It has been over 50 years since this “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been” began. In 1965 a small group of musicians from the San Francisco area formed the Grateful Dead. Gerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann were the founding members. Two years later they decided to add a second drummer and Micky Hart joined the band. For 30 years the band was known for their amazing live shows and their fanatic fans, the Deadheads. Over the years I have heard people boast about seeing band X 20, 30 or even 50 times. But back in the 70s and 80s, the Deadheads were known to travel all around the country to see as many shows as they could. I remember back in 1980 seeing the Dead at Compton Terrace (where the ASU baseball team now plays). I was photographing the show at that time and talked to a number of Deadheads. There was one group of 4 people at the show that told me this was their 30th show on this tour so far and they were planning on following the band for a number of other shows. I have heard some Deadheads claim to have seen the band over 100 times. While waiting to get into the venue tonight, I talked to a number of fans that had seen the show the previous night in Las Vegas and they just drove over to Phoenix to see it again. That is true dedication.
In 1995 Gerry Garcia died. A number of people have been bitching on Twitter and Facebook that this tour is not really the Grateful Dead without Gerry. I will agree that the original band is missing one of its great members, but we still have a couple of founding members playing the band’s music. Just because Gerry is no longer with us does not mean we can’t still enjoy the music he made. This tour is really a celebration of the Grateful Dead music played by original members of the band and other great musicians that want to also play this great music.
The show started just after 8pm with the band playing “Feel Like a Stranger”. Taking center stage was guitarist Bob Weir taking over lead vocals. Just like at a Grateful Dead show, they had the dual drum kit setup played by Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. They were joined by newcomer John Mayer on guitar and vocals. To round out the band they were joined by bassist Oteil Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti. Just like at the 1980 show, there were a large number of people dancing in the isles and almost everyone else was dancing in their seats. For the second song of the set, “Bertha”, John Mayer took over vocals and did a very impressive job. Bob and John’s guitar work complimented each other just like when Gerry and Bob did in the past. Both Mickey and Bill were great on drums. They seemed to have their grooves back and were in sync laying down the beat for the band.
Just hearing the band, it did make me relive the concert back in 1980. If you are a Deadhead or just love Grateful Dead music, then you really need to see this show. The band is amazing and John Mayer does a great job of filling in with Bob Weir.
Review and Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents / Live Nation
Venue: Ak-Chin Pavillion
Date: Saturday May 28, 2017
Photos © by Fred Kuhlman 2017