Grateful Dead and New York City Percussion Ensemble: 9/16/1987

For the second night at Madison Square Garden, we had seats straight back in the lower level. When we got in and took our seats, I noticed something different about the stage—there were chairs set up along the front of the stage. My heart began to race! I immediately assumed that this meant the Dead were going to play an acoustic set. I had never seen the Dead play acoustic, but had heard recordings and was psyched at the prospect. Alas, they did not do an acoustic set, but we were treated to a nice surprise.

The New York City Percussion Ensemble opened the show, unannounced. They were awesome, and had some incredible African dancers accompanying the drummers. One of the people sitting near us said that Babatunde Olatunji was one of the percussionists. I have not been able to confirm this, but I am going with the belief that he was there and that I got to see the legendary drummer perform.

After the drummers, the Dead came out and played two solid sets, so it ended up being quite a long night of music. High points for me were Brent singing “Devil With a Blue Dress > Good Golly Miss Molly,” and a roaring version of “Truckin’” coming out of drums and space.

A side note about this show that is pretty amazing. There were a couple of guys sitting in front of us, and we chatted a bit between sets. Well, after the tour was over and we were all back in South Florida, my friends Julie and Miriam (same friends I was at these shows with) went with me to a Grateful Dead night at a club in Fort Lauderdale. While we were there, these two guys came up to us and said “Hey! Weren’t you at the Dead shows at Madison Square Garden, toward the back, on the second night?” They were the same dudes who were sitting in front of us! We exchanged phone numbers and became close friends. In fact, one of them, Armando, is still one of my closest friends today. It was kind of like some strange twist of fate.

Anyway, here is the full setlist from the show. “New York’s got the ways and means; but just won’t let you be, oh no.”

Set 1:

  • Touch of Grey
  • Scarlet Begonias
  • Little Red Rooster
  • Dire Wolf
  • My Brother Esau
  • High Time
  • Let it Grow
  • Don’t Ease Me In

Set 2:

  • Bertha
  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • Devil With a Blue Dress
  • Good Golly Miss Molly
  • Devil With a Blue Dress
  • He’s Gone
  • Drums > Space
  • Truckin’
  • Wharf Rat
  • Throwin’ Stones
  • Not Fade Away

Encore:

  • Black Muddy River

Santana: 1/27/2018

This show was on our first full day in Las Vegas. My wife and I had arrived the night before and managed to squeeze in seeing Cher at the Park Theater, but Santana was the show we had tickets for well in advance and we were both really looking forward to seeing Carlos in a small venue.

The House of Blues is located in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, which is on the other side of the Strip from where we were staying. Since we had the entire day to kill, we decided to walk the Strip, stop in to a couple casinos, and take in the sights. We did the Venetian, Caesar’s Palace, the Bellagio, and the MGM. There was no shortage of interesting people-watching. We played some games–won a little and lost a little. We were even informed by some caring individuals that we were all going to Hell.

We got to the Mandalay Bay well before showtime, so we decided to eat at the buffet. What a waste! It was mediocre at best, and certainly not worth the price they were charging. For all the talk about the amazing buffets in Vegas, I’m thinking people must be really drunk when they go there, because honestly, it was pretty weak.

Anyway, after dinner, we walked through the veil of tobacco smoke that hung in the casino and got to the House of Blues. We had general admission tickets, which put us in a small pit at the front, very close to the stage. I could have paid more for seats, but Santana is dancing music, and why spend more to sit farther back when I can be closer and able to dance. It was a no-brainer.

The band came out a little after 8:00 and kicked the show off with “Soul Sacrifice.” A perfect opener, in my humble opinion. Then they went right into “Jingo,” and it was just one great jam after another for the rest of the night. At 70 years old, Carlos looked healthy and his guitar playing was as tasteful as ever. And his band was really tight—three drummers and two singers who also played hand percussion instruments, so the rhythms were incredible.

Even after being on my feet for the entire day, I was totally energized by the music and had no problem dancing for the entire show. What a treat to see Carlos up close in such an intimate setting.

Here is the full setlist.

