If you follow my twitter or read my taperssection posts, you are abundantly aware that I have been brutally honest about these five “Fare Thee Well” shows. There are clear problems with this twenty-years-removed version of the “Grateful Dead” beyond the obvious absence of the band’s deceased emotional core — the tempo is way too slow, the aged players are making way too many simple mistakes, and there is no way on Earth that Phil Lesh should be permitted to sing lead vocals, particularly on Jerry Garcia’s songs. All that being said, the first two shows in Santa Clara did have some serious high points. Trey Anastasio’s lead guitar work has been thoroughly inspired and engaged and he seems completely committed to these performances. Additionally, the band’s setlist selections have been quite imaginative — perhaps the worst aspect of the late-era Garcia-led Grateful Dead was their predictable sets. These 2015 selections are both diverse and unpredictable. At the first night in Santa Clara, the threesome of primal Dead “Born Cross-Eyed”, “Cream Puff War” and “Viola Lee Blues” was my own personal highlight of last weekend and not coincidentally featured Trey on both lead vocals and extended lead guitar work.
But that was Santa Clara. These Chicago shows have a different feel from the outset. Early views of the crowd pre-show indicates a significantly more rowdy and celebratory air. As the show begins, there is definitely an East Coast/MidWest vibe and the band is pretty much into a groove from the beginning. The set begins with the song that ended the band’s last show ever, “Box of Rain”, in a nice bit of synchronicity which also shows that these guys are both aware and willing the celebrate the history. Trey is engaged throughout and actually takes the lead vocal on Bertha and is centerstage for all of Crazy Fingers. Its also nice to hear that the keyboards are right there in the mix and both Chimenti and Hornsby are playing well. The first set ends in typical fashion, but Bobby is also seemingly focused and the song is tight. A nice set, albeit with a fairly standard setlist.
The second set began with another one of those breakout numbers, the early 70’s unreleased and obscure track “Mason’s Children”. From there, it was another instance of Trey dominating the day, with a superb take on Garcia’s “Scarlet/Fire”. The early drums and space segment left much room for the “post-Drums” and the band did not disappoint. The primal “New Potato Caboose” was unfortunately a vocal lead for Lesh despite that Bob sang the song on the Anthem of the Sun album and all of the late-60’s live versions. Trey again shone during the “Help On The Way” and with his guitar throughout the entire Help/Slip/Frank suite. The band completed the night with a very sweet “Ripple” that featured a full crowd sing-along.
This show was recorded by friend of the site Bill who was in the taper’s section. He produced a 6-microphone mix that included a pair of Busman BSC2 mics, two AKG 480/CK61 mics and my Sennheiser cardioids that I sent to him especially for the occasion. The sound in the section is quite nice and this ambitious mix of microphones is indeed excellent. Enjoy!
Digital Master Audience Recording
Recorded from Taper’s Section
Sennheiser MKH-8040s > Tascam DR-680 > 24bit 48kHz wav file > Soundforge (level adjustments, mixdown, set fades) > CDWave 1.95 (tracking) > TLH > flac (320 MP3 and tagging via Foobar)
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Recorded by Bill Walker
Produced by nyctaper
[Total Time 1:11:01]
01 Box of Rain
02 Jack Straw
05 The Wheel
06 Crazy Fingers
07 The Music Never Stopped
[Total Time 1:53:58]
01 Mason’s Children
02 Scarlet Begonias
03 Fire On The Mountain
05 New Potato Caboose
06 Playing In The Band
07 Let It Grow
08 Help On The Way
10 Franklin’s Tower
11 [encore break / donor request]
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