Monday, April 19, 2010

Dead and the Neville's Part 2

Jumping back into listening/discussing the tag team of San Fran's Hippyest and NOLA's ambassadors brings us to this Monday's Show, and it is from an actual Monday, July 6th 1987 to percise.  Click that link or listen here to the embedded show:

 While the Giants were in town and sweeping the Pirates in a double header, the other San Franciscans were setting up their guitars at the Igloo.
   aptly named.
The Fellas were in the middle of their historic tour backing up Bob Dylan, he was not on the bill this night after having just played with the group on July 4th and would meet up again on the 10th. With Dylan not announced, but rumored to be in attendance, anticipation ran high, but the bard wouldn't emerge this night, in fact this show is probably better off because of it.  I will eventually get into the Dylan and The Dead tour I am sure, but my feelings are mixed on the pairing back in 87, however my feelings aren't mixed on this show...It smokes and The Neville's are just half the reason why, the other half is Jerome John Jerry Garcia.
Garcia 1987
From the opening notes this is a special show, and while everyone raves about the second set (with good reason) some time needs to be spent on the first.  Granted I would give the sound here probably about a 7.5 or 8 out of 10, but you get the crowd love, and the the energy from the boys playing is right there.  The opening "Feel like a Stranger" lets us know that Garcia is really feeling it, his guitar runs backing up Weir's vocals are fluid and funky, just check out the groove he drops into around the 5 minute mark and continues until the end.  Garcia's strumming and picking are sparks in front of some spacey drums from Mickey Hart.  This is a great version and Garcia doesn't want the silky six strings to stop as he goes into the fan favorite "Franklin's Tower".  The singing takes a back seat as "Row Jimmy" continues the top level musicianship on display before one of the coolest "Big River's" shows up.

This cover of the Johnny Cash classic is a staple in the Dead's repetorie, first showing up in 1971 and sticking around until the band stopped in 95.  Here's Johnny's version:

Cavorting in Davenport.
When the Dead covered "Big River" it was usually a short burst of country/polka energy dropped in the middle of the first set.  Here that energy is amped waaaay up, Garcia's picking is fiery and aggressively propelling the tune forward into Brent Mydland's keyboard runs that starts out at 2:30 mark sounding exactly like a fiddle, before dropping into a twinkling workout before another solo from Jerry and the drums of Billy and Mickey race until the tracks conclusion.  One of my favorite versions of this often played tune.

The group rewards Brent's innovative playing with allowing him to belt out "Far From Me" before the set closing trio pays homage to the guests about to come out first, the icon they are touring with second, and their traditional roots with third via "Stagger Lee">"Desolation Row">"Don't Ease Me In".  Throughout this first set Garcia was on point, I will admit there were times especially later in his career, when his amazing guitar playing sounded lazy, everyone has bad off nights...or tours, but this was certainly not one of those...oh yeah on too the 2nd set...

I mentioned my favorite version of the funk/disco Dead with one of my earlier Monday posts, and while that "Shakedown Street" is still my favorite, this version should probably get a mention in the conversation of excellent live performances.  Around the 9:50 mark things get clicked up a notch with some solid fretwork, but the whole version is solid.  It is rollicking groove-fest to kick start the second set, pitch perfect pretty much all over, stuttering drums, simple runs, heavy on vocals (was that a little scat singing by Jerry?) and an alive crowd; a great feeling throughout. "Just Gotta Poke Around..."

A popping "Samson and Delilah" is next before The Neville Brothers come out to help turn the standard "Iko Iko" into a full fledged party, a fantastic version that is getting me smiling while I am replaying it.  The Dead's first ever playing of "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" followed:

A fun little ditty, before the party flowed into another tune popularized by Harry Belafonte (written by Norman Span) with "Man Smart (Woman Smarter)" which is my favorite calypso cover the group did with regularity, excellent lyrics and fun beats.  The Neville Brothers help out with rhythmic tightness, vocals and some funky arse grooves.

"Drums>Space" kinda destroys the vibe a bit, but the second Dylan cover of the night is an all time classic, with the Neville's supporting, the group kills it with "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", this version is pure boosh one of the best the band has done.  Here is a youtube clip of, you know, another decent cover version:

After the Dylan only thing left to do was rock out with the two night closing rockers "Good Lovin'" with its "LaBamba" licks and Neville rhythmic tinkering before the classic "Johnny B. Goode" which the crew on stage managed to do; Be Good, Powerfully.  The Neville's and The Dead were quite a pair. 

Re-listening to this show you can feel that wild NOLA spirit throughout, even if they were playing in Pittsburgh.  It is in the funkiness of "Shakedown St" or "Feel Like a Stranger", the Mississippi country back water of "Big River" the Partying vibe of "Iko Iko" or the majesty of the "Knockin" or the Rockin' of "Johnny B Goode".  It's all there, and I can't wait to get down to that town.  Enjoy this show...

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