Friday, March 9, 2018

Bobby & Phil, Night 2 in Boston

The storm the night before had been more fierce than forecast, and we woke to a vista of deep snow.  Our friends F&P had made it back to Sudbury the night before, but had lost power soon after going to bed.  There were downed branches and trees everywhere, the heavy snow snapping branches already weakened by earlier winter storms.

Dave was at work on time, but they weren't letting any public into his building, so that was a waste!  He eventually was able to leave and go home to nap and recharge.  Sarah and I got in a full day's work at home (interrupted by shoveling), and were more than ready for another go by the end of the afternoon.

Getting into Boston soon after rush hour is usually a challenge, but was a breeze that March 8th as not many people had been in the city for work that day.  We parked at the same garage under the State Transportation Building and met Dave at Wirth's for another fine dinner (I had a hockey puck burger) and a few beers.  We left his bag back at the car and then sauntered over to the Wang.

I should say something about the scene.  It was a GD show you know, and there were several people trying to sell some t-shirts, hand-made stuff, jewelry, etc.  The sidewalks in front of and across from the Wilbur and Wang on Tremont were jammed with the expected assortment of freaks, many of them with their fingers in the air.  But the "dentist convention" scene was a very dominant presence too.  Inflating and selling balloons of nitrous oxide was the overwhelming business taking place on the sidewalks that day, and we'd just read a very uncomplimentary story about it.  I have no problem with people doing things like making a few bucks by selling drugs or having fun getting high ... absolutely nothing wrong with that!  But we'd just read a bit about how the sausage is made and that can give you a different perspective.  In any case, the scene being so dominated by a particular brand of commercialism was a bit strange.

Another thing about that night was, I'm glad to say, the wonderful people we met.  As mentioned yesterday, the Thursday night show seemed to be the more popular one from the start, and there were some *very* excited people there.  We've been fortunate to see Phil and Bob many times in their different ensembles over the past few years.  But a lot of the people there at the Wang had not had that chance and were overwhelmingly excited to see the duo in a beautiful theater.  None of the people we talked to were from Massachusetts!  They'd all driven long distances (sometimes through the storm) from all over to get to Boston.  The guys in front of us had driven up from Philadelphia that afternoon and had to drive back after the concert so they could get to work in the morning.

Also as mentioned, we couldn't get three tickets together for that night and so Sarah and I were in the back-right of the orchestra for the first set, and then I swapped with Dave for the second set.  That single ticket was in the very middle (left to right and front to back) of the balcony and had better sound but was farther away.  And in both locations, we were packed in and had to suffer with loud neighbors.  But luckily the "loud" part was not them talking about whatever assholes jabber on about at concerts, they were freaking out at seeing the GD and they were singing the songs (though not as well as the guys on stage :)).  We couldn't complain.  People had come from all over to see Bob and Phil and experience the magic, and they weren't about to let this experience go quietly.

Well anyway, we settled into our seats and after a while the curtains opened and there were the old guys again with Wally back on percussion.  And they opened with one of their most classic songs, a song that everyone loves singing along to, and the sound and screams of delight filled the theater.  Here's the first set:

Uncle John's Band
Black-Throated Wind
Cosmic Charlie
Lazy River Road
New Minglewood Blues
Girl From the North Country
Box Of Rain

  • They'd opened with UJB on their first night in New York, so I was a little disappointed that we might have another night of repeats, but how can you be disappointed for long at UJB?  And they sure did not stick to a hackneyed blueprint that night!
  • BTW was an unexpected gem.  John Perry Barlow died recently and this was one of his best lyrics, working with Bob.  It's a song that could be interpreted many different ways, but that ultimately speaks to the desperation of being alone in a modern world.  And Bobby and Phil sure jammed the heck out of this one ... they've played it before.
  • Cosmic Charlie was another surprise.  I'd been hoping they'd do a "Furthur song," and this fills the bill as a song Jerry stopped wanting to play but that those two have always killed and did so when they had their great band.
  • Lazy River Road was another repeat.  I thought it was one of Phil's worst vocals of the Radio City shows and his vocal was not much better in Boston.  It's a neat song though and I was glad they gave it a shot.
  • Minglewood is one of the most classic GD songs, what can I say?  Again, Bobby didn't do this with the brio that I've seen him bring to (e.g.) Fare Thee Well.  But this was a more reserved setting and he *did* manage to drool over the Boston phillies (I think it was them he was drooling over).
  • And of course the jams were the cream filling.  As before, the verses and choruses were fun and people sure were singing along.  But the most magic moments were when Bob and Phil turned towards each other, put on their helmets and moon boots, and took us all to outer space.
  • I'd been telling Sarah the song titles so she could tweet them but the next one was a poser.  It finally dawned on me: one of the most beautiful Dylan songs ever!  Apparently, Phil & Friends have covered this but never any other GD band.  It was about time and this was one of the most amazing vocal performances of the stand by both Bob and Phil.
  • And then they hit those chords for the opening of Box Of Rain and time stood still yet again.  They'd encored with this at the first night in NY, but this was another perfect moment for it.  People throughout the theater were transfixed and I'm sure many tears were shed at the sound of this.  When we got to "... and it's *just* a box of rain," we were all just a puddle of emotion.  This was the kind of shared experience that marks the best of seeing live music.

Wow, time to cool down and get ready for one more set.  Met up with Dave and we took a break outside, where the dentist convention was going full tilt.  Talked some deep Dead with the people out there and we all agreed that that was Larry's guitar on stage again.  I don't think any of us were disappointed at the prospect of seeing him and Teresa rock the second set again.

