When I put that shot of the Grateful Dead in the banner a few days before the end of 2008, my intention was to take it down on Jan. 1.
The boys, however, had other plans.
The remaining members of the band announced plans on New Year’s Day for a spring tour, from North Carolina to California, through April and into early May.
Collaboration among the guys — Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann — has been rare since the completion of their last tour in the summer of 2004. That was a good one, as was the tour the previous summer, and The Wife and I got to see a half-dozen or so very good shows, especially towards the end of the 2004 tour in Camden. But tensions over business stuff and Internet downloads of the original band’s material got in the way, and there weren’t many chances to see everyone — especially Bobby and Phil — on the same stage together.
The problems seemed to resolve themselves, as they usually do. The download debate brought about a new policy at the Internet Archive that almost everyone could live with; the business stuff was handed over to Rhino Records, which has been steadily putting out new stuff after a fumble and an extremely slow start.
That changed a little over a year ago, when the Dead did a show in San Francisco to both endorse and fill the coffers of the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. That show was nice, but perhaps a bit tentative. The one they played in State College last fall was better, and it seemed pretty clear at that point there was an excellent chance we might get a full-blown tour out of the deal.
I didn’t see the State College show — the ethics code of my profession says I can’t attend political functions unless I’m covering them — but the tapes sounded sharp. And from what I read, it seemed like the guys had enough fun that they thought they’d give it another try.
The spring tour looks promising. It’s all indoor venues — including Madison Square Garden, the site of some legendary shows by the original GD. And although there are no Pittsburgh, Columbus or Cleveland shows — and the Buffalo date is on a Tuesday — there are two at the old Philly Spectrum that fall on May 1 and 2, a Friday and a Saturday. That barn hosted a bunch of shows — 53, according to Wikipedia — in the old days, and it’ll be great to shake those rafters again.
I think it’s a bit ironic that it took a presidential campaign to get Bob and Phil back together; Garcia was notoriously apolitical, and I have to wonder if appearing on behaf of any candidate would have ever been an option if he were still around. But — whatever the reason, I’m happy to have them back for a few nights this spring. I’ve seen Ratdog and Phil and Friends several times in the interim, and while those are always fun, seeing the full band is much closer to being the real thing.
It’s been too long. I need it. And I’m going to get it.