One could just imagine what it would be like:
Well ok, I've just found out that the above photo may be a fake. But we were psyched!
Left work at 2, had to go home first for forgotten sandals and water, and then made it to the parking lot at Ipswich and Van Ness by 3:30 or so (@$55!). I was early … much better than being late, and hung out at Yard House where eventually the forces gathered. Stopped by the car to dump Dave and Sarah’s stuff and then strolled into Fenway Fucking Park, out onto the field to see the Grateful Dead (that is, Dead & Company)!
We went up one of the short runways to the bleachers, but then instead of turning up into the stands we kept straight over a runway they’d made … pretty much where Jack White had been standing when he played the “Bleacher Theater.” I stopped as we crossed the bullpen and told Dave that’s where we saw Bob Stanley attack many a beach ball with a rake, which I’d been telling him about recently.
He wanted to hurry to our seats but Sarah and I were absolutely awestruck, as we were all evening, by the fact that we were now in the middle of Fenway Park. Maybe I’ll gush more about this later but it sent a chill up my spine over and over and over to realize that our seats were exactly where Jim Rice used to play when there was a righty up, etc. We saw new angles of the ballpark I’ve seen many times that I’ll remember for years whenever I’m watching a game.
Took the crowd a long time to get in. No one seemed to believe that the show was really going to start at 6:30. But it did. The guys came out and lined up and lit into a jam, and the beer stands and bathrooms emptied, as a flood of late concert-goers rushed out.
Here’s the first set with some notes … again, probably add more later:
- Jam into Jack Straw, perfect Fenway July start; I should have guessed that they’d open with this on such a hot, wonderful, summer day.
- The Music Never Stopped with DONNA! We were hoping she’d show up and she did!! But it was really a train wreck on the first bridge, they ended up doing it and then the second as a round so Bobby could follow her and get some order/harmony in there; really jammed out, longest ever??
- Cracking tight short Next Time You See me … they instantly own this song.
- Loser … long and slow and beautiful with Donna; very good harmony, she and Bobby singing together as well as I’ve ever heard. They picked the right song here! At the end, Bobby said, “Miss Donna Jean, great to have her. And now a little something for the kids, and another slow song!”
- Then a great Peggy-O out of nowhere. This was a surprise. Their cover is not as good as the more folky ones I’ve heard, such as the arrangement Phil Lesh does, but still a great song and John had some fantastic leads.
- Then Help/Slip/Frank’s – Great opening chords … talk about a chill down the back … but then a false start to singing by John on Help On the Way, so around again; fantastic drumming on Slipknot! and then absolutely epic Franklin’s Tower with John shredding it. Bobby explained the political process at the end.
The break between sets was pretty long but needed to be in order to deal with VERY long bathroom and beer lines (we could only get Bud Lite but were later directed to a stand where we could get Harpoon by our neighbors). Then the band came back out and played an amazing second set after that incredible first set.
Trying to keep this short as I say, but this show was special. I’ve heard and/or seen most of this tour, and this first Fenway show was the best of the tour IMO at first hearing. As with Hartford, we were not looking straight at the stage (we were way left this time) and the seeing was not great, even from pretty close seats. And there was some sloppiness, especially with fitting in Donna, but…
But the playing was fantastic. John was so eager to rip off great leads (he was wearing a picnic tablecloth) that he was like a bronco busting out of the chute. What can I say, Bob Weir pulled off another of his great band-leader performances; great singing and great timing. And not sloppy at all were Oteil and the drummers, who filled our heads with incredible rhythm in that incredible setting. As I say, listen to that tape! And Jeff!! They’ve turned his organ facing front and put him closer to the center of the stage … I think everyone recognizes how important his contributions are to this band.
As I say, the second set was as wonderful as the first:
- St. Stephen! What a second set opener, like Boston Music Hall in 1976! Meandering jam with hints of several other songs … what was coming next? Then back into the last verse and “… the answer to the answer man?” And then…
- The opening notes of Dark Star without missing a beat. Dark Star in Fenway Park on a summer night!!! They did their “spacy” Dark Star rather than their apocalyptic one. Jeff had us in outer space with organ sounds from another dimension, John, Oteil, Bobby, the drummers … OMG! Dave and I agree this was one of the best Dark Star’s we’ve ever experienced live. They dropped into a jazzy jam in the middle of it … not heard that before, and ended it with a reggae jump into the “Mirror shatters” verse. This was a bunch of Pranksters letting it all hang out.
- Into … wait, Bobby’s strumming but the others aren’t starting and then Oteil kicks in and: full-blown Terrapin Station with Jeff doing dreamy things on piano! Donna on harmony again and she had her high points all night, but needs a bit more practice with the varsity IMO. John and Oteil are meant to sing together.
- Drums/Space – This was different, more of a Drums/Space Jam than the traditional drum solo and then instrumental weirdness. This was weird all the way through, especially with Mickey at the helm of the clown bicycle horns!
- And John was then toodling a bit but looking at Bobby like he's got an INTENT and suddenly everyone looks that way and suddenly John starts into a reprise of Terrapin Station!
- Yay! What's next? OMG, not a false note into the intro to Morning Dew. Not to be described, I was so glad to see this in Fenway Park with thousand of friends in the middle of summer, but the backdrop of course were the horrors in Nice the day before, the attempted military coup in Turkey that day, the presidential election, etc. Just focus on Bobby singing and don't get distracted...
- Fell apart a bit after John's crescendo, but then Bobby counted it off and wham: Casey Jones! John gave the lead the psychedelic kick it should have.
- Encore: Black Muddy River - Garcia and Hunter did not stop writing great songs in the 70s ... this is one of their best and John sings it very well, and I was very delighted to see it done live.. There's a Muddy River in the Boston Fens of course, though I don't know if they knew this.
- U.S. Blues - Woohoo! A second encore. This is another song that has to be sung on a summer night in the (almost) beginning of July in an historic ballpark. Nice job, but now time to go home.
WOW! We hung out at our seats for a bit while the crowd tried to file out. Went out the way we’d come in (for beer and bathroom breaks we used the door in the left-field corner, I kept asking people if this was the Manny Ramirez Memorial bathroom and they didn’t get it … Philistines!) so we could exit by the car.
Got to the car but then had to wait forever to get unblocked in the lot. Dave ended up taking off to walk over to the Hynes stop. A nice neighbor gave me a Heineken to ease the waiting. Pretty quick ride home after that (gave J a ride, no Row Jimmy though!) and still before midnight by the time we got to bed.
Pictures from Sarah here.