I thought we had plenty of time and was lazily walking up to the balcony after swapping tickets with Dave when the tuning started and soon the curtains opened!  The set break must have been half as long as it had been the night before.  So I missed the first half of the first song as I was squeezing past people into the middle of the row (they were very nice about it).  And I was kicking myself because the first song was fitting to the anniversary of Pigpen's death:

Jack Straw
Mountains Of the Moon
Mountains Of the Moon
Cumberland Blues
Viola Lee Blues
The Wheel
Morning Dew

  • Phil does a great vocal on Alligator and he filled in with the classic "tear down the Fillmore" back choruses.
  • They'd done Cassidy in New York and gotten *way* out there and I was looking forward to them doing it again, but Larry had his fiddle for this one and it didn't really take off.  Whatever, it's a great song and Larry finally stopped sawing and filled with some great guitar.
  • Jack Straw more than made up for any deficiency.  As with other songs, this wasn't done with the over-the-top enthusiasm you sometimes expect from Bobby.  It was mellow and slow-paced and the duo found echoes in it that hadn't yet been surfaced.  They again did this as a "Furthur song" IMO.
  • Mountains Of the Moon sandwiching Rosemary was Phil at his late-career utmost.  He was getting a little tired by then, but that's to be expected of a guy turning 78 next week!  Mountains is a great song, and I was surprised he didn't get Teresa to sing it with him as we'd seen them do before.
  • But again, there was a slow song and then there was Cumberland, another of the most classic GD songs.  Everyone on stage gave this their all, the crowd was jumping and shouting along, and it was another fantastic set of verses and choruses, wrapping such excellent string work that you couldn't believe it.  Larry had his cittern out for this one.
  • More sawing violin on Viola Lee, but the sound fit much better on this blues.  This was another excuse for the three players to join heads in the middle of the stage and funkify the entire area, with Bob on the screaming sunburst Strat.  Teresa did some sweet harmony too.
  • Time to wake up the crowd again, and they did a classic Wheel that had everyone singing.  I remember Furthur doing this in the Wang and this was perhaps not as excellent, but it was the right medicine at the right time.
  • And then they closed the set with Dew!  This sure had everybody sitting up and paying attention.  And the great thing about it was that Larry was back on acoustic and he played one of the most tasteful lead guitar parts to Dew I've ever heard.  He knew it was Bob and Phil's show and he wasn't about to guitar-God-out on us.  He played with an authority and a technical excellence but did not outshine the fantastic chords Bob was laying down or his fantastic vocal, or Phil's crescendos.

Ack!  The people around me were melting away, on their way back to Philadelphia perhaps, and I was left standing there, watching for Phil and thinking I might never see him in Boston again.  He ran around in back of the amps a bit, but then popped out with a spryness belying his age and gave us another rote donor rap, with a Phil grin.

The guys came back out and lit into another Dylan song, that we'd seen RatDog close with in Boston once, It's All Over Now Baby Blue.  They dragged it out a bit ... knowing they had a few minutes to get to midnight.  But then it was over and they all linked arms at the front of the stage and bowed.  I didn't want to see Bob and Phil go, but soon Bob namasted and left stage right, and then Phil ceased puttering with his amps and walked off stage left.  Good bye guys, hope to see you again soon.  In fact, I'll see the Chicago webcasts this weekend!  Wonder what magic they'll make then.

Made my way outside and met up with Sarah and Dave.  Just a few blocks to the garage and then back home and in bed by 1:00.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Bobby & Phil, Night 1 in Boston

My latest period of great enjoyment in going to see Grateful Dead music started back in the middle of Furthur's time as a band, and it was so great to see Bob Weir and Phil Lesh together, along with the other members of that fantastic band.  They announced a hiatus from touring in 2014, and then it was announced that Phil was stopping touring for various reasons and soon it was announced that the band had broken up.

We've seen Bob and Phil separately many times since then of course, but the two only played together informally out around their home base of Marin County California (also at the Fare Thee Well concerts in 2015).  Phil has started to make a few exceptions to his "no more touring" edict, though these tours have been very short.  Then they suddenly announced back in December that they'd be playing a short tour as a duo: two nights at Radio City Music Hall, two at the Wang Center in Boston, and then two at the Chicago Theatre.

I think this announcement excited a lot of people besides us.  Many GD fans are past the point of going to see rock concerts (or feel they are!) and so avoid the overhead of (e.g.) a full-blast Dead & Company show with all the craziness of going to an arena, wading through acres of stoned hippies, and then seeing a non-intimate concert with full light show, imagery, and sound.  I can see this, that's the way I felt for years.  But this tour brought the promise of seeing two of the most key original band members in an intimate setting, such as seeing Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady do acoustic sets in small theaters (a setting we've seen them in many times) or perhaps a Simon and Garfunkel, but better!

Anyway, the panic of getting tickets as soon as they went on pre-sale was as intense as you might expect.  Sarah went for Wednesday and was able to get three together way up in the right-hand section of the balcony.  I went for Thursday and that one was probably even more popular.  I tried several times to get three tickets together and was denied, so I ended up getting two together in the back-right of the orchestra and then finally was able to get one more in the center of the balcony.  Friends F&P managed to get tickets to Wednesday also, and we were set!

