap along. Their presence was very out of place.
We knew it was coming at some point: “Not Fade Away.” How could you have a Dear Jerry show without one? Bob Weir & Los Lobos played a good, yet not notable, rendition before picking up the pace for a good ole fashioned “Bertha”.
A turning point of the night was when Trampled by Turtles hit the stage. The group performed a beautiful bluegrass take on “Brown Eyed Women.” Dave led the way on lead vocals in a mature manner Jerry would have been proud of. The banjo, mandolin, and fiddle are what put this one over the top for me.
For all the logistics frustrations and artists being denied their allocated slot, you can’t tell me this town out got no heart. Yonder reassured me that it certainly was worth coming out for the show. Allie Kral’s fiddle pushed “Shakedown Street” in ways a guitar simply can not, which made for a very unique approach to a song frequently covered from the Dead catalog.
“Friend of the Devil” with Grace Potter was strong. Potter is so good at sitting in on songs, always. Last night was no exception to this.
Widespread Panic’s “Morning Dew” was most likely the highlight of the evening. Jimmy’s history with The Dead, Phil and Friends, and Jazz is Dead really shined last night. He nailed it and JB handled the vocals with great care . This song will likely get shelved back in the Panic catalog for a big bust-out at a much later date. Last night marked the first time the band has performed the song since 11/22/2009. Panic was supposed to play “Ramble on Rose” (and even sound checked to it). That obviously didn’t happen.
Three of the core four gathered together for “Touch of Grey”. This was the theme of the night. Despite logistical complications I had to remember every silver lining has a Touch of Grey. Spirits were elevated on this one and it felt inspired.
To close the night, pretty much everyone gathered to the stage for a nice “Ripple”. Phil was not present for the occasion. Still, this was a moment of reflection on things and just how tight knit the live music community really is. This left me with a smile on my face going out.
I didn’t find much pleasure in writing this review. However, I feel that writing it any other way would compromise the integrity of the music that we love. Writing anything but the truth at such a notable event would be a disservice to Jerry, the Grateful Dead, and our entire live music community.
This whole event, in my opinion, seemed to be focused on selling a DVD, not celebrating the music of a legend. It was setup for video footage, not for the live fan in attendance. Dear Jerry was allegedly about celebrating Jerry’s life, but after last night the motivations became obvious. I don’t think it was in any way nefarious. But it wasn’t entirely authentic either.
In all, I appreciated the range of musicians and loved the variety that the whole show provided. But the flow of the show was clunky at best and I was particularly upset that Greensky and RRE were cut.
Take it for what it’s worth folks. I am glad I went, but it was just not what it was hyped up to be.
Bid you Goodnight. See you in Chicago.
Complete Setlist: (Panic Stream)
Communion (Phil’s band) – The Wheel > Uncle John’s Band, Standing on the Moon, Liberty
Allen Toussaint – Get Out My Life Woman
David Grisman & Sam Bush – Shady Grove
Peter Frampton – (I’m A) Roadrunner
Buddy Miller – Deal
Jorma Kaukonen – Sugaree
Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come (w/ Billy & Mickey on drums)
Mickey, Bob, and Jimmy Cliff – Attics of my Life > Fire On The Mountain
Billy & The Kids – Help On The Way > Slipknot > Franklin’s Tower
Disco Biscuits w/ Bill Kreutzmann – Scarlet Begonias > I Know You Rider
moe. – Loser
O.A.R. – St Stephen
Bob Weir & Los Lobos – Not Fade Away > Bertha
Trampled By Turtles – Brown Eyed Women
Yonder Mountain String Band – Shakedown Street
Bob Weir – Days Between
Bob Weir & Grace Potter – Friend of the Devil
Eric Church – Tennessee Jed
Widespread Panic – Morning Dew (LTP 11/22/09)
Bob, Bill & Mickey – Touch of Grey
Everyone on Stage – Ripple