Note: This blog entry is strictly for Dead set list junkies with an avid interest in asymmetric national security issues.
I listened to some blips from last night's Fare Thee Well tour in Santa Clara. While I am a big Dead fan (46 shows under my 36" belt, all of them 1989-1995), lemme state the obvious. It's hard to take this "hippified conglomerate" that seriously. My best advice. Try not to be a critic and just enjoy the ride. For me personally, that's an exceptionally difficult proposition. It's like purposely trying to play down to the level of competition on the dome hockey table. Not gonna happen. But I'll give it a slap-shot, or as I like to call it... LASER!
Jenn D. once did a Macarena dance with improvised lyrics.
I had absolutely no desire to purchase the pay-per-view. I looked for a free livestream but to no avail. Having woken up and viewed the set list, allow me to qualify my decision... what a fucking relief! That first show was all late 60's. Ughh. It's the one specific era of the Dead that I've never even bothered to examine. I would've fallen asleep midway through the 1st set.
Set One: Jam -> Truckin’, Uncle John’s Band, Alligator -> Cumberland Blues, Born Cross-Eyed > Cream Puff War, Viola Lee Blues
Set Two: Cryptical Envelopment -> Dark Star -> St. Stephen -> The Eleven -> Turn On Your Love Light -> Drums/Space -> What's Become Of The Baby -> The Other One - > Morning Dew
Encore: Casey Jones
With the exception of the Europe 72 vibe, I'm exclusively a fan of 1985-1990 with an extreme emphasis on 1989-90. Every once in a blue moon, I'll listen to a bootleg from '92 - '94. Just for kicks as it sometimes evokes fond memories.
My point --- even if you're only a nominal or "poser fan" (I call them Ped-Heads, which loosely translates to footheads), I don't think it takes a genius to figure out the direction the band's striving for.
Captain obvious here at the podium. My hunch is the Dead are going for a "retrospect-style, historical approach" journey through the decades. Not a bad idea. Probably the way I'd frame the next 4 shows. Kick it off with the old and venture forward (kinda like Hillary).
So onto night #2. If you're big on the early 70's, 1st set Jack Straw openers and Deal closers. Fill in the cracks with a Brown-eyed Women. Second set China > Rider openers and Sugar Magnolia closers, I think night #2 in Santa Clara is for you. I'll predict a Brokedown encore in advance. Maybe throw in an Attics... although the vocals could get scary. I'd include an Eyes > Estimated... just because it's California and Weir's "Huck-Finn cut-off Levi's jean shorts" seem like a good fit for a few more higher pitched shrieks than are customarily delivered. This show will hopefully be stronger than the 1st concert and set forth some greater expectations before heading toward the mid-west.
So we're likely destined to hear late 70's, early 80's Dead on the first night in Chicago. It literally cries out for a sweaty, extended Shakedown Street. That's your obvious choice. Definitely a bad disco kinda night. Maybe Help-Slip-Franklin's for the second set.
The 4th of July should be designated for the "In the Dark" late 80's material. From an independence day, musical perspective, this would seem ideal. Because it's the time frame that truly energized and rejuvenated the band. Garcia's recovering from his coma and it's literally the epitome of "freedom rock." If I had to pick any of the 5 shows to attend, this would be the one. Duhhh... once again, stating the obvious. Touch of Grey opener. Second set maybe go with a Scarlet-Fire opener. Hell, you gotta throw it in somewhere in this 5 show mini-tour. Close it out with Throwing Stones > Not Fade Away. And I'll invoke the predictable U.S. Blues encore since it's the 4th. Fireworks all over the place.
And then the final night at Soldier Field would by definition likely scare the living defecation out of my intestines (both large and small). Seriously, if my hunches are accurate, the final send off could be a tinny, screeching celebration of Vince Welnick and the Bruce Hornsby waltzing accordion-era. Ouch. Not the way I'd choose to close things out, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. Especially if you're not willing to pay for tickets.
