“I suspect that it is his intimate association with another band, the Allman Brothers, that has given Alan Paul his knowledgeable but balanced view of the Grateful Dead. He’s been one of the leading G.D. observers for years, as this collection proves – connected but not caught up in the mythology. Anyone who wants to know the post-Garcia Dead should read this book.”
“From how songs were written to how disagreements were settled, Alan Paul asks the type of questions every Deadhead wishes he or she could ask of their favorite band. And even better, Alan elicits the honest answers every fan wants to hear from the Dead.”-David Browne, author So Many Roads: The Life and Times of the Grateful Dead
“I’ve read hundreds of Grateful Dead interviews and the ones Alan Paul has collected here as a smart, fresh, honest, and musically astute as any I’ve seen. His exchanges with Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Robert Hunter, and Bill Kreutzmann complement and update earlier collections and enrich our understanding of the Dead, their project, and their legacy. Insights from Trey Anastasio, Steve Kimock, Mark Karan, John Kadlecik, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, and Dick Latvala only sweeten the offering. Required reading for Deadheads–and for anyone who still harbors doubts about the Dead’s achievement.”
“Alan Paul is the rarest kind of music journalist….one who hears beyond the supposed barriers of tradition, style, era, and genre, and perceives the connections and archetypes at the root of all great and innovative music. And then he succinctly lays his discoveries at our feet, so that we may hear beyond the illusions too.”
-Reed Mathis, bassist, Billy and the Kids, Tea Leaf Green
Photo by Adrian Boot/www.urbanimage.tv – Featured in Reckoning
The book begins with a new essay, The Music Never Stopped. The intro to the intro:
This story begins at the moment when it seemed that it was ending: August 9, 1995. Every interview in the pages that follow was conducted after Jerry Garcia died. After it seemed inevitable that the long, strange trip was over. A Grateful Dead without Uncle Jerry was unthinkable – most importantly to the band members themselves.
“We had a meeting where names of people who could step in for Jerry were being discussed, and I just said, ‘No way,’” drummer Bill Kreutzmann says in a 2015 interview that opens this collection. “My feeling was that I didn’t make this decision; Jerry did.”
Bassist Phil Lesh also thought that not only was the band done, but so was his time playing the music of the Dead’s rich, 30-year catalog. “I thought I was done with it and with rock and roll,” Lesh told me in 2002. “I had this idea that I would find closure with the music by composing a 45-minute symphonic canvas utilizing Grateful Dead song themes, melodic hooks, rhythmic grooves and chord sequences.
“Then I went out and played a benefit concert with these Bay Area musicians who had continued to be so influenced and sparked by the music. I was blown away realizing the vitality that remained there and I thought, ‘Maybe there’s not supposed to be closure.’”
Lesh’s search then pivoted 180 degrees to the very opposite of closure: an open-ended exploration of the Grateful Dead’s music that has not let up in the ensuing years. Every surviving member went through a similar process of discovery, of realizing and coming to grips with the impact that their music had and the vitality it retained.
Last night’s final Fare Thee Well show; the final joint appearance ever by the Grateful Dead’s Core Four of Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann if you take them at their word – began and ended the same way: with a group bow and a huge roar from a giant crowd.
It was that kind of night: emotionally heightened, with cheers and tears around every corner for the highly amped fans. The good vibes were palpable throughout Soldier Field and inseparable from the music. I’m reviewing and writing about the experience of being in the stadium. If you wanted to write a removed analysis of the music performed, you’d be better off staying at home and watching a simulcast through a great system by yourself. Walk into the show and you’re impacted by everything around you.
Spending three days in record crowds of up to 71,000 (last night’s released number) was an overwhelming experience. As my friend Jay said, there was as much community feeling as in any crowd ever. No one paid for me to be here. I bought my tickets, paid for my travel and joined the masses entering and exiting like rats in a maze. And like everyone else there, I was invested on many levels. None of us walked out feeling cheated.
After the bow and crowd roar, the first set started out strong with “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider,” songs people have been waiting for every day. It all clicked, with Trey Anastasio stepping to the fore and Weir smiling like the Cheshire Cat as he stepped to the mic to sing his part of the “I Know You Rider” chorus harmony. During an excellent “Estimated Prophet” that followed, Weir was jumping around as he engaged Anastasio.
Copyright Jay Blakesberg
The strong, in sync playing continued throughout the first set. Anastasio has established great rapport with keyboardists Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti, with the three often engaging in call and response, harmony and counterpoint. “Built to Last” was nicely played, but remains a rather slight song in my estimation. “Samson and Delilah” was strong, with Chimenti throwing down a great surging organ solo.
“Mountains of the Moon” was musically excellent, but Lesh’s lead vocal flattened the melody and… well, it was neither the first nor last time a song was musically superb but vocally lacking. It was also, I believe, the first time that song had been played since 1969. I understand that pulling something like that off is part of the Dead ethos, but on the final night, I’d have taken something like Bruce Hornsby singing “Loser” whether or not they played it last week in Santa Clara. Emphasizing not repeating a song in a five-night run makes no sense to me at a time like this.
The set closed strongly with “Throwing Stones,” with the “Ashes, Ashes” chorus a giant sing-along each time through and a very nice jam in the middle, involving everyone, that was one of the musical highlights of the concerts to that point.
