Saturday June 1st was a scorcher after the long cold Spring, and as we drove up to Hampton Beach in the early evening there was a solid line of cars heading back from the shore. Once we got to 1A in Hampton we got caught in the mob too: lots of pasty-white people of all shapes in bathing suits walking aimlessly up and down 1A, some with baby strollers, some with coolers, some with attitudes, and some with t-shirts saying all kinds of pointless stuff. I guess they were enjoying themselves.
Finally made it to the parking lot of the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom and got our tickets at the will-call window. We had left enough time (we thought) to find a nice place to eat after we got the tickets, but traffic had delayed us and there seemed to be no choices for miles and miles but greasy seafood, greasy burgers, or fried dough. So we went into the Ballroom, emptied our pockets and got wanded, and picked up some barely acceptable sandwiches from the food booth inside. I went to get beer from the bar and the limit there is 1, but they were embarrassed and told me that I looked like a fine upstanding person and so let me pay for Sarah's, as long as she went and picked it up.
After we ate we snuggled up to the island in the middle of the floor that was the soundboard, surrounded by metal fences. This meant we were just 50 feet from the stage (we've seen them up close and were not psyched to put up with the battering that being out on the floor would mean that night), and were protected on one side at least from the tidal flow. We were right next to the tapers section and conversed with a few of them.
DSO came out and RobK did an introduction of Kevin's last show. He mentioned that we owed it all to Jerry, Bobby, and Phil, but also owed a lot to people like Kevin, and many of the people there agreed wholeheartedly, though some were clueless of course. He announced that they'd be doing an original setlist but with a twist: that most of the songs were chosen by Kevin rather than by consensus. And Kevin did an *excellent* job, this was the polar opposite of when we'd seen them on Thursday: every song was one that you were dying to hear rather one that you thought, "Well that song's ok and they did a really good job on it" ... especially when they played those songs the way they did.
Started off with a beautiful ensemble vocal on Here Comes Sunshine, and isn't that what it's all about, especially at the beach on a lovely Spring day?; followed with the only stinker of the set though it's one of my favorites, Jones's The Race Is On, which they just didn't add much too; Lisa got her harmonica out at that point and wowed us with Next Time You See Me; this was followed by the first of many showstoppers in Cumberland Blues; then a surprise in Dark Hollow; a greasssssy Chinatown Shuffle; an inspiring Bird Song (the Casino Ballroom is decorated with photos of stars who've played there in the past, including a classic picture of Janis playing there in 1969); the next showstopper in the also surprising You Ain't Woman Enough, which Lisa just sang the stuffing out of, jumping up and down and emoting and doing her best to look mean while we all roared, after which she giggled and then walked off stage; a not-totally-up-to-par Hard To Handle (you can see the bass player's influence here); a great Ramble On Rose; and the classic Around and Around to close the set.
Yikes! The temperature in the ballroom may have been over 100 at certain points during that first set as the sun hadn't quite gone down yet. The place was packed and we were all rivers of sweat, I was drenched. The concession stands were mobbed and we barely had time for Sarah to get a smoke and another drink and then for me to hit the bathroom and then get another beer (the second period of the first Bruins-Penguins game ended as I stood in line (B's ended up winning 3-0)). In fact, I missed the first song of the second set. But we were determined not to give up our beachhead by the sound board and it's good we stuck to it. Sarah got walked into twice by two people at full stride in the second set anyway, and it's scary to think how un-mellow it would have been to mosh with the crowd out on the floor. I'm reaching my limit with rock clubs.
Anyway, though the first set had been great, the second set was just incredible. Here's the list: 'Til the Morning Comes, Weather Report Suite, Let It Grow (to be pedantic, this is *part* of the suite, though it's usually broken out into a different song), Good Lovin', He's Gone, Truckin', The Other One, Eyes Of the World, Not Fade Away, Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, Not Fade Away.
Don't have much to say about that set except that everyone in the packed hall was dancing, grooving, and loving it. There was a time during Let It Grow when I could feel the dragon emerging, like at the best of Dead concerts, and for me to say that is very high praise. It was an excellent Truckin' (RobE didn't forget the words to it, as Bobby usually does, but he *had* forgotten the words to Let It Grow so that's ok), and then Kevin, who had been pounding those bass notes all night, started on a magical, floating run ... and then I realized that he was playing TOO, and then a lightning bolt coursed through the hall as *everyone in the place* realized it, we were all sharing the same mind ... and then Kevin went boodle-ey boodle-ey Boodle-ey BOODLE-EY BOOM and the whole band was instantly playing TOO and we all roared! This was great stuff.
We all flew around the room with Eyes, NFA-GDTRFB-NFA was a classic from early live Dead, and we all stood there exhausted while the band took a short break, amazed to realize that the temperature had gone down and we hadn't yet died. They came back out and payed more tribute to Kevin. RobK built up the song they were going to play for an encore (Kevin didn't know what it was going to be), and then announced Louie Louie! Kevin cracked up and played a few bars of it before they got serious.
They started and it *was* a classic: the Nix-Penn chestnut, Like a Road Leading Home. The Dead never played this, but of course Garcia and Saunders had. They just killed it, as we all soared along with them and I personally hoped that Kevin can meet the upcoming challenges of elder care and raising kids while remembering the road fondly. We stumbled out the back entrance after it was over and the "beach" crowd was still mobbing the streets, though when we finally got out of town it was a smooth ride back home.