Grateful Dead Revival
The Other Ones - Alpine Valley - E. Troy, WI
[August 3, 2002]
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2002, Volume 9, #9
Written by John Metzger
For all intents and purposes, the Grateful Dead is back. Not that Ratdog hasnít been doing a damn fine job of keeping the spirit alive and well. But on August 3, the four remaining founding members of the legendary band ó Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir ó reunited as The Other Ones for the first of two shows at Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wisconsin, and unlike many high expectation, Dead-oriented events, this one was a blockbuster.
Not surprisingly, the concert served as a loving tribute to the dearly departed Jerry Garcia, whose spirit was intertwined with everything from the selection of songs to the textured spaces between each note that was played by the ensemble. "I know you rider, gonna miss me when Iím gone," the group sang with utter adoration. "All I know is something like a bird with him sang," crooned Lesh, making a minor alteration to the lyrics of Bird Song to suit the theme. But for sheer emotional overload, one needed to look no further than the opening salvo, which included a stunningly gorgeous improvisation on Heís Gone, the prayer-like invocation of Cryptical Envelopment, the furious assault of The Other One, and the joyous Feel Like a Stranger that in itself begged the question on everyoneís mind ó "And I canít stop wondering/Just what you got./Get the feeling Iím gonna find out real soon." Of course, by this point, everyone knew they were in for a long and wild ride.
The Other Ones proceeded to delve into the Grateful Dead catalog with renewed vigor, tackling each song and stretching it to its limit in the groupís own uniquely classic style. The Music Never Stopped was blissful; Dark Star was liquid; Born Cross-Eyed broiled like the days of old; One More Saturday Night absolutely rocked; and tucked in the middle was the relatively new Mickey Hart composition Baba Jingo, which bubbled with Santana-like glee. For an ensemble performing its first concert, The Other Ones was as tight as could be. Of course it helps that the core quartet had played together on and off for the better part of the past thirty-five years, and united, they make for the best damn rhythm section in rock ínĎ roll. The god-like drumming of Kreutzmann, the textured percussion of Hart, the leaping lead bass blasts of Lesh, and the fine-tuned and fabulously finessed guitar of Weir all seamlessly merged to propel the songs forward with immaculate precision, insatiable voracity, and a sense of unparalleled exploration.
As for the rest of the band ó guitarist Jimmy Herring and keyboardists Rob Barraco and Jeff Chimenti ó they fit quite nicely into the fray, keeping pace and rarely straying too far outside the malleable boundaries of each sensually swirling jam. Chimenti, in particular, added subtle textures to many of the tunes, painting each with sweeping brush strokes of shimmering color.
It was Herring, however, who had the biggest shoes of all to fill. At times, he did so quite admirably, offering his own interpretation of the songs, rather than copping Garcia note-for-note. But his adoption of many of Garciaís tonal effects drew comparisons that occasionally made his solos difficult to digest for it highlighted the greatest deficiencies in his style. Namely, Herring is a technically proficient guitarist ó the type of player whose lightning speed sends orgasmic shivers up and down the spines of guitar enthusiasts. This, however, is exactly what separates the most competent guitarists from the greatest ones, the Jeff Becks and Joe Satrianis of the world from the Carlos Santanas and the Jerry Garcias. The former are focused on cramming as many notes as possible into the shortest span of time. The latter understand that the notes that arenít played are as important as those that are.
Either way, as a whole The Other Onesí debut proved to be a richly rewarding experience. True, the group was well-rehearsed, and it remains to be seen if the ensemble can pull off this kind of magic over the course of an entire tour. But at least for one night, the founding members of the Grateful Dead were reunited on stage in a majestically moving and deeply spiritual ceremony that invoked the bandís beautiful brand of sonic sorcery. No doubt, Jerry Garcia was looking down on the occasion and smiling brightly.
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