Setlist:

  • Soul Sacrifice
  • Jingo
  • Evil Ways
  • A Love Supreme
  • Watoto Nyada
  • Primavera
  • Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen
  • Oye Como Va
  • Samba Pa Ti
  • Wishing It Was
  • Taboo
  •  Total Destruction
  •  Then Came You
  • Maria Maria
  • Corazon Espinado
  • Foo Foo
  • Carlos Jam > Cindy Solo
  • Smooth
  • Love, Peace and Happiness
  • For the Highest Good

Gratefully Yours: 10/26/1991

GratefullyYours_10-26-91

The world is full of Grateful Dead tribute bands, but this one was unique because it featured Tom Constanten, original keyboardist for the Grateful Dead, along with David Nelson from the New Riders of the Purple Sage.

Summers on the Beach was a stereotypical Fort Lauderdale beach bar, but they used to get some decent acts in there. Being a life-long Dead fan, I was not going to miss this opportunity to see Constanten perform. Also, I do love me some NRPS, so I was psyched to see Nelson too.

The show was a lot of fun. The band sounded great and they really dug deep into the repertoire, playing some choice songs like “Mountains of the Moon” and “The Eleven.” I knew a lot of people there, since South Florida had a pretty close-knit Deadhead community. We all danced and sang along. It was just a fun night of great music.

The coolest thing, though, is that Tom Constanten came out after the show and mingled with the audience, chatting and offering to sign autographs. As you can see, I got my ticket stub signed by him. It was the perfect ending to a great night of live music.

Prince: 3/28/2011

Prince_3-28-11

I confess that I was never a huge Prince fan, but I could appreciate his musicianship. I had passed on opportunities to see him before, but when this show came up, it was close by, reasonably priced, indoors, so I figured might as well check him out live. My wife was really psyched to go, so I bought two tickets, the cheap seats up in the top corner.

We got to Greenville, which is about an hour drive. We went to the ticket check and the person scanned our tickets, looked at the scanner, and told us to go over to a table off to the side, that we had been selected for a seat upgrade. Huh? In all my years of concert going, this was something completely new. We dutifully went and stood in line at the table, and there they reissued us seats right down in the lower level close to the secondary stage. We were pretty excited.

I can’t remember the name of the woman who opened, but she was good. I remember being a little disappointed because Chaka Khan was opening for most of Prince’s shows on this tour, but not the one in Greenville. Still, the person who opened was a great female singer and I enjoyed it.

Prince came out and had the crowd on their feet from the first song and captivated the audience for the whole show. He was excellent. He played all the hits that I wanted to hear, some stuff I was not familiar with, and did a great Sly and the Family Stone medley. His guitar playing was great, his singing was great, and he was totally energetic on stage, dancing like he did in the 90’s. I have to say that I gained a real appreciation for Prince after seeing him live. I now understand the attraction.

“Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999!”

TV on the Radio: 5/11/2015

TvRadio_5-11-15

I was between jobs when this concert came about, so my budget did not permit me to buy a ticket, even though I wanted to go. But I suppose I was fated to attend because I got a call from my friend Arwen who said she had an extra ticket and invited me to go with her. Of course, I could not pass on the opportunity.

I had seen TV on the Radio once before, with Arwen, now that I think about it. It was at a big festival and they played late at night, and were good, but not great. Arwen assured me that they were better other times she had seen them. So, I was looking forward to seeing them in an intimate venue like the Orange Peel.

We got there early enough to catch the first act, Bo Ningen. I have to say I was not impressed with them. We ended up going to the private lounge downstairs and hanging out there until their set was over.

TV on the Radio was great this time. The energy was much higher and they really connected with the crowd in the smaller venue. I confess that since I was not very familiar with their music, I could not name a single song that they played. But that didn’t matter. They were high energy, they sounded great, and I had a fun time dancing my butt off. I don’t need to know the songs to appreciate the music.

Want to thank my friend Arwen again for taking me to this show. It was just what I needed—some great live music to pull me out of my bad space.

New Pornographers: 10/28/2007

NewPornographers_10-28-07

I went with my wife to this concert, and we were both really excited because we both really liked this band… a lot.

For those of you not from Asheville, let me take a moment to describe the Orange Peel. It is a small but great concert venue, holding only about a thousand people. I seem to recall Rolling Stone magazine ranking it among the top 10 small concert venues in the country.

Anyway, the concert was amazing! Neko Case sounded so good, and the whole band was really tight. We danced and rocked until we were sweaty, loving every second.

I don’t have much more to share about this concert. There were no wild stories or unusual encounters; it was just a fun and thoroughly enjoyable evening of live music with the person I love. What could be better?

Here is a clip of the band performing “Bleeding Heart Show,” which is my favorite song by them and was definitely the high-point of the concert for me.