A long winter ensued ... and then finally Wednesday March 7 rolled around and it was time!  There were problems of course: I was in the midst of recovering from an ear infection and there was a damaging Nor'easter expected on the New England coast that day.  Neither of these dampened our enthusiasm.  I picked up Sarah and Dave after work at their building and we drove over to a garage near the Theater District, and met F&P for dinner at Jacob Wirth's (the second oldest restaurant in Boston, and currently on the block but still serving).

Split up with F&P on the cold, rainy sidewalk (the forecast blizzard had not yet appeared) and found our way into the Wang (the whilom Boston Music Hall on Tremont St.), where we got t-shirts and a poster and then climbed to our seats way upstairs.

We'd seen the opening two shows on webcast from Radio City Music Hall and they'd been more than spectacular.  The duo was accompanied by percussionist Wally Ingram on some songs on the opening night, and they brought out no other "special guests."  They didn't need them!  They stuck to early songs (the latest composition was Sailor/Saint), Phil was in fine voice and their harmonies and jams were like being back home.

The phrase "primal Dead" refers to a particular period in their career, but could also be used to describe what they brought to the stage.  We were seeing two of the originals playing, singing, and re-inventing some of the greatest songs I've ever heard, like they were about to go into the studio and lay down a Workingman's Dead or an American Beauty.  Jesse Jarnow wrote a great review of the Radio City shows in Rolling Stone, and the phrase "Thrillingly Loose" was used in the headline, and it was very much my reaction.

For the second night in NYC, they were accompanied by Ingram as before but were also joined by Trey Anastasio on guitar for the second set.  As great as they'd been with just the duo and percussionist, they were amazing with Trey, especially because he was obviously dedicated to supplementing the pair rather than becoming a full band.

Anyway, he'd been rumored as a special guest in NYC and that had happened.  This same rumor mill had it that John Mayer would be the accompanist they brought out in Boston.  We also speculated about others, like Steve Kimock, John Kadlecik, Larry Campbell, Jorma Kaukonen, etc.  They accentuated this drama by tuning up behind a curtain at the start of each set and then having the curtain pull back to reveal their stage arrangement.

So ... there we were in the balcony staring at the beautiful, lofty Wang Center ceilings and walls.  I also checked out the seat from which I'd seen the GD back in '73 of course, and then hung out with F&P while we waited.  Eventually the theater was packed with excited people, we could hear the pair tuning, and then the curtain opened to show us good ol' Bobby with his walrus hair and acoustic guitar, good ol' Phil back in goddamn Boston(!) with his electric bass, and Wally Ingram back on percussion (he could have ditched the wind chimes but whatever).  They blasted right into the beautiful, intricate blues of ... well, here's the first set:

Loose Lucy
Me and My Uncle
When I Paint My Masterpiece
Deep Elem Blues
Bird Song
He's Gone

It's a little sobering to hear the soundboards from the shows and realize that there were a lot more flubs and awkward moments in them than we heard live.  For one thing, we were mesmerized by actually seeing two of the best musicians in the world playing together like a pair of old socks ... they knew exactly what each other was going to do, most of the time.  And for another thing there were so many great moments that the awkward ones seemed part of the live charm.

There were no renditions of the Yellow Dog story (or the Duck story) that night, but there was some extreme playing.  As mentioned, their harmonizing was exquisite (before Phil's voice got tired) and the verses and choruses were great and had everyone singing along.  But then the magic of that part of the song was over and the *real* magic started when they stepped back from the mikes, started watching each other's hands intently, and played measure after measure of liquid gold, jamming to the farthest reaches of the song (while always letting a little of the melody stick around), and then leading us back to the next verse or the bridge or outro.

Bob made some decisions on guitar which were debatable.  He switched to his sunburst Strat with large white pick-guard more often than he might have.  Perhaps he should have stayed on his beautiful acoustic more often or played the "green guitar" that he had on stage but very rarely picked up.  Althea was done in a different style than normal, with Phil taking the lead for most of the song and Bob playing a very funky, effect-laden sequence of chords on his sunburst.  I thought this was one of the best songs of the set actually, while Dave thought it unsuccessful.

But that was another example of the magic we were seeing and hearing.  They had played these songs many, many times before (in fact they'd played every one of these songs in NYC except for Althea and Masterpiece, an unusual number of repeats for a GD band), but they managed to find a freshness in everything they played.  Sometimes this was represented by a new arrangement or a new verse or a new tempo, but sometimes just by a new run here or accent there.  The spirit of adventure that marks Grateful Dead music was thrillingly present.

OK, they'd loosened up, paid homage to the classic cowboy songs and Dylan, then knocked us over with an excellent bluesy Deep Elem, woke us up with an aggressive sound on Althea, gotten *way* out there on Bird Song, and then wrapped up the set with a sad, pretty, sing-along He's Gone.  Yay!!  Short set but we knew they were going to go late.

The set break took forever.  Somebody near me was timing it and announced at one point that the break had now taken longer than the first set.  But we had all seen that there was a setup for another guitarist to Phil's left (Bobby was on his right), and we were guessing and guessing about what we'd see when they opened the curtain.  Dave guessed that that was Larry Campbell's guitar, and he was right.  Here's a picture of the five of them warming up backstage in Boston, taken by Jay Blakesberg:

The curtain opened and there were Larry and Teresa and we were very happy!  Especially when Larry started into that guitar run that I first heard over and over when Blues For Allah first came out, and have thrilled to ever since.  Here's the second set and some notes:

Crazy Fingers
Friend Of the Devil
Tennessee Jed
The Maker
Cryptical Envelopment
The Other One
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Black Peter
The Music Never Stopped

