Needless to say, the rush for tickets was as intense as ever. Our strategy was to go for tickets to the Hartford concert as well (6/13), and we decided we'd be fine with lawn tickets for that since we remembered the lawn there being as good as many of the stadium seats and there was a great difference in price. Those were easy to snag when they went on sale. But good tickets for Mansfield were not offered to any of us three when we tried multiple times. And so Sarah took a shot at the lowest level VIP tickets and immediately got offered great seats, right behind the soundboard as it turned out. We figured we were getting cheap seats in Hartford and these were only about a third more than we'd been planning to spend on Mansfield, so let's go for it! ... so we did.
Met up at Yard House in Dedham by 3 or so after some massive 128 traffic for me and the wrong train for them. It was a *beautiful* late Spring day. We New Englanders are still shaking off the memories of a long, cold Winter that only creakingly and hesitatingly turned into early Spring and then suddenly in May burst into color. And of course the Eastern Mass May traffic was brutal, both on the way there and and the way down to Mansfield from Dedham after some great beers and great food (that may have given me food poisoning, took a few days after the concert for my stomach and head to stop hurting).
This was our first time at a concert in Mansfield and we'd heard that a) the sight lines were fantastic from almost all seats, especially section 6 where we'd be, and b) that this was one of those parking situations where first in was last out and we should expect a clusterfuck of parking lot traffic. Sure enough, several local lots outside the gates were selling places at absurd prices, but what we didn't expect was that the absurd prices would continue inside the lots. I'd thought the parking would be free except for the reserved VIP parking that we didn't go for. But the side lot I had my eye on as maybe a good place to exit from was charging $50! Whatever, we paid it and after being denied access to the best part of the lot ("No, that's the $60 section"), we backed into a spot among a village of happy tailgaters and soon joined them. It was a beautiful May day and we were all going to see the opener of another highly anticipated tour.
Wandered in after a bit and spent some time signing stuff at Participation Row, and getting our pictures taken. The Xfinity Center is a nice but kind of labyrinthine place with lots of stands to buy good beer and food. And our seats were very good, pretty much dead center and 40 yards back from the stage. As I say, we were next to the soundboard but I don't feel the sound was that great in the amphitheater, not top-grade depth or volume even though we were so central, and a little boomy.
We had some great row-mates, on tour themselves up from Pennsylvania. Our hurried Dead discussion quickly got to the point and we agreed that Jeff Chimenti is the most continuously excellent thing about this band. We detoured into discussion of side bands and all bemoaned the lack of chances to see more of John Kadlecik and agonized over the demise of Furthur. We noted that of course they *were* from PA and so had probably had more chances to see JK than we had ... oh well. We speculated on new songs for Dead & Co and they told us they'd heard Alabama Getaway in sound check and so that was anticipated.
OK, time for the concert to start! Dave writes an excellent song by song breakdown in his blog, and I won't approach that much detail, but I agree with most everything he says. Here's the first set:
- Shakedown Street
- Alabama Getaway
- It's All Over Now
- Brown-Eyed Women
- Tennessee Jed
- Bird Song >
- Loose Lucy >
- Bird Song
- I was immediately in love with this concert. Not the best sound but great seats and great sight lines ... we could see everything on stage in detail. And the vibe was lovely; that could have to do with Oteil being higher in the mix (as Dave says), like at our first Dead & Co show in Worcester.
- And what a great song to start with, getting right into the groove and showing the band's amazing ability to take a song we've heard a million times and rock the hell out of it.
- Jeff Chimenti is the Master (in a good way) and had a great concert. He excelled on all of his keyboards (and he had a lot of them), especially the grand and the B3. And on Shakedown he latched onto a delightful riff in the last part and dangled us all from a string.
- A valid criticism has been their slow pace, and that was back. But they seemed to be more tactical about their pace than on their earlier tours, turning Shakedown into a groove rather than a disco tune, and using a bluesy tempo to great affect in BEW. This arrangement allowed John to deliver one of the best vocals I've heard to one of my favorite songs.
- A lack of innovation and envelope-pushing has also plagued these guys in the past. This tour opener was a case of them playing it safe to some degree, but they also showed that they were determined to roll out new songs and new sounds. They played two new songs right off the bat: Alabama and the 60's R&B of It's All Over that the Dead had done so excellently, and both showed great practice and great timing.
- But the most exciting bit of innovation to me was their intro to Bird Song, which included Mickey droning on the beam and them all setting the sonic mood of the song like had never been done, before launching into the repetitive melody. They didn't take this as far into the stratosphere as Bobby & Phil had at the Wang, but they took it a long way. And they threw an excellent and (generally) tight Loose Lucy into the middle, though they stumbled in transition back into Bird Song.
I should mention the triptych of video screens that they had set up behind the stage and were used very dynamically. Being right in the middle we got a great view of them and the content was great: sometimes a theme related to the song, sometimes abstract artwork, but most often cameras focussed on different angles of the stage and the players. They were great, and the Xfinity Center had their other screens going too, so there was lots of video. I kept my eyes on the stage though.
They launched right into the second set and Dave hadn't returned yet, but he got back after a few notes and I was already gushing about the fact that Bobby was on his great green guitar. And he was playing Scarlet. Here's the second set:
- Scarlet Begonias >
- Fire On the Mountain >
- Estimated Prophet >
- The Other One jam >
- Eyes Of the World >
- Drums >
- Space >
- Stella Blue
- Touch Of Grey
Billy and Mickey have significantly reduced the size of their drum setup, perhaps because the road crew offered to work for half the price if they did. But the array of sounds they produced in the Drums segment was just as fine, especially when Oteil and Jeff joined in with a passel of weird instrumental sounds of their own. And Mickey benefits from his setup being more compact ... he was able to strum The Beam without getting up from his traps. No licking though (hey, I've never seen Mickey and Brad Marchand in the same room!).
And then the band returned and they calmed down from another frenetic Space segment, and then they went into the Stella Blue of death. This is one of the most lovely songs ever and Bobby sang it and John led it with perfection.
Then a strange segue into Touch?!? I can't say I don't like Touch because it's a fun singalong and has some great history and panache. But it was kind of a shock right after Stella Blue. But we realized when they finished it quickly and then gathered on stage for a group bow that their time had run out. My phone showed it was exactly 11:00 and people were saying that this was the hard curfew at the Xfinity Center.
Oh well, another great concert and we'll see them again in Hartford! Took some time to get going out of the parking lot, but once we got back onto the highway it was a quick trip up to Quincy to drop off Dave and then back to Woburn with friend Jimmy.