Bryce Jordan Center, Pennsylvania State University
State College, PA
October 13, 2008
Filmed greeting by Senator Barack Obama
Help On The Way>
Playing In The Band>
The Other One>
Touch of Grey>
Not Fade Away
Review by GDForum member Robert Hollander (via email)
My name is Robert Hollander. I live in Binghamton, NY and just returned from the Bryce Jordan Center show with my son (his first Dead show). You asked for some reviews, and since this was a remarkable show I'm glad to oblige.
The Allmans played an excellent two hour set featuring some old favorites like "Jessica", "One Way Out", "Sweet Melissa", "Statesboro Blues", and then some tasty covers, Warren singing, "And It Stoned Me", then joined by Susan Tedeschi for "Don't Think Twice It's Alright", and Derek and the Dominos' "Anyday" (wow!). The encore was a blistering "Whippin' Post."
After a number of short speeches in support of Obama at the intermission by Penn State faculty, as well as a number of the college's basketball stars (one player said, "I'm a drummer and I'm really into Mickey Hart!" which got a round of applause), a video came on the screen of a smiling Barack addressing the audience, thanking the musicians, quoting a little Robert Hunter, and introducing the Dead. That's my kind of President.
The roar when the Dead came out was enormous. Fortunately, the brilliant Warren Haynes volunteered to play guitar for another 2-1/2 hours on top of the 2 he had just put in with the Allmans - and honestly he seemed to be channeling Jerry. For those who want the exact songlist, it's easily found on numerous websites. I'll give you the rough draft and the basic hit of the show - forgive me if it's not perfect. To begin, though, I have to refer back to what I thought was a lame "reunion" show - the one for Obama at the Warfield in SF. That one didn't have Billy on drums, and had Mark Karan on guitar (yes, I know he's good - but Warren is truly great). That particular formulation never gelled and the whole thing felt sort of half-assed.
Last night was a totally different story. The Dead roared out of the gate, opening with "Truckin'" into "U.S. Blues" (Columbus Day!). Then a super "Help On The Way" into "Slipknot" into "Franklin's Tower", and before you could catch your breath "Playing In the Band" takes off. They sounded great, energetic and enthusiastic, and you felt it was the kind of night where they were ready to really roll up their sleeves and do it. And do it they did. The meandering jam of "Playing" eventually morphed into "Dark Star" Even my 11-year old son knows how great that is! The long, psychedelic "Star" jam eventually resolved quietly and (shades of Live Dead) into "St. Stephen." The audience, as you might imagine, was ecstatic with high-fives and whoops and hugs all around, cell phones lighting up with folks taking pix or calling friends to tell them what was happening and letting them have a listen.
I might be missing a song here, but after some generous jams eventually the end of "Stephen" returned, and the answer to the answer man was, yes folks, "Unbroken Chain." At this point I was worried that I was going to wake up and that this had all been a dream because it was such a Deadhead's fantasy set list. Then as "Unbroken Chain" came to it's melancholy ending, instead of staying with the mellowed out mood, they broke into a fierce "Other One" with Phil absolutely blasting the classic opening riff.
This, after a good, solid exploration, slipped into "Throwing Stones" which was perfect for the theme of the night. You really felt it resonate throughout the hall. Then jamming out of the conclusion of "Throwing Stones" you could hear that "Playing" return coming - strangely the house lights came up but the boys just kept jammin' away, ignoring this odd turn of events, and in about five minutes they won the arm wrestle with an apparent cutoff time) and it just felt that much sweeter when the "Playing" return finally came around. One of my favorite Dead signatures is the "Playing" bookend, and it worked beautifully to end the set. They went off to a deafening ovation, and I was so blissed out that I did not immediately realize that there was no Rhythm Devils section (although Billy and Mickey played great all night - as did everyone involved).
They came back out and Phil, Bob, and Mickey each spoke briefly about their causes and the encore was a generous double scoop, "Touch of Grey" into "Not Fade Away!" Of course, everbody did the clapping call and response at the end of "Not Fade", and I choked up a bit as I looked at my son standing next to me clapping in time and singing out, "Know our love will not fade away." I just didn't think this could ever happen. It was a really, really special night.