  • As good as Larry was he never upstaged Bobby and Phil of course; wonderful player that he is, he knew what he was doing out there, and he allowed Bobby to take over Crazy Fingers between leads.
  • Yeah but ... Larry picked up his mandolin for FOTD and one of the highlights of the night was his sparkling leads on that.  Bobby was hiding out in a cave up in the hills and Phil was singing about the devil offering him $20, but Larry was in the background dropping jaws.
  • And then Larry went back to his dirty electric for Tennessee Jed and tried to take over the song he'd won a Grammy with when working with Levon Helm.  But Bob and Phil know how to react to a musical challenge and soon they were leading him back to Tennessee.
  • Teresa was also a great accompanist, staying still in the background most of the time, and then approaching her mike at the just the right moment, while watching Bob intently.  He wasn't about to shake her, she was right with him.  Their duo vocals on The Maker (the Daniel Lanois song which JGB did) were exquisite.
  • And then they started into a short Cryptical and Dave let out a yelp because we knew what was coming next.  Soon Phil got louder and louder and started booming and then...
  • The Other One!  Bob was a little reserved on vocals compared to some of the times we've seen him recently and didn't nail these verses the way he sometimes has.  But the guitar and bass work was awesome.
  • Their lack of recent practice showed in their inability to segue between some of the songs when they wanted to.  But we were fine with the full stops, especially when followed by a song like Half-Step!
  • And then a song I knew they were going to play.  I've gone on about my opinions of Black Peter (very high) and I knew Bobby was going to sing it to me again (which he can't do well) and it was fun.  But I took a piss break here, though I didn't run into the same guys in the bathroom that I had at this juncture in April 2012
  • And then they capped it off with Music, a surprising but delightful choice!  The whole song was excellent but the enduring moment for me was when Teresa sang meekly behind Bob on the first bridge, and then on the second one he seemed to expect the same and she was having none of it.  She stepped up to the mike and told us all in no uncertain terms at top Teresa volume to keep on dancing until daybreak, and to greet the morning air with song.  Bob looked over at her, startled, and then he just shrugged and let her go!

Woohoo!  It was almost midnight and we started getting our coats on so we could leave quickly and get Dave to a Red Line stop for the last train to Quincy.  Short break here, and then tall, thin, and stooping a bit Phil Lesh came out and the crowd roared.  We were so glad to have him back in Boston in good health, playing his bass like he always had.  He mentioned how glad he was to be back in Boston, and then went into a short and sweet donor rap.

Bobby and the crew came back out and they launched into Touch Of Grey, another repeat from the New York shows.  We stuck around for a little bit and then took off because we didn't want to strand Dave.  And when we got outside the blizzard had started!  Wet and damaging snow was blowing sideways and we had to duck in and out of the shelter of buildings to make it back to the parking garage.

We dropped Dave at Park Street and stuck around long enough for him to text us that he'd made the train.  We circled the Common, got onto Storrow through the thick snow blanketing the city streets, and then made it up to 93 North.  The road surface up there was even worse and we crawled all the way back to Woburn through thick piles of snow.  Whatever, we made it back finally and got to bed sometime around 1:30.  Got to do it again tomorrow!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Plum Island Winter 2018

Did our annual trek up and down the Plum Island beach today.  The weather was really perfect for a winter, beach experience.  The wind was not bad at all, perhaps carrying a hint of Spring but probably not, though not bitter like an early Winter wind.

We parked in the second lot, crossed over the long boardwalk to the beach, and walked South and then North.  A family with three kids who had been eager to beachcomb and brought mesh bags to collect shells were disappointed and beginning to misbehave.  Their bags were empty except for a couple of broken specimens.

The tide was way out and the beach was relatively clean because of low winds.  An exception was balls of grass, which were new to us.  Were they formed by wind or birds?

The sun was trying to break through and it failed, though doing a fine job of producing beautiful light.  I made a video of waves at low tide which is too big to upload here apparently!

We stopped in the Plum Island Grille for lunch afterwards and were amazed at how much we enjoyed it.  Moules frites for Sarah and Caesar salad with anchovies and salmon for me.  We were entertained by Hyde and Jekyll on Yamaha piano and voice.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

More Miss Tess please

I keep an eye on her schedule but didn't realize until the last minute that Miss Tess and the Talkbacks were going to be back in The Burren on a December Wednesday night (we saw her there on a December Thursday night last year).  And this would be the last day of Fall (12/20).

Met Sarah at The Burren after work and had a beer or two with some other GA early-enthusiasts.  The seats in front of the stage were not set up (the room was 75% full at most), but we got good seats in the back.  I have to say that they had grilled tuna on the special list, I ordered it, and it was a beyond-excellent, very large piece of fish.  Black on the outside with some nice spices and just past raw in the center, I can still taste it!

Anyway, harrumph, the beer was cold (Long Trail Limbo IPA) and the show was a lot of fun.  Miss Tess is still playing with basically the same band, the excellent Thomas Bryan Eaton on electric and Sam Zucchini on drums, with a new bass player (James Gascon?).  And she's still playing an outrageously wonderfully rich guitar.  It was a shock to realize that we hadn't seen her for a year.

Miss Tess has written some amazing songs and didn't play many new ones, though she did play a bunch from the last couple of records, including Ride That Train (second in the set), Little Lola, I Can't Help Myself, Do You Want My Love, Take You Break You Shake You, Moonshiner, Raitt's Give It Up Or Let Me Go, and Save Me St. Peter, which is apparently a song about finally getting a parking space on St. Peter Street in JP.