China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
Built to Last
Samson and Delilah
Mountains of the Moon > Throwing Stones
Pre-set fireworks. Photo – Chad Smith
The second set – and perhaps the final in the Dead’s 50-year history – began with fireworks. Literally, a gorgeous, extended display over the stadium that made clear again that this was not a normal night. And after a nice, swirly intro, the band kicked into “Truckin’, ” a song that just HAD to be repeated and it was a great, hard-driving version. “What a long strange trip it’s been” was greeted with roars and mass sing-alongs every time through.
The song wound down into a little jam that segued beautifully into “Cassidy,” which featured another stellar extended jam, highlighted by some nifty harmony playing by Weir and Anastasio and sweet interplay between Trey and Hornsby. The jam went a bit atonal, before Lesh took the lead pumping it back up and leading straight back into another, final verse. The strong start continued right into “Althea.” This aggregation does slinky really well and showed it again here. Trey sang the song beautifully and Hornsby helped it swing.
Photo – Jay Blakesberg
As the band came down, some familiar piano notes tinkled and the crowd roared: “Terrapin Station” was under way. Lesh took the first verses, Weir the latter. And while neither made anyone forget about Jerry Garcia, it all worked. The whole suite was beautifully rendered, superbly played and emotionally resonant.
Next up was a Space > Drums segment that was highly entertaining. I gladly squatted on the floor, taking a load off my legs, and looked up away from the stage watching Bill and Mickey do their mad scientist thing on the enormous Jumbotron on the stadium’s far side. That was quite the first half of a set. And then, of course, things got a little weird. Because the Dead need to get weird; they have a perverse sense of equilibrium. It’s just part of their DNA.
They came out of Space and landed on “Unbroken Chain,” another Phil lead vocal. The song was strong but as the tension seemed to build to a resolution that could only be a hard rocker, the group went into the molasses slow “Days Between,” one of Garcia and Robert Hunter’s final compositions. Again, this was not on most people’s list of essential Dead listening, but players gonna play.
We finally got the hard-rocking resolution next with “Not Fade Away,” which had the whole stadium singing along and jumping up and down. I looked up and saw the entire upper concrete structure bouncing, a site I will never forget. As the band walked off stage, the crowd continued the rhythmic five-beat clapping rhythm and kept singing the “Not Fade Away” chorus.
Finally, Lesh returned for his donor rap and everyone returned for “Touch of Grey” that felt inevitable, as retrospective photos flashed on the screen and the audience cheered every shot of Jerry. Trey took the first vocals, then Weir took over.
Copyright Jay Blakesberg
The band returned with Weir on acoustic and the rest of the frontline sans instrument for a quiet, guitar and piano “Attics of My Life” as the retrospective photos rolled through. Photos of deceased members and associates flashed by: Ken Kesey, Keith Godchaux (and the very much alive but absent donna), Brent Mydland (to great cheers), Vince Welnick… and then onto new Jay Blakesberg portraits of the current members, in this order: Phil, Bill, Chimenti, Hornsby, Mickey, Trey and Bob. God knows what went into choosing the order; I’ll let someone else sort that out.
And then, finally, it was over and we were back where we started: a full stadium stomping, hooting and hollering as the band stood in the middle of the stage alternating hugs and bows.
The masses filed out, shoulder to shoulder, a giant crowd moving with purpose and total peace through a maze. In a tunnel near the final exit, someone started a rhythmic five-note clap and everyone picked up and we all sang together: “Not, not, not fade away.”
Space > Drums
Not Fade Away
Touch of Grey
Attics of My Life
Wow. Now this was more like it. Night 2 of 3 in Chicago for the Dead’s Fare Thee Well, said-to-be-final shows at Soldier Field was hard-hitting, consistently satisfying, only a tiny bit meandering and to my ears a full-on triumph. Most crucially: they sounded like a band, not a group of guys jamming it out. […]
Last night’s Fare Thee Well Grateful Dead show in Chicago broke the record for attendance at Soldier Field set by U2’s 360 Tour in 2009 (last night: 70,764, U2: 67,936). Unfortunately, the crowd control entering and exiting the stadium was terrible. As if the city had done no preparation for this onslaught. Hopefully thats straightened out […]
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Warren Haynes has announced new tour dates with Railroad Earth. The guitarist, who teamed up with the band for his upcoming albumAshes and Dust, has added a pair of June gigs in Nashville, as well as an appearance at Gathering of the Vibes and another stop in Baldwinsville, NY. One of those Nashville performances will […]
I’m very proud about my new Ebook, Reckoning: Conversations With the Grateful Dead and hope that you will check it out. The book includes interviews with Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Phil and Trey Anastasio together,Robert Hunter, Bill Kreutzmann, Warren Haynes, Dick Latvala, John Kadlecik, Steve Kimock and Mark Karan and many more. It also includes wonderful photos by […]
Last night’s final Fare Thee Well show; the final joint appearance ever by the Grateful Dead’s Core Four of Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann if you take them at their word – began and ended the same way: with a group bow and a huge roar from a giant crowd. It […]
Thank you to all have asked about buying signed copies of One Way Out. You can do so via my great local bookstore, Words of Maplewood. Just buy and at checkout, enter whatever inscription you want in the Comments Box.