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The Dead in D.C., a Stirring, Smoky Bipartisan Show

Musician Bob Weir performs during "An Evening With The Dead" on April 12, 2009 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Updated, 2:22 p.m.

Last night's Dead show in Washington was like hanging out with a long lost, dear friend after many years. We just picked up where we left off.

Clearly Tipper Gore felt the same way. She boogied down on stage, just off Warren Haynes's left shoulder to "Uncle John's Band," and the rousing closer, "Ripple."

The teeming masses of nostalgic (and newbie) Deadheads obliged when bassist Phil Lesh shouted, "Give a big hand for Tipper Gore!" (Lesh, a liver transplant survivor, also urged his fans to become organ donors.)

The former vice president's wife, who was not accompanied by Al, wasn't the only political celebrity digging the four-hour long reunion concert, the second of the band's Spring 2009 tour.

Also there were Obama senior aides David Axelrod, Pete Rouse and Jim Messina, who met with all the surviving members of the Grateful Dead - plus Haynes and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti - at the White House on Monday evening after President Obama hosted the band for a private meeting in the Oval Office.

Last night's crowd was predictably loaded with lefty "Deadheads for Obama" as well as the usual pot-smoking and tripping Deadheads of no political persuasion whatsoever, other than the Party of Jerry. (And yes, plenty - we dare say lots - of people were smoking some sort of sweet green stuff inside the Verizon Center. Note to editors: the Sleuth was horrified.)

But we also spotted plenty of conservatives digging the show. Hardcore conservatives.

As Tipper was on stage swaying her hips, on the other side of the stage, in a suite just off Bob Weir's right shoulder, was Barry Jackson, the longtime deputy to Karl Rove who worked all eight years, right up to the bitter end, in the Bush White House.

Barry was boogeying like nobody's business - through the hour-long rendition of "Dark Star" into the encore.

There were other conservatives there, too, including two senior aides to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor: the whip's chief of staff, Rob Collins. and Matt Lira, director of new media. (Their boss wasn't there; the congressman much prefers Britney Spears to The Dead.)

Last night was nostalgic, and some moments were magical. The opener, "Cassidy," was terrific and a bit of a tearjerker given that it was the first time any of us had seen the entire band together in over a decade.

Aside from covering the fundraisers that Bobby and Mickey Hart have played over the past several years for Congress' preeminent Deadhead, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Sleuth hadn't seen a real Dead show since 1995 at RFK stadium, the last time Jerry Garcia performed in Washington.

It was great catching up with our old friends again. Hopefully, you will get a chance, too, during the rest of their '09 tour.

UPDATE: We'd like to respond to one of our less friendly commenters, who wrote: "Umm I dont know what show you were at last night, Ms. Slueth, but Tipper Gore actually tried to play the drums during the last song before the encore, Sugar Magnolia, hence why Phil Lesh introduced her prior to his organ donar rap. Mickey Hart also tried to announce, Mrs. Gore but he was too loud in his attempt and his wrods sounded garbled. How you could have missed, Mrs. Gore playing the drums I do not know, as she occasionally had the rhythm but appeared a bit lost most of the time."

Here's why we missed it, and why we're so glad we did: The Sleuth left her seat during space and drums (which, frankly, dragged on too long) to walk around and chat with friends and sources outside and buy a t-shirt. (Dancing bears for the Sleuth, the Dead 2009 t-shirt for Mr. Sleuth.) When we heard the encore we rushed back inside, and found a great spot near the stage. Mrs. Gore had already had her thrill on the drums, playing percussion during "Sugar Magnolia," which according to people around me and others with whom I spoke today, wasn't as good as her dancing. While some cheered the former second lady's attempt to jam with the Dead, others booed. We applaud her for her chutzpah.

For anyone who is interested, here's the set list:
Set 1: Cassidy; Passenger; Pride Of Cucamonga; Easy Wind (Warren vocals); Lazy River Road; Alabama Getaway (Warren vocals); Big Railroad Blue

Set 2: Peggy-O (acoustic); Glory Road (acoustic); A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall (acoustic);
Jam; Dark Star; King Solomon's Marbles; Drums; Space; Come Together; Dark Star;
Sugar Magnolia (Tipper Gore percussion)

Encore: Uncle John's Band; Ripple

By Mary Ann Akers  |  April 15, 2009; 9:51 AM ET
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Jerry looks like he's lost a lot of weight.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | April 15, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Everybody's a comedian, huh?