So it was pretty much a repeat of the Miss Tess show and wasn't really crackling, except for some leads by Eaton.  But Sarah and I had a great time and will go to see her again next time she's back in Somerville (or wherever).  Another of those musicians we can't believe is not wildly popular, as agreed to by our fellow enthusiasts.  And I loved the tuna.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

JRAD and HOB Combine Twice

Yikes, time to go see JRAD again!  This would be the last in our recent set of incredible Fall concerts.  Sorry to have this excellent 2017 season end, but how lucky are we anyway?  Gotta appreciate these things.

First snow of the season in Boston and it was 6 inches of wet, heavy stuff that started coming down mid-morning and didn't stop.  We managed to ignore it and headed into the Fenway area on schedule ... then found out on the way that JRAD had just posted that the doors would be opening at 6 instead of 7 to deal with the storm.  Could be that this was actually more a response to Friday's slow, slow, slow security situation, which many people were complaining about on social media, than to the storm.  People were complaining about inappropriate touching and there seems to be a rash of that lately.

We were early as always, but what this change of times meant to us was that we'd better eat dinner fast (we had 5:30 reservations at the HOB Restaurant and were on time) just in case people entering at 6 snagged our spot!  The beer was cold, but they really don't do "food" well at the "HOB Restaurant."  Oh well, the reason we go there is to get something in our stomachs and most of all, to be more assured of getting in early.  We split up the tickets and Sarah and Dave grabbed the receipt and headed for the doors, with me not far behind.  When I got there there was no line, and the search wasn't quite as extensive as it had been Friday.

So what this meant was that we had 90 minutes or so to cool our heels in our preferred corner.  The merch table was exactly as it was yesterday ... nothing new there.  But again, the beer was cold and the crowd really filled in quickly.  As I say, the great majority of the people there were not going to miss a minute of this, snow be damned.  The HOB was pretty packed by 8 and the guys came out a few minutes after that.

In some ways this was a very different concert from Friday.  Friday events everywhere to our experience, and particularly in the Fenway area, are frantic, crowded, and wild.  This Saturday (maybe because a few people opted to stay home?) was much more mellow, less crowded (we had room to dance all night), and developed at a more mature pace.

Here's Costello again:

Costello here. Here's what I think I heard:
Show #135
House Of Blues
Boston, MA
Night Two of Two
Set One (8:09pm - 9:19pm)
Promised Land >
Shakedown Street @ ->
Jam # ->
The Other One $ >
Viola Lee Blues % >
Cats Under The Stars ^
One More Saturday Night
Set Two (9:53pm - 12:01am)
Feel Like A Stranger & ->
Franklin’s Tower >
Dancing In The Streets * >
Eyes Of The World + ->
Jam @@ ->
Let It Grow ## >
Standing On The Moon $$>
Truckin' ->
Music Never Stopped Jam -
Truckin’ Reprise ->
Born Cross Eyed Jam
GDTRFB %% > WBYGN (Instrumental)
@ - Unfinished
# - With a “Love Supreme” (John Coltrane)
$ - With a Playin Tease (Band)
% - With a Throwin Stones Tease (Band), a China Cat Tease (TH), a DD/MB Duo Jam, with TH on Drums, & a “Shortnin’ Bread” (James Whitcomb Riley) Tease (MB)
^ - With a “Walk Like An Egyptian” (The Bangles) tease (MB), a China Cat Tease (SM), a “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” (Michael Jackson) Tease (SM) & a “St. Thomas” (Sonny Rollins) Tease (SM)
& - With an Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin) Tease, a “Tom’s Diner” (Suzanne Vega) Tease (SM) and a Slipknot! Tease (Band)
* - With a DD Bass Solo, “Tell Me A Bedtime Story” (Herbie Hancock) Jam (MB) & Eyes Teases (Band)
+ - “Flipped” Version - Started with the “’73 Ending” Changes played in the key of Dancin’, and a DD Bass Solo
@@ - With a “Fly Like An Eagle” (Steve Miller) Tease (MB)
## - With an “Amazing Grace” (Traditional) Tease (TH), an “If You Think I’m Sexy” (Rod Stewart) // “My Prerogative” (Bobby Brown) Jam that included audience vocals, and a Slipknot! Tease (Band)
$$ - Not played since Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY, 2015-10-2, a gap of 88 shows
%% - With a Not Fade Away Tease (Band)
Pre Show Music: Costello’s Spotify Petty Mix:
Set Break Music: Metzger’s Spotify Early Rock N Roll Mix
Walk Out Music: Man in the Mirror / Thriller (Michael Jackson)
Poster: Colortest
Thanks to the House of Blues Boston staff & crew for improving tonight's entry process for our fans. Our deepest gratitude to everyone that came out & supported the band in 2017. We'll see you all in 2018.
  • Everyone was playing as excellently as they had the night before.  In fact, I could repeat many observations from yesterday, such as Joe's great positioning, Dave's absolute funk (he and Marco did a duo jam, and I wouldn't have been surprised to hear him solo), and the absolutely stellar sound.
  • Tommy was back to his regular guitar, no Wolf, and shockingly he did not have a scarf on.  He seemed almost naked without it!  But you'll be glad to hear that he was wearing a scally cap and a dorky cardigan sweater.
  • The Dave jam at the end of Eyes definitely included "O Christmas Tree," which was taken over by Marco.  Maybe Marco did a little Fly Like An Eagle later, but ...
  • In the Truckin' outro they seemed to consider going into TOO, but realized they'd done that tune already and it was time to end the night.  Joe had a few things to say though, and after introducing the band he thanked us at length for a fucking great 2017.  Well Joe, the feeling's mutual!
Short post today compared to yesterday, but we were no less delighted.  And part of our delight with JRAD is that there seems to be no shortage of people who are as gobsmacked with them as we are.  I mean, they sold out two nights in the huge HOB in two seconds!  To hear these guys play, and to get the chance to see them live from so close in such a great room is awesome.  I already can't wait for their upcoming three-show stand at the Cap in January, which I assume will be webcast.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

