After trying out The Other Ones, the four members of the Grateful Dead first appeared as The Dead on Valentine’s Day 2003. Then they embarked on a 29-date summer tour that found its way to Tampa and the St. Pete Times Forum (neither the paper nor the arena is named that any more) on a Wednesday night, July 30th.
I had purchased my tickets in advance, but I also had a discussion with a friend at a summer workshop for math teachers. She mentioned that her husband’s work had a luxury box, but the discussion didn’t go any further. That Wednesday was the first day for teachers in our county, and I was geared up for the show (and I had never seen Bob Dylan before). I decided to check teacher email one more time before we left school.
There was an email from Kim. Her husband wasn’t going to use his tickets, and did I want them? You might imagine my speedracer skills as I made it to his work location and then everything else to get ready for the 6 PM show. When we arrived, I sold my other tickets, but not to the dude who told me how much Dylan sucked the night before.
The seats I had purchased were on the first level, but they were all the way in the back of the huge arena. But that was not where we were sitting. We were in a luxury box with twice as many comfy seats as people, free beer and wine, free food, and a vantage point way up front. Totally blown out by the kindness from Kim and her husband.
I really enjoyed the Dylan set. He played keyboards most of the time, as I recall. I heard new songs and old favorites, and you could understand him for the most part. The band was really solid. I enjoyed “Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine” most, along with “Highway 61 Revisited.”
My last Grateful Dead show was 04/07/95 in Tampa, which I loved (no grey area on that show when you talk to fans), so I was really looking forward to this. I had seen Jimmy Herring first playing with Jazz is Dead, so I knew he was a lock, and I had read great things about keyboard players Rob Barraco and Jeff Chimenti. The unknown was Joan Osborne. Joan Osborne? Really? Relish was a great album, especially “St. Teresa,” but I was really curious as to how this would work out.
Silly me. She was spectacular, perfect in the role.
“Help on the Way > Slipknot” was a lovely way to start the show, Bob Weir up front and personal. After a while, they slipping into “Friend of the Devil,” and then there was a pause. Bobby sang a beautiful “Blackbird” (while stage preparations were being made), and then Dylan appeared (but not on the official Dead recordings that summer!). He joined in on “Friend of the Devil” before firing up a superb “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”
For a transition, The Dead launched into Miles Davis’ classic “Milestones,” straight up. Osborne joined Phil Lesh in on a powerful “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” before owning “Night of a 1000 Stars” with her soaring vocals. A fine jam led to “Lost Sailor > Tennessee Jed > Saint of Circumstance” and the end of the first set.
Robert Hunter did a solo set during the break. I had never seen him before and was very pleased with his performance. His importance as a lyricist cannot be overstated. Start to finish, it was a welcome interlude.
The short review of Dead set two is: space jam to the power of space jam. It began with, of course, a very spacey jam that found its way into “Jack Straw.” Herring was on top of his game both sets. Another space jam flowed into “Mountains of the Moon,” Lesh leading the way on vocal.
And that’s when the trip began. Mickey Hart was in charge of “Only the Strange Remain,” and it was gloriously out there. It got really spacey, and all of a sudden I could see what was coming as Herring and Lesh were building up steam like a locomotive. Osborne began growling and moaning and “WOOO”-ing like Howlin’ Wolf, and suddenly she became Pigpen smack dab in the middle of “Caution (Do Not Stop On the Tracks),” which I readily admit is one of my favorite Dead tunes.
While all of this madness was swirling around on stage with the stop-and-start sections of “Caution,” there were two young ladies standing in the back of the luxury box, perhaps mid-’20s. And one of them said, to nobody in particular,
“THIS IS OUR FIRST CONCERT EVER!”
I was beginning to feel sorry for concert number two.
Osborne was mesmerizing during “Caution,” which yielded to “Drums” and “Space,” somewhere in there involving Hart striking “the beam,” whatever that was. He and Bill Kreutzmann were all over everything in their display. The ballad out of “Space” was “So Many Roads.” Then the band picked up “Slipknot!” where they’d left it at the beginning of set one (I suspicioned they’d get back to this), and naturally that became “Franklin’s Tower,” Osborne’s and Bobby’s voices intertwining to a magical end.
Lesh did his donor rap before the encore, a bouncy “Johnny B. Goode.” Herring certainly was.
It was a great day all the way around. (I enjoyed seeing Osborne three years later with Phil and Friends.)
And I do wonder about that second concert!
[DYLAN: Silvio, If You See Her Say Hello, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere^, Highway 61 Revisited, Saving Grace, The Wicked Messenger, Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine^, Honest With Me, Summer Days^, E: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35]
^ with Robert Hunter
[HUNTER: Standing On The Moon, Tiger Rose, Easy Wind > Mr. Charlie, Scarlet Begonias, Stella Blue, Boys In The Barroom, Ripple]
[DEAD I: Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Friend of the Devil Intro@ > Blackbird@ > Friend of the Devil@*, Gotta Serve Somebody*, Like a Rolling Stone*, Milestones > Why Don’t We Do It in the Road > Night of 1000 Stars > Jam > Lost Sailor > Tennessee Jed > Saint of Circumstance; SET II: Jam > Jack Straw > Jam@ > Mountains of the Moon@, Only the Strange Remain > Caution > Drums > Space > So Many Roads > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower; E: Johnny B. Goode]
*- with Bob Dylan ; @-just Bob, Phil, Billy, and Mickey; Vocals: Help (Bob); Do it in the Road (Phil and Joan); 1000 Stars (Joan); Tennessee (Bob and Joan); Caution (Joan); Franklin’s (Phil and Joan)
(Only “Gotta Serve Somebody”; First “So Many Roads”; Most Recent “Gotta Serve Somebody”)
Bob Weir, guitar, vocals; Phil Lesh, bass, vocals; Bill Kreutzmann, drums & percussion; Micky Hart, drums & percussion; Joan Osborne, vocals; Jimmy Herring, guitar; Rob Barraco, keyboards; and Jeff Chimenti, keyboards.