Posted by: mw11385 | April 15, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Tipper gore on stage with the grateful dead has all the makings of an extremely bad trip. During the recent campaign season, I traveled to Penn State to watch "the Dead". For me it wasn't the glory days reunion described here by the sleuth. The Allman Brothers played first, and I loved every minute of their performance, especially when Susan Tedeschi joined them onstage. The Dead was most notable, though, for what it was not - the psychoriffic aural journey it had always been in my (possibly misspent) youth. Granted, I was under the influence of nothing stronger than a stale mini-pizza and flat soda, but really the absence of Jerry was poignant and somewhat depressing to me. I left the show early, and made a promise to myself to avoid them in the future. I don't in any way begrudge the remaining members their continuing performances, I simply decided that my memories of the full band will always exceed what I could witness live.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | April 15, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

When the Dead were the Other Ones, who was missing? Haven't Bobby and Phil played plenty of times since with at least one of the drummers?

Anyway, love the political take on the show. Any nods to Washington? Tell me they've updated One More Saturday Night to have Barack break out his rockin' shoes.

Posted by: dhanks | April 15, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Umm I dont know what show you were at last night, Ms. Slueth, but Tipper Gore actually tried to play the drums during the last song before the encore, Sugar Magnolia, hence why Phil Lesh introduced her prior to his organ donar rap. Mickey Hart also tried to announce, Mrs. Gore but he was too loud in his attempt and his wrods sounded garbled. How you could have missed, Mrs. Gore playing the drums I do not know, as she occasionally had the rhythm but appeared a bit lost most of the time.

Posted by: joebankin | April 15, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

My take on the show is: it was great! Surprises all around. "Pride of Cucamonga", a tricky country song that switches key and time signature for the chorus popped up in the first set. A mini-acoustic set in the middle, covering Dylan's "Hard Rain Gonna Fall", appropriate both literally and metaphorically here in D.C. And then the third set! Space segueing into Dark Star, then into King Solomon's Marbles -- a driving 7/4 tune rarely heard. Back into Dark Star and using something like hemiolia (look it up) producing Sugar Magnolia. Real craftsmanship. Real art!

Posted by: andrewzboard | April 15, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Oops.. spelling: hemiola

Posted by: andrewzboard | April 15, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, without Garcia, they are not the Dead. The other ones are nice and somewhat talented, but not charismatic and engaging.

This is now what you'd consider to be a Dead cover band; and, sadly, one that allows Ms. Censorship to prance around them.

If you never saw the Dead back when they were complete, and when they were playing INDOORS (e.g., Chicago's Uptown Theater), you really never saw the Dead.

Posted by: MikeK3 | April 15, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Ms Sleuth didn't mention that most notable backstage guest, none other than Wavy Gravy himself, comfortably sequestered behind Jeff Chimenti's keyboards.

Whether they are the Grateful Dead or not is up to the beholder. It was damn fine music to me, and I go back to '76 with them. I have no illusions, but when I walked into the venue as Cassidy began you could have told me it was 1977 and I would have believed you.

Posted by: glennw444 | April 15, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

MikeK I agree with you about the lack of Jerry but you come off as an ass since 99% of this tour is INDOORS. Did you mean to write small venue?

Posted by: TheBlazeKing | April 15, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ms Sleuth Its Fred Head Deadhead, You met my Mom and Brothers at the Beav this christmas, we met your husband, hope alls wells.

Anyways my brother and I made it down from Ohio and this was our first time at this venue. I thought everything from the all be it small parking lot scene to the teaming mass of greying and balding heads to be everything I wanted.