JRAD and HOB Combine Once

My last few posts have referenced how lucky we're been in Boston lately to get such a richness of great musical acts.  Hope this continues to happen every Fall, maybe one of these days I'll be more ready for it and not feel so rushed!  But fuck feeling rushed, these are all can't misses, and I mean me can't miss, not them.  Hope you could follow that.

Anyway, goddamn JRAD was making a two-show visit to the House of Blues (12/8-9) and of course we got tickets to both as soon as they went on sale ... and they sold out pretty quickly.  As discussed before, though this might nominally and by evidence be a "tribute band," they are much, much more than that characterization indicates, and in fact are one of the best bands around to my ear.  And I love the HOB and feel that JRAD is perfect for it.

Left work even earlier than normal and was able to get into Boston before Friday rush hour got really crazy. Down Soldiers Field Road in the December gloaming and up over the newly reconstructed but same old Bowker Interchange.  Our parking lot on the corner of Van Ness was still in "day" mode and wasn't ready to let me in (commuters still to leave), but I was able to get a street space on Van Ness and hurry over to the HOB restaurant, where we hadn't been able to make reservations.  What do you know?  I was afraid they'd be having a private party but they were pretty empty and were more than eager to give just me a table for 4, where I spread out, had a beer or two, and waited for Sarah, Dave, and Leen, who all got there pretty soon it seemed.

Ate what turned out to be a fast dinner, fed the meter again and dumped stuff in the car, then waited in the "entree" line to get in.  We four were maybe 20th in line to get in, which was great ... and as expected the entree line soon stretched pretty far and the regular line soon stretched *way* up the street.

And though I'd said that the recent Hartford Civic Center search-to-get-in was extreme, this was even more so!  It took about 5 minutes for the guy to wand me, to pat me, to ask what's in that pocket, what's in that pocket, "can you show me sir?," to insist that I discard the two ibuprofens in my pocket, and to apparently give me a psychological evaluation.  The guy asked a few questions (luckily I can recite pi to the 14th digit), looked me in the eyes, and seemed to be making a mental assessment that I hope went well.  I thought maybe he was going to kiss me just to make the experience more meaningful for both of us, but he finally waved me on and it took me a minute to get my things back in my pockets and my mind back in its compartment ... hope my clothes were on straight!  I guess having just smoked a hit of pot (perfectly legal) might have made this less smooth than it might have been, but maybe not!  And there was a LONG line behind us ... if they did this to everyone it would take all night for the show to get started.

Oh well, Dave and the girls had gotten through before me and Dave waited for me while the girls grabbed our spot.  Took me a while to get my extremities warm again after the wait outside and the search-that-took-forever, but we had a while to hang out (as predicted).  Time passed quickly though, and we soon had checked out the merch table, gotten beers, and all that pre-show stuff while the HOB got packed the way it does.  Leen seemed excited about our great perch, the amazing sight lines from there, and the fact that the HOB just seems like a really big league rock club.

Eventually the room got to around 87.6% capacity (my guess) and the guys straggled on stage at 8:20 or so, not too bad.  They were lined up as they always were, but Joe's kit was not at all in the back, like the classic drummer's position, it was almost at the front of center stage.  Not as big a kit as he used to carry around a few years ago, but on the other hand not as compact as some times we're seen him.  In particular he had twin toms to his right that were a little luxuriant but were used/needed when he took one of his excursions and whacked everything in sight, repeatedly.

Another observation was that Marco had a grand fucking piano, and he sure used this to great effect.  Though we were close, we couldn't see Marco's fingering at all because of the grand pointing right towards us, but we sure could hear him and that excellent instrument.  He was captivating last night, as he always is, but there were times when I and everyone in the vicinity was watching him like a hawk, and he was watching us right back, smiling, waving, and laughing.

Two more things: because Joe was so far forward it forced Dave and Scott way over to the right, but the sight lines and the sound at the HOB are so great that we were still able to catch every move they made and every string they strung.  What a band!  And oh yeah, when Tom came out on stage he had a certain tiger-striped, blond guitar that looked like a 70s version of a very cool spaceship.  He was fucking playing Jerry's Wolf guitar all night long and there were certain stretches when I (and everyone in vicinity) were just staring at Wolf, being played like Jerry would if he were alive today.  Especially at the close of the second set ... spoiler alert.

