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

Santana with Ozomatli: 10/17/1999

Santana is always great in concert, but this concert was especially nice since he had Ozomatli opening, and members of Ozomatli joined Carlos and his band during their set.

My wife and I went to this show with some acquaintances, another couple who we sort of knew but were not really friends with. The concert was at Coral Sky Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, which is your typical amphitheatre. There are seats in the front half and an open field in the back. We had seats, which was nice.

I was not very familiar with Ozomatli at this time, but they came out and totally rocked. I was really impressed with their sound and energy, and during their last song, they all picked up percussion instruments and walked out among the audience, jamming like a conga line. It was the perfect opener for Santana.

Santana was, as I said, amazing. His tone and the clarity of his guitar work are the signs of a musical virtuoso. He played a great mix of his classic music, as well as songs from his then new album, “Supernatural,” which I think is an incredible album and one I was listening to quite a bit at that time. The only down side about this show was the drive home. We lived in Miami at the time, so it was a bit of a long trek back from West Palm.

Anyway, here’s the setlist. Rock and roll!

  • Spiritual / (Da Le) Yaleo / Hannibal (with Ozomatli)
  • Migra (with Ozomatli)
  • Put Your Lights On (with Ozomatli)
  • Santana Sandwich
  • Day of Celebration
  • Victory Is Won
  • Maria Maria (with Ozomatli)
  • Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile)
  • Smooth
  • Bacalao con pan (with Ozomatli)
  • Make Somebody Happy / Get It in Your Soul
  • Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen
  • Oye como va
  • Everybody’s Everything
  • Love of My Life
  • Jin-go-lo-ba