Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 11/14/2017 (Live) Digital
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Let us pause for a moment to praise some of the hardest-working people on the planet – those insanely dedicated individuals who toil on road crews for touring bands, and especially the men and women who have served in those roles for the Grateful Dead and its performing offspring for over five decades. These are the rock ‘n’ roll heroes that most people never see or know by name, but are every bit as essential to making the music happen as the musicians themselves – the people who work the longest hours, do the heaviest lifting and have to attend to the countless logistical and technical details that assure everything will work as seamlessly as possible at show time. We call this to your attention here because, as you might notice, Dead & Company played their two shows at Madison Square Garden on non-consecutive nights. This is because when attempting to book shows into multi-purpose facilities like the Garden, bands and their promoters are at the mercy of the schedules of the professional sports teams that are the building’s principal tenants. And so it was in this case – the New York Knicks had games on tap for November 11th, 13th and 15th. Which meant that the Dead & Company crew had to wait until the first of those games was over and the basketball court and seats removed before they could load in the band’s gear and set up the stage, sound and lights in the wee small hours of the 12th, start breaking everything down and storing it the moment the first show was over, start the whole process over after the game on the middle day, and then clear out for the Knicks yet again immediately after the show on the 14th, loading everything into the trucks headed for the next show in Philly. So, the next time you go to a show… thank the crew!
Of course, all that hard work pays off the moment the house lights go down and you hear that roar of anticipation from the crowd, and Dead & Company’s second night at the Garden was no exception, from the opening jam that built into a rip-roaring “Hell In A Bucket” to the full-out “U.S. Blues” encore – with highlights in between including a rollicking “Tennessee Jed,” a beautiful “Bird Song,” the “Help On The Way>Slipknot>Franklin’s Tower” triptych, a post-drums sequence that includes a visit to the first movement of John Coltrane’s masterpiece “A Love Supreme,” a moving “Stella Blue” and a powerhouse second set-closing coupling of “St. Stephen” and “Not Fade Away.”