Wow!  We were ready when they came on stage and they started off with a country rocker that got us all into that certain place.  Here's Costello's play by play:

Good evening internet, its Costello, with the #BoxScore from Boston, Night One:
Show #134
House of Blues Boston
Boston, MA
Night One of Two
Set One (8:20pm - 9:43PM)
Big Railroad Blues ->
Silvio >
Loser ->
Jam ->
Easy Wind @ ->
Jam # ->
Row Jimmy ->
St. Stephen ->
Jam ->
St. Stephen Reprise >
Samson & Delilah
Set Two (10:13pm - 11:50PM)
Jam ->
Dark Hollow >
Mr Charlie $ >
Help On The Way ->
Slipknot! % >
Mississippi Half Step >
Estimated Prophet >
Morning Dew
Greatest Story Ever Told ^
TH played "Wolf" for the whole show.
@ - “Flipped” Version - Opened with the last verse sung first.
# - With Let It Grow Teases (TH)
$ - With a “Moby Dick” (Led Zeppelin) Jam
% - With Let It Grow Teases (TH then Band)
^ - With The Wheel Teases (Band)
Pre Show Music: Scott Metzger’s Spotify Xmas Mix
Set Break Music: Costello’s Spotify Motown Mix
Post Show Music: Dirty Water (Boston You’re My Home) - The Standells and Pancho & Lefty - Townes Van Zandt
Poster: Colortest
Thanks to the staff & crew at HOB Boston, to all of you that came out or caught a stream. What's everyone doing tomorrow night? Shall we do it again? Cool, see you there...

Oh jeez, what can I say about this?  This was our fifth time seeing JRAD live and we feel we've seen then a lot more because they webcast so many shows.  When we'd seen them before at HOB, which they just rocked like their own personal spaceship, Joe had been a little subdued.  But he was sure not subdued last night, especially with that extra tom when he wanted to go over the top.  With him being up front we had such a great view, except the largest cymbal was in my way, which was fine ... when he really banged it I could see him better.

Marco the wizard with a grand piano and all his tricks, Tom with Wolf, and Scott with his unique funk were all fantastic, but Dave Dreiwitz was the man!  His hair was wild and reflecting those HOB waves, and his bass playing was astonishing.  Oteil me no Oteils, this was country and funk and rock ... and almost like Phil when it needed to be.  We think he switched from a Fender to a wooden old four-string with big head in the second set.  But whatever, he was laying down the foundation for everybody and taking a lead when it was called for.  He's been doing solos recently, but didn't do one last night, he was just all there.

I remember hearing the first hints of Silvio and thinking, "Silvio?"  I remember hearing Easy Wind and then not recognizing it because they sang the verses out of order ... though we were all there when Scott told us that he had to find a woman be good to him.  St. Stephen was incredible ... what is it about Boston and St. Stephen?  As with a lot of songs they play, they got way, way, way out with St. Stephen and I was hoping they'd go into the Eleven, when they roped it back in like a psychedelic bronco, but then they went into an excellent reprise and then Joe played us Samson.  I hope they put some extra reinforcement under that stage because he sure pounded it out for an ecstatic audience.

The surprise of the night for me was a Dark Hollow beyond description ... loping and folky and whimsical on the one hand and dyed in psychedelia on the other.  This may have been the longest Dark Hollow ever played.  Help was amazing, an exercise in power chords.  Joe playing Slipknot! was what we were drooling to hear.  Halfstep just picked up where Row Jimmy had laid off in the first set ... this is the sweet spot of GD music to me.

Then a fantastic Estimated, with the audience singing along to every word.  I should stop for a minute and say that the audience was 90% Deadicated and was hanging on every note.  But it was a Friday night and there were dates going on, and people getting high, and friends running into each other, and at times the audience got a little noisy.  At one point during Estimated a guy off to my left turned around and said, "Shut the fuck up!"  That's what *I* said to the HOB crowd when we saw DSO there a few years ago, and I was instantly mortified I'd done that (even though people were talking over Stella Blue!).  This guy was mortified too and you could tell he wanted to just disappear after shouting that out.  But he was correct to do so, and amazingly, people shut up and listened to the end of Estimated.

And then ... Dew with Tommy playing Wolf.  Morning Dew can captivate you and take you into the picture of the song like few songs can when they're played at their utmost.  Everyone in the room knew that Tommy was playing Wolf and he proceeded to paint us the whole goddamn picture ... the tone was amazing.  And the denouement of the scene he painted was perhaps not perfect (Joe and Tommy got a little crossed up), but we were all there man, just reveling in the sound, and it really didn't matter anyway.

OMG, I realized that I was exhausted and though back pain during the show was not as bad as I'd anticipated, it was still pretty extreme.  I thought for the umpteenth time that I wished I'd swallowed those Vitamin Is before the guy made me throw them away!  And as happens in the HOB, the crowd had filled in at our backs and sides during the show and we were under severe pushed-and-shoved duress in our little corner.  Whatever, the atmosphere was beyond electric and soon the guys straggled back on stage.

And the encore was not a throw-away, it might have been one of the best songs of the night!  I love GSET and was delighted this Fall when Dead & Company covered it.  But these guys know a thing or two about covering Dead music and they've got Scott Fucking Metzger on their team ... as well as Dave Fucking Dreiwitz, who capped off an excellent night.  Fans screamed for a second encore, but the guys were done.  See you tomorrow night, Joe told us!  Aye captain.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Tedeschi Trucks Band Boston 2017

Another in our late-Fall run of excellent concerts, Tedeschi Trucks Band again at the Orpheum (12/2)!  One may recall last year's excellent show with Jorma opening solo, for which we had front row center seats.  This year we opted for the third night of their run, at which they'd be doing two full sets with no opener.  This Saturday was the last show of a full 2017 of touring, and they left it all on the stage!

Tried to go to 6B on Beacon but it wasn't open and so went to Carrie Nation across the street for dinner.  Kind of pricey but a very nice room; the really expensive half-chicken with brussels sprouts and whipped potatoes was wonderful, but I hope they stick that leg I couldn't eat back on the chicken.

