Sunday 07/05/2015 by pzerbo


Happy Fourth of July! Let’s get right to the action from Saturday’s Fare Thee Well gig from Chicago’s Soldier Field...

Shakedown Street” kicked off the gig a little after 7:30 local time with Bobby taking the vocals, which he would do in whole or in part on no less than six traditionally “Jerry songs” this night. On paper this opener may look deceptively good – a fifteen minute “Shakedown” is usually cause for great excitement. The reality was something less than that headline grabber would indicate, as the song suffered from deficits of pace, direction and energy that made it a fan favorite in the Dead’s heyday. “Shakedown” wasn’t a total trainwreck, but it never found a long enough straight-away to gather momentum.

Photo @languagestrange

Garcia/Hunter’s 90’s-era optimistic anthemic “Liberty” was the first of several nods to the 4th of July holiday, again with Bobby at the vocal helm. Trey took his only solo lead vocal of the set with “Standing on the Moon.” This was a brilliant call for its placement in the first set, removing it from the shadow of the late-second set tear-jerking centerpiece role where Jerry wrote substantial chapters of his legacy. Trey acquitted himself well with a tender, convincing and respectful offering of the song, acknowledged with a hug from Phil at its conclusion.

The balance of the set settled into a familiar song-oriented approach of Bobby-driven cowboy and blues tunes typical of Grateful Dead first sets, with improvisation relegated to a supporting role. “Me & My Uncle,” “Tennessee Jed” (a rotation of Bobby, Bruce and Trey vocals), “Cumberland Blues” and “Little Red Rooster” filled out this Bobby-centric segment. Phil stepped up to the mic for “Friend of the Devil” that was notable for a Trey and Bruce tag team trade-off of solos that neither seemed to want to end. The 80-minute set was capped off by a ripping “Deal” (Trey and Bruce on vocals) that was the set's highlight, recapturing some of the spark that was more consistently evidenced in Friday’s show.

Photo @andreanusinov

Bird Song” kicked off the second set with Phil taking vocals, and in short order it was clear that the second set would – in keeping with the Grateful Dead’s legacy that we’ve gathered to celebrate – be an entirely different beast from the first. The “Bird Song” jam returned to a formula that found so much success in the first Chicago show, with the band paving an improvisational runway for Trey’s lead to soar. Bruce and Trey again shared lead vocals for “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion),” a song that has found a home in the Phil Lesh & Friends repertoire but precious few fans had ever seen the Grateful Dead perform live – or were even alive when it was performed – as it was only saw stage time during a brief stretch in 1967. Bobby Cheese led the “Golden Road” through a vocal breakdown, then Trey pulled the band through an awesome concluding jam that was decidedly Phish-y in nature.

Photo @andreanusinov

Bobby’s “Lost Sailor” > “Saint of Circumstance” combo got off to a humorous start when Mickey Hart – who has been a non-factor in the music outside of the “Drums” segments, casually gum-smacking through the proceedings with brush-stroked irrelevance – donned a sailor hat. Cute, Mickey. “Lost Sailor” was beautifully rendered overall with brilliant lead fills by Trey near the song’s conclusion and in the transition to (and jam within) “Saint of Circumstance.” Bruce offered an innovative vocal take on “West L.A. Fadeaway.” “West L.A” was an unexpected setlist call in this spot given its traditional first set role with Grateful Dead proper, but it worked surprisingly well, in no small part because it fits Trey’s low-down funky style to a T$.

Photo @jayblakesberg

In a spot that would suggest time for “Drums,” instead we were treated to “Foolish Heart” with Trey on vocals, his second take of the evening on a beloved Jerry tune from Built to Last. These were the moments – Trey in the lead with clutch emotional trigger songs – that inspired both great hopes and figgity concern leading up to these gigs. But only the most crusty and closed-minded could fail to stand and cheer this performance that balanced powerful leads, delicate finesse and sweet vocals for a major second set highlight.

“Drums” and a more involved “Space” than Friday set the stage for a “Stella Blue” that was well-received but never truly soared, with Bobby taking another questionable turn at the microphone and a jam that never quite found its footing. “One More Saturday Night” brought the set home, in this case for one last Saturday night, at least with this lineup. The holiday-appropriate “U.S. Blues” encore featured an innovative remote red-white-and-blue tie-dyed light show from the Empire State Building projected on the venue’s screens and to the home viewing audience (a “Tower Jam” reprise!). The celebration continued with a tremendous fireworks display set to John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Photo @andreanusinov

This show had a lot of win, but in much smaller packages spread throughout the night. The first set outside of “Standing On the Moon” and “Deal” was mostly a slog, a fitting celebration of fifty years of Grateful Dead music that often featured mostly uneventful first sets. The show got much better starting with “Deal” and through to the “Drums” portion of the second set, which has real replay value. But overall this was a performance that regressed to mean expectations of what many observers felt was this lineup’s ceiling – fun, mostly competent, but lacking in the excitement of improvisational excursions that had sparked such high hopes on Friday. On the plus side, this was still a great deal better than Santa Clara, and we have one more night to go. That’s right, Saturday Night!