I suppose I could piece together some actual real-world, set list predictions. Oh what the fuck. It's my blog. I'm gonna give it a shot. Not like anybody actually reads my shit. Well, except NFL security headquarters in Manhattan and Texas. Maybe some disgruntled employees in the FCC.
Even though Jerry's gone, I'll think they'll still uphold the standard Bobby > Jerry > Bobby > Jerry > Bobby song opener progression. Here we go!
Night #2 - Levi's Stadium
Bertha, Jack Straw, Dire Wolf or Sugaree, Me & My Uncle > Big River, Brown-Eyed Women, Let it Grow
Playin' > China > Rider, Estimated > Eyes > Drumz > GDTRFB > Playin > Attics > Sugar Magnolia
Night #1 - Soldier Field
Shakedown, Minglewood, FOTD, Looks Like Rain, Tom Thumb's Blues, Lazy Lightning > Supplication jam, Birdsong > Promised Land
Help > Slipknot > Franklin's Tower, Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance > Drumz > Wharf Rat > Around
Encore: Johnny B. Goode
Night #2 - Soldier Field (they'll keep this show as "tight" as they can)
Bucket > Touch of Grey (in honor of the Bucket > Shakedown opener from my all-time favorite show in 1991, coincidentally at Soldier Field) , Rooster, Cassidy, Tennessee Jed, Saturday Night
Stranger, Scarlet > Fire, Smokestack Lightining > Terrapin > Drumz > Miracle > Wheel > Throwing Stones > NFA (get that whole stadium going).
Encore: U.S. Blues
Night #3 - Soldier Field
Cold Rain & Snow > Greatest Story followed by who knows what. Go old school and then throw in some of the weaker mid-90's material towards the end of the 1st set.
It's Sunday, so you know... Samson followed by your guess is good as mine. Maybe add a Hornsby tune. I wouldn't be surprised to hear "Long Way to go Home" --- one of Vince's better offerings. Definitely a night for a sloppy Gimme Some Lovin and a soulful rendition of Standing on the Moon. Finish it out with Bobby screeching badly on a Midnight Hour cover. I'd expect to see some special guests show up on stage for the 2nd and 3rd nights. A couple Phish tunes would likely infuriate the masses, but I think it would be cool. But that's just me. I like surprises.
Another thought that just came to me: how about devote the final night EXCLUSIVELY to cover songs? The Dead have a shitload of them. Some excellent, some tolerable, some atrocious. That would be a novel way to end the journey. Kinda on a lighter note but still relatively inspired and unique. Seriously, there's no way whatsoever to even remotely pull off a Cornell 77 or Alpine 89. Why not just have a good time with it and give the "super-hippies" something silly to endlessly jabber about on the internet? Yep, just cover tunes. Think about it.
I've often been asked, "Saf, what's your favorite Dead song?" My answer has ALWAYS been the same. It's that precise moment when I get hit with the opening chords of the song I least expect to hear. With a few exceptions of course --- Walkin' Blues, Wave to the Wind, Women are Smarter... not sure why, but the Dead play some really poor tunes that start with the letter "W." With one big exception --- We Bid you Goodnight. That would be a super cool encore but I won't hold my breath.
Encore: Box of Rain (Phil should be the one who terminates this whole shindig).
So those are my general predictions. Please know that I'm not obsessed with these shows. Not like trying to prevent a dominipede, the next potential 9/11. I just wanted to throw out some scattered projections as they entered my mind. I figure something along the way will come to fruition. I spent too many years analyzing the Dead to not have a little insight. Way too much time. Was it time well spent? Probably not.
I rarely acknowledge human beings but this blog is dedicated to the unusual choice of Fuzz! His social media post got me to thinking about it. See you in Chicago. Gigi and I will be the ones out front with our fingers in the air and a sign that says God knows what. We booked a hotel 3 miles up the road for Thursday night. But not for Friday or Saturday. We just gonna wing it and see what happens.