Tuesday, February 5, 2008
REVIEW: Deadheads for Obama, Monday, SF Warfield
The Grateful Dead triumvirate of Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir were fired up Monday at the Warfield, by Obama, by a heady room of Dead friends and by the unlikely addition of young Sacramentan Jackie Greene on vocals and guitar.
Greene captures a lot of the laid-back and fragile midrange vocals that were the essence of Jerry Garcia, something no one has done since his death in 1995. As unlikely as it seems, this rail thin 27-year old Asian American seems born for the part, playing in front of a stuffed Jerry Garcia doll, and channeling Garcia's voice, back when he was 28.
He breathed life into the Dead, although, with their huge sideband, they were fired up anyway...
I'm going to post video of the show and press conference, and some of what I sent off to the Premiere Radio network for its stations.
From Premiere: It was Barack Obama who brought together three of the suriviving Grateful Dead members, who haven't played together in four years, for a hastily-organized show at San Francisco's Warfield Theater, the day before Super Tuesday christened "Fired Up and Ready to Go!, Deadheads for Obama."
You could take that more than a few ways. The band, led by Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart, was fired up and revived, playing three sets, including an acoustic one with songs such as "Deal" and "Friend of the Devil" that were remarkably inspired and true. That could be largely attributed to the addition of new young gutiarist and vocalist Jackie Greene, a Sacramento roots rocker who joined the last Phil and Friends tour, and whose voice channels lost leader Jerry Garcia, who died in 1995.
Then there was the political fire, as all three members gave a press conference and later spoke to the audience, imploring them to vote for Obama, whom they described as a "real statesman," the kind who comes along "every few generations."
The press conference was filled with rookies who were cribbing wikipedia bios of the Dead. It made for some great questions, like "Do you guys like each other?"
Weir gave the great answer for their sometimes dysfunctional family: "blood is thicker than water, and what we have is thicker than blood."
Deadheads wanted know: Where was surviving member Billy Kreutzmann? They said still in Hawaii, busy. (But guitarist Barry Sless flew in from Hawaii for the show. )
And of course, this being a Dead show (although the band was named Deadheads for Obama on this night), there was the haze of marijuana fired up in the air. Probably not something the candidate wanted to be photographed around.
He did, however, send a video, in which he thanked Phil, Bobby and Mickey, like they were old friends. He drew the night's only boos, when he told the audience: "I want everyone to sit down and enjoy there show."
No one was sitting for this one. Not for a minute.
The beefed-up band included Steve Molitz on keys, John Molo on drums and guitarists Barry Sless and Mark Karan, and the music was sublime. There were strong reinterpretations of traditional songs, such as "Playing in the Band," "Brown-Eyed Women," "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo," "China Cat Sunflower" and one that Weir said had "particular significance," the Beatles' "Come Together."
They were pumped up by Greene's phrasing on organ and guitar and Sless and Karan who wandered around picking up a pedal steel here and a lead guitar there.
Lesh and crew said they'd never before played for a political candidate, "but these are desperate times," said Hart. All three said the last candidate who inspired them like this was Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968.
Tickets for $35 sold out moments after the show was announced on the Dead's website last Friday. Obama/Dead shirts marking the occasion for $30 sold out before the show started.
Fans lined up for hours beforehand, holding up the traditional single finger, asking for a "miracle ticket." Many said the show inspired them to get out and vote Tuesday.
Added one, Ben Marks, 52, who couldn't get in, "If Barack Obama can bring together Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, then maybe he really can unifity this country."