Never miss a Sunday show… we’ll be back with more coverage tomorrow.

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, comment by User_25940_
User_25940_ This show was not as good as SC N1. Not even close. But it did have great moments. I thought the Devil was compelling, I loved hearing the back and forth between Trey and Bruce (all night really). And the Deal Smoked. There were highlights in the Second Set but nothing really stood out for me in comparison to the 4 other shows I've been to. It was basically a regular Dead show, which is what it looks like they were aiming for. Nice touch, and some great playing and harmonies. To me last night seemed like a mellow, easy show to rest up the fingers a little before Sunday's finale. All said, this was number four on my list of the run, behind N3, N1, and N2.
, comment by chillwig
chillwig i thought Terry crushed the Stella solo in real time, but will have to relisten.
FACTSAREUSELESS Thank you for bringing forth what I've been thinking since the beginning of Further.....why, oh why does Bobby not let the man responsible for Jerry's songs sing Jerry's songs? I would have much rather heard Trey sing several of those numbers (especially Stella Blue!), and even Phil singing Birdsong and Friend was highly questionable. I know Trey wasn't in the Dead, and I'm not being partial to Trey at all, he just sings much better and they were Jerry's songs! only quibble.
, comment by uctweezer
uctweezer Another well-written review, though I agree with @Renaissance that last night's show doesn't hold up to the others, Santa Clara included. Tonight should be interesting -- they've got a number of sure fire winners left to play, so it'll really just be a matter of execution. Let Trey sing FFS!
, comment by andrewrose
andrewrose Nice recap, but I'd echo the above and argue that both nights in SC were better than last night. Friday is clearly head and shoulders above the rest. Now tonight ...
, comment by mgouker
mgouker Solo in Standing on the Moon outro was tasty and pure class. Perfectly nailed. Stella Blue was spectacular too and Lost Sailor was also deliciously played. Otherwise, I agree with the highlights (Deal, Bird Song, & Foolish Heart) as well as a better take on Cumberland Blues than we saw in Santa Clara.

Friday night was outrageous though.

I'm stoked for tonight.

Peace from Florida,

, comment by nichobert
nichobert At first I was a little iffy about Bobby's vocals, but then I started thinking about Phish50 and Trey's not there ( lets just say he went in a sabbatical and decided to skip it) and If I'd rather hear Fishman croak his way through the Trey parts or hear Tom Hamilton sing them.

Now, I have adored damn near everything Tom Hamilton has done since I first heard Brothers Past in 2001 and I had only started listening to Phish whatsoever about 5 years before that. But I'd rather him be in a support vocals and guitar role and hear the guys who played with Trey for decades take their turns singing even if they were way worse.

I get that the GD dynamic is different since Jerry has been gone for 20 years at this point and we have all heard Bobby and Phil sing Jerry songs and also seen them pass them off to a number of other more successful vocalists.

But as they're calling this the end of the book with only epilogues remaining (and maybe a sweet map of The Empire of Wook'ie all the way from the River Of Doses on the west coast to the eye of the Great Nitrous Storm hovering over the east coast) I'm totally on board with them singing everything they want to.

Bobs delivery on Jerry songs annoyed me at first, I've barely heard anything he has done since 1979 or so anyway, never dug the Brent and Post-Brent era stuff outside Drums> Space some sporadic Playins, Bird Songs, dark stars etc enough to really dig into it. So his seeming detachment struck me as odd. But after awhile it felt like he was just going to lay the song out as plainly as imaginable and let the audience fill it in. That might be the weed speaking.
, comment by brb2323
brb2323 Santa Clara N1 was amazing. Still might be my favorite night. Alligator, St Stephen, Dark Star, Morning Dew, The Other One! Friday Chicago was outstanding too!
, comment by Destiny_Bound
Destiny_Bound @FACTSAREUSELESS said:
Thank you for bringing forth what I've been thinking since the beginning of Further.....why, oh why does Bobby not let the man responsible for Jerry's songs sing Jerry's songs? I would have much rather heard Trey sing several of those numbers (especially Stella Blue!), and even Phil singing Birdsong and Friend was highly questionable. I know Trey wasn't in the Dead, and I'm not being partial to Trey at all, he just sings much better and they were Jerry's songs! only quibble.
-> Spot on. While not Jerry-esque, Trey has a good tone, harmony and voice in professional use. It should have been used.
, comment by elatedvet
elatedvet Is it me or was there a Brick House quote in the vocal "jam" at the end of Shakedown?
, comment by HelpingFriendlyDave
HelpingFriendlyDave Good review, however I'm not sure if you were unconscious during Stella Blue because Trey's playing was the definition of soaring. Might want to go back and give that one a re-listen.
, comment by Phart_Door
Phart_Door This was the only show I actually attended, so I may be biased here. But I thought it was fantastic, especially Bird Song and Golden Road. All five shows were special beyond words and it really doesn't matter which night was better. The whole run was a once in a lifetime experience and I'm thankful to have been there.
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