Good group of people in my opinion. I know others were disapointed but come on- Jerry's Dead and its been a decade since then. Of course its going to be different, but if you're not having a good time, dont spoil it for someone who has yet to see them. In my opinion I would say go and see them if they're coming to a venue within driving distance and then decide. Warren does a good job on guitar and of course he's not going to play like Jerry, he's a completely different person, but I saw boo to you sir who thinks their only reason for getting on is the money. The music is what makes this machine roll and I like not having burnt out wanna be beggars selling week old grilled cheese just to get a ticket. It classes up the joint and thats my two cents.

By the way Im 23 years old, Ive seen ratdog and phil more times than I can count on two hans, Ive seen great shows and bad and I think this tour has the energy to blow the roof off anywhere they stop.

Posted by: vipr21186 | April 15, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Sleuth sleuth sleuth. I thought I would respond to this as the brother of the post above, because we both met you in Beaver Creek and it was really cool to see you writing about Bobby and the Dead after we talked about the NYE Ratdog shows in San Francisco with you and your husband. Keep up the good work, I love reading your stuff.

P.s. I don't think I could see Mr. Sleuth wearing dancing bears, it's probably a good call on getting him the tour shirt.


Posted by: schumm | April 15, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

The Dead are less than the sum of their parts. Please, let this IRA infusion tour end so the individual bands - Phil and Friends, Ratdog, Government Mule, Allman Brothers, Mickey Hart Band/Planet Drum - hell, even the Trichromes - can get back to doing their own tours. That's where the vibe is these days, not this nostalgia trip.

Hmm - (lately) it's occurred to me, how ironic it is that the individual groups are the regular gigs and the reunion shows with most of the surviving members (lest we forget Donna) are the side project.

Posted by: treetopflyer | April 16, 2009 5:32 AM | Report abuse

Hey Ms Sleuth, I would have done what you did if I was there. Gone to look for something else to occupy my mind while the guys (and gal) wanked it up onstage most of the second set in DC. So no worries about missing Tipper from my perspective. Glad you got back for Uncle John's Band though. It's one that's fun to dance to. :-)

Posted by: angelemerald | April 16, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I have been a fan since the inception. The music is still good but it's not the same without Jerry. I really get a kick out of all the baby deadhead wannabes that look the part and are tying to recapture a time in history that is highly romanticized and was not that great to begin with. I'll still take an old Fillmore or Winterland show anytime. Now we have politicians on stage. Remember Tipper Gore led the effort to censor lyrics back in the mid eighties. But hey, who looked and danced the best?

Posted by: garymucho | April 16, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Blaze King,

I meant that, starting in the '80s to Jerry's last show, the band mostly played outdoor shows. Thus, the sound was not very good. Also, it seemed more about the freaks and less about the music.

Indoors -- and, yes, especially at small venues -- the sound was excellent and they seemed to better concentrate on playing well. They even looked better inside, what with all those stacks of glowing amps and such.

Posted by: MikeK3 | April 16, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

MikeK3 - I've compiled a list of excellent audience recordings up on, both indoors and out, that beg to differ with you. It includes streaming links and links to the download pages at archive. Don't worry, the recordings are up on with the band's knowledge and blessing. It's perfectly legal and free to download audience recordings from there.

My list:

The band's permission for archive to host the shows (scroll down till you reach the "Rights" section:

In any case, the difference was never about indoors and outdoors - it was about Healy or no Healy! :-D

Posted by: treetopflyer | April 16, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

the artilde wrote:

"Last night was nostalgic, and some moments were magical. The opener, "Cassidy," was terrific and a bit of a tearjerker given that it was the first time any of us had seen the entire band together in over a decade."

First off: "the entire band" -- All I need to say.
Secondly: Did you miss the 2003 & 2004 Tours -- Tickets were Half what they're Charging Now, but it was hardly over a Decade Ago. Not to mention the "Deadheads For Obama" show they played in San Fran. the night before Super Tuesday (Feb. '08)

May 31 = Phish @ Phenway

Posted by: mcgrupp10799 | April 16, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

We'll be grateful when they are dead...

Posted by: gooch2 | April 16, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

"Entire band"? Let's not forget Donna, she's still alive, kicking and doing her own musical thing. Where was she?

Of course, "the entire band except the ones we left out" doesn't sell as many tickets. :-p

Posted by: treetopflyer | April 16, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Testing comments.

Posted by: Bob Greiner | April 20, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

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