|Cannot help but feel let down|
It had been nearly 20 years since I last saw Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and anything that resembled The Grateful Dead. What I fondly remember is Weir's short shorts, boundless energy, and howling vocals. Lesh was always somewhere in the background, but his bass could be heard. Every now and again he would step out to the mic and lead a sing along that would leave the Dead Heads in a drugged up euphoria. Garcia was the one most likely to flub a lyric (or several), miss a cue, or sleep walk through entire songs. Now that I have some clarity it is not shocking that he died in 1995. Heroin + greasy sandwiches + tour = not good.
Last night marked the 9th and final night of Further's (an enhanced Dead cover band if you will) Capitol Theatre's residency. The good news: Port Chester's Capitol Theatre is a real beauty. Peter Shapiro, the man behind Brooklyn Bowl, has restored the art deco building to beyond its proper form. He has added a state of the art lighting system, impressive sound system and kept more than enough of the old details to please just about everyone. It is, in a word, fantastic If you have ever tried to escape midtown Manhattan on a Friday or Saturday night this venue should be an option. That is, would you rather spend a half hour waiting at the tunnel or driving 70 mph? Port Chester, a working class town surrounded by affluent Rye, NY and Greenwich, CT, is only 30 miles North of NYC.
Now, onto the very, very bad news. Bob Weir ain't that carefree 40 something anymore. At least he wasn't last night. His appearance aside, (think a cross between Wilford Brimley and Gary Busey), Weir looks every bit a senior citizen. That need not be a bad thing. Plenty of nostalgia acts continue to tour the country, even World, with great success. Bruce Springsteen, a mere two years younger than Weir, is tireless and somewhat ageless. Its hard for me to WATCH a two plus hour show. How does he continue to perform them??
The first sign something was amiss came around 8:10pm. For the first 8 shows the band took the stage promptly at 8pm. Soon it was 8:15. 8:20. 8:25. Eventually they made it to their designated spots around 8:30pm. And Weir looked haggard. They broke into "Feel Like a Stranger" which had its moments, but was clearly slowed and hampered by Weir's pace. He was struggling. His voice was cracky. He missed marks and fumbled lyrics. His guitar was noticeably absent.
John Kadlecik, from Dark Star Orchestra, plays the role of new/young/skinny Jerry. Good thing he was in the mix. The second tune, "Brown Eyed Women," was a highlight. In fact, all the "Jerry" songs were done well all things considered.
But Weir is the one front and center here. Lesh takes a more active role when he tours with Phil and Friends. Like the old Dead days he planted himself toward the back of the stage and kept the time.
Last night a more pro active Lesh was needed. It was during "Me and My Uncle," the Dead's MOST played song, that things went terribly wrong. Weir attempted to get to the mic on cue but was several times thwarted by his own confusion. The intro went on and on with band members hoping, praying that Weir would be able to pull it together.
He would not.
As the first set ended, with Weir barely able to stand upright, we all wondered what, if anything, the second set would bring? Lesh and cast had to scramble and edit what they had planned for the second set. These guys are a veteran team and were now responsible for carrying one of their fallen members.
The second set opened with "Scarlet Begonias" which always, transitions into "Fire on The Mountain."
Not last night. Instead they played "Eyes of the World." That was the nail in the coffin. Slow paced songs were not in Weir's playbook last night and before long he was leaning on amps, stumbling clumsily and finally falling to the stage.
He got up like any good prizefighter would. He shrugged off roadie assistance and made his marks as the band played another Jerry song, "The Wheel." His microphone and guitar were never really audible. There was not one scream. Not one signature guitar lick. He was at a different concert altogether. Hell, he was completely absent save for his ragged body.
The Phil song "Unbroken Chain" saw Weir do all he could do to stay alive while seated. It was awkward, oft putting, and sad.
Was he having a serious medical issue? Was he under the influence? Was he gonna be ok?
These are the things I do NOT want to ask myself at a rock show.
This was a night when I was reminded more of my mortality than I can remember at a concert. 20 years ago I was a skinny kid with a future ahead of him. A nice stadium show with buddies getting blasted was an everyday occurrence.
Today I am far heavier, with grayer hair, and a ton more responsibility. If I am going to shell out significant entertainment dollars I want to be reminded of youth, passion, and vigor. In other words, I do not want to be depressed.
Weir and Further play another show in Atlantic City tomorrow night. They may prove last night was a blip or aberration. I sure hope so.
Lesh even gamely came out for a third set (sans Weir) and from what I told performed quite well.
Hell if I know. I was busy heading home wondering where my $100 went. And my youth.
|Merch at The Cap|
|Capitol Theatre Lobby|
|The wonderful Cap Theatre ceiling/light show|
|Weir losing it during "Unbroken Chain" Lesh a real pro.|
|Weir hanging on for dear life (seated)|
|Glass pipes for sale. Shakedown Street alive and well.|
Setlist and another account of last night's debacle
Zags blog with more pics/details of Weir