Saturday, October 25, 2008



10/13/04 - PJ Harvey @ 9:30 Club - Washington, DC

You'd think I'd be a huge PJ Harvey fan. You know I love me some rock chicks. She's angry, kind of dark and a little disturbing. Right up my alley. But for some reason she never clicked with me. I haven't really made an effort though. I'll admit that. I did pick up To Bring You My Love just before this show. I do like it, but I didn't give it enough to settle-in. So I ended up going into this show pretty cold.

I thought she was really good, but not quite the goddess some of her fans seem to think. My friends seemed to think she was having a slightly off-night. My old review is here. I'd gladly go see her again but this show was kind of pricey. $35. Ouch. Maybe I'll dig into her catalog more before making that decision.

10/13/2008 - Change Rocks (The Dead and The Allman Brothers Band) - Bryce Jordan Center - Penn State

Like the 10/11/87 R.E.M. show, this was the perfect storm of events. The Dead are reuniting. The Allman Brothers are opening. It's at Penn State. It's on a holiday weekend. It's a benefit for Obama. The only way this could get any better would be if they gave out free beer. (They didn't.)

My old college roommate/Dead touring buddy drove up from NC for this. We got in town mid-day Sunday. Spent the afternoon wandering around campus. Perfect day - unseasonably warm and sunny. As with most visits to PSU, our evening ended at Zeno's. We were surprised to see that it wasn't very crowded. Sunday used to be a big night there. No live entertainment either. Oh well. We met some people that came down from Canada for the show and had a fun night.

Doors for the show were at 5:30, so we got to the parking lot early - like just before noon, I think. Early enough that I decided to head to The Creamery for coffee, rather than getting the party started immediately. We got a great parking spot on the edge of the lot in the shade, with a clear view of Mt. Nittany. As luck would have it, we parked a few cars away from Uncle Sam.

The lot was fun. Nothing nearly like it was in the old days, but a very familiar vibe. Hung out in a drum circle for a while. Talked with our neighbors who had come from Vermont. Found myself a spiffy Penn State Stealie shirt. Nice, relaxing, sunny afternoon, filled with good beer, music and fun.

We didn't want to miss the Allmans, so we headed in a little before 5:00. We stood in line for our wristbands and learned that we had to go to the exact opposite side of the arena to get to the floor. Good planning. Luckily, that single stairwell was really tight and crowded, too. You may want to re-think that one. Anyway, we were walking across the floor as the lights went down for the Allmans. Most people stayed outside and we easily secured a spot about 10 feet back on the right. Excellent.

The Allman Brothers played for about 2 hours, I guess. Mostly a greatest-hits set, which was fine by me. Susan Tedeschi (Derek's wife, I think) came out and sang a few songs, too, including a cover of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice..." The Allman Brothers sounded fine, but I still have a hard time watching them without Dickey. Warren is great. Derek is great. It just seems incomplete though. They're never anything less than fun these days, but it ain't like it used to be. Not for me anyway. Oddly, the highight of the set for me may have been Warren covering Van Morrison's "And It Stoned Me." Anyway - They were fun, sounded good and the 2 hours flew by.

Setlist: Revival, Statesboro, Who's Been Talking, Midnight Rider, One Way Out, And It Stoned Me (Warren), Dreams, Don't Think Twice (Susan), Any Day (Susan), Melissa, Trouble No More, Ain't Wasting Time No More, Jessica Encore: Whipping Post.

A lengthy set break, then we got some of the local "Get out the vote" folks up there talking to us for a bit. Jaypa came out with a few guys from the team and they pretty much did the same. Everyone seemed pretty generic with their messages. It was mostly "Go Vote" rather than "Go Vote For Obama." Finally, we got a video from Obama thanking The Dead and the Allmans for their support. He threw in a line about having a "touch of grey" (a Dead reference) and how he hopes we're not "wasting time no more" (an Allman reference), which got lots of applause. Nice gesture on his part. Getting a raving endorsement from The Grateful Dead can be a mixed blessing for a political candidate.

On came The Dead. They played one long 2+ hour set. The setlist was a deadhead's dream. They pretty much ignored anything that might be considered a 1st set song and just hit the jamming songs all night. Warren filled-in on guitar. Here's the setlist:

US Blues
Help On The Way
Franklin's Tower
Playin' in the Band
Dark Star
St. Stephen
Unbroken Chain
The Other One
Throwing Stones
Playin' Reprise

Touch Of Grey
Not Fade Away

Unfortunately, I don't think the playing held up to the killer setlist. At times they were amazing, but there were also plenty of times that they weren't. "Truckin'" went on about 5 minutes too long. The jam kind of fell apart before the end. Rather than rolling into the next song, it's like they started a completely unrelated jam and went on for about another 5 minutes. That jam also fell apart. "US Blues" was expected, but nothing special. It sounds like it's been demoted from "fun, bouncy rock-song" to "lazy shuffle." One of my pet peeves: If you don't remember the first line, don't start the song. That was the case when Bobby jumped up for the opening line of "Help On The Way." Like the "Truckin'" jam, "Slipknot" seemed to fall apart - to the point the when it was time to wind-up the jam section, they came to a complete stop and Bobby had to count them off to pick it up again.

The "Playin'" and "Dark Star" were quite nice, with the latter having a nice, long, drippy intro and each member taking a couple lines from the verses. The jamming here was very, very nice. My favorite of the night was probably "Unbroken Chain." It's one of the few songs that Phil sings that actually sounds good. I thought they nailed it. The rest of the songs were quite good. No Drums though, which was a little disappointing.

Maybe I just needed to adjust my expectations. Maybe I was hoping for too much. But to me it just seemed like they hadn't rehearsed enough. Maybe they didn't, because of Bob's bus accident. The jamming was pretty unfocused. The transitions between songs were sloppy or non-existent. Don't get me wrong. I had a great time. It was wonderful to hear those songs again. And when they were on, they were on. I think my review paints a more negative picture than what I really think. Overall, they were really good. There were just some rough spots. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

There are rumors of a Spring Tour. I'd be up for hitting a few shows. With a little more rehearsal, they could be amazing.

Great weekend. Great cause. Good show.

I reserve the right to completely change my mind about everything after I go back and listen to the show. :)

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