Guest Post from Ted Birkhahn
The past Saturday night, the Dead (formerly known as the Grateful Dead) rolled into the Big Apple to play Madison Square Garden – sans Jerry Garcia, of course. For those of you who have a passion for the band and their music, the Garden is arguably the best venue to experience a show. Great things tend to happen at MSG and, as Jerry Garcia used to say, "the place is juiced."
One of the greatest parts of any Dead show is its spontaneity. There is nothing like a live performance featuring the Grateful Dead. No two shows are alike – despite playing nearly 3,000 live concerts over more than 40 years – prompting much anticipation among fans who dream of hearing set lists that will "steal your face right off your head." Their spontaneity and ability to improvise on stage is what the Dead built their brand on over the course of 40 years. It's what prompted so many fans to fall in love with not just the music but the whole experience, compelling them to come back night after night.
So there I was on Saturday night at MSG, with a flood of memories from past Garden shows racing through my mind, when the unthinkable happened. About midway through the first set, a friend of mine – who was busy checking his Blackberry – leaned over and fed me the next song before one first chord was played. Impressive. Then he did the same for the next song. Weird.