They fire up the after burners with the upbeat ramp "Tore Up Over You." As Garcia steps back from the mic, he emcees himself in a solo, that he shakes rattles and rolls through. This barn burner blues song is the most rocking feature of night. "Love in the Afternoon" is the first album track for which they are touring to promote. You'll notice the "Cats" banner hanging in the back of the stage on the wide shots of the band. The beautiful spiritual song sung by Maria and Donna, "I'll Be With Thee" comes next. Be careful because this is the song that gets stuck in my head after listening to this show, which is shocking because of the reverence I have for the next song.
I love The Band. I morned for days when Levon Helm died last April, but this is the most heart wrenching version of "Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" ever. The song more resembles "Stella Blue" rather than uplifting version that Levon sang for the LAST time at the Last Waltz later this same year. Listen to Garcia's vocal quiver during "Virgil." Then the dramatic pause Kahn sets Jerry up for the solo. It's a masterpiece. And as they sing "Na na na na na na" they pause again as Jerry sings "Like my brother before meee." The band feels the song deep down in their bones. And just when you think its over, the song chorus is revived as Donna lets out a yell and the band caps song and the set with a pinnacle finish.
They encore with the second album track, "Rhapsody in Red." Like the earlier "Tore Up," Garcia can hardly keep his swiveling body still and John Kahn can barely keep his shaking head still. An electric end to an electric evening.
I'll be back on Friday with a Special Guest blog. If you happen to be in Indianopolis, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art has a feature called "Guitars" running until August 4th. The have guitars by Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Woody Guthrie and Jerry Garcia's "Wolf" on display. Here is a video of the first time Jerry plays the Wolf, at a Hell's Angels wedding reception. Not a bad wedding band to have play your wedding.
Mission, Russian, Tore Up, Love, I'll Be With Thee, Dixie Down, Rhapsody