This was a fantastic concert from this amazing 12-piece band, just pure ecstasy from start to finish.  But (and I'll try to keep this short), the Orpheum in Boston is not a good place to expect people to see concerts.  It's cramped and small and the attendants are surly (one asked me at one point, "Sir, weren't you ALREADY seated?").  The one low-ceilinged lobby and the one small, smelly mens room off of it are masses of people bumping into each other before the show, at the break, and after the show.  People could get trampled easily, or get germs.

Also, they don't know whether they're a theater or a rock club.  They have stacks of speakers on stage and that means that many of the audience can't fucking see what's going on on stage!  We were far right (though close, 8th row) and only one of us could see any of the backup singers, and none of us could see Alicia Shakour (though we sure heard her) or the trombone player.  And there was even another section to our right!  Those people probably could only see the guitarists and Kofi Burbridge, they couldn't even see the drummers.  And they charged full price for this!?!

I hope that TTB comes to their senses and plays some other hall next year.  I think the Orpheum has very good sound (we had no complaints about volume yesterday!), but is a horrible venue.  Oh, one other thing: it's at the end of an alley in downtown Boston you know, and concert goers were trying to walk down it towards the security check and the doors.  We were all being mature and orderly but they had muscle out there shouting at us and almost shoving us into lines that made no sense.  Guess they believe in full employment, but I hate to think that my ticket price went towards these assholes.

But I need to stop bitching and start gushing.  This concert was fantastic, though we were cramped, packed, and prodded.  Derek Trucks was as on fire as much I've ever seen him, and his band was perfectly in step behind him.  There were excellent additions from Burbridge on keys and flute, from Mike Mattison stepping up to take a few leads, and from Tim Lefebvre on bass, who just needed a small nod from Trucks and then turned it up and set our world upside down (he almost lost his man-bun from rocking so thoroughly).

And that's not to mention Susan Tedeschi, who was absolutely stellar on vocals and played a fantastic rhythm.  Another great performance was the drumming of J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell ... who seemed to be wearing out a snare with each song.  And my dog what a brass section, including the craziest, spaciest bass saxophone solo from Kebbi Williams early on and just rock solid grooves from Ephraim Owens on trumpet (he later did a solo himself with a mute, and then discarded it like a frisbee) and Elizabeth Lea on trombone.

The one backup vocalist I could see (besides when Mike came down front) was Mark Rivers and his support of Susan's alto was surreal.  And of course there was Alicia, who has the power to take over a song on a moment's notice ... at a couple of points Susan turned and said, "Yeah Alicia!" and we wish we could have seen her.

And there was a musical theme to this evening to my ear, which was space.  Over and over they'd start a song and get deeply into it and then Derek would turn it up and up and start wandering, and that amazing band would follow him into the most psychedelic corners and before long you had no idea what they were playing, though they were harmonizing and playing off each other and working as hard as they could to produce an awesome sound.  Very rarely did any of them, even the horn players, sit out for more than a few measures.  And then Derek would turn that farthest corner and come back to the theme and then Tim would rip off a run and then Susan would step to the mike and absolutely SCREAM the next verse, with the backup vocalists punching up her every syllable.  This was the most riveting stuff you could imagine, 12 people in each others minds just pouring out the rhythm and blues all over the floor, led by one of the best guitar players you've ever heard.

Well ... here's the setlist as far as I can tell.  I've pieced this together and it may have a few errors but you get the point:

set 1
In Every Heart
Don't Know What It Means
Keep On Growing
Learn How to Love
Don't Drift Away
Get What You Deserve
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
I Want More

set 2
Statesboro Blues
Crying Over You
Part of Me
Let Me Get By
Comin' Home
Let's Go Get Stoned
Made Up Mind
I Pity the Fool
The Storm > Whipping Post

A Song for You
Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
Bound for Glory

Sandwiching the second set with Allman Brothers songs was brilliant!  As mentioned, this was a night of the powerful space blues and to commence the latter part of the night with the singalong of Statesboro Blues, to wind up and down through some of the spaciest songs they know, and then to finally come out of it a few(?) hours later and realize they were playing Whipping Post and that even Susan sometimes felt like she was tied to it and that she was going to scream about it to us for sure with the whole weird theater screaming along was cathartic to say the least.

One more note on the crowd ambiance:  At one point between sets I was pushing slowly through the mob in the lobby, not even sure where I was going or why (that is, I had no idea where the ends of the beer lines were or where they led).  But the guy behind me was having an even worse time.  "O God, oh no, oh this is terrible," he repeated over and over.  I turned around and told him, "Don't worry, we'll get there."  He looked startled and said, "Oh you don't understand.  I was complaining about the number of Phish t-shirts."

For the encore Susan and Kofi duetted on Leon Redbone's greatest(?) hit, and this was an incredible showcase, great piano.  And then their beautiful take on Circle, and then one of their most trademark songs to end the night.  WOW!!!

Jeez, time to tackle the lobby and the alley again, but we finally got out of there and made our way up Park Street (the church was totally wrapped in scaffolding except for the tallest bit of their steeple).

We had a little energy and space for wonder left, and so detoured towards the Nova Scotia Christmas tree that had just been dedicated.  This was the 100th anniversary edition ... please catch up on the story if you're not aware.  We circled the tree and touched its tresses, both where it grew free and where the lights had snagged it.  It rose over our heads and dwarfed us, silly Boston people who cared about what happened in Halifax and everywhere in the world.  That's what it's meant to do, and why Nova Scotia makes a point of this.

Goodbye to the tree and over the hill, and back to the car and then home.  Hoo boy, I'd go see TTB anywhere, just don't tell them that!