Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA 11/16/17 (Live) Digital Album
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In addition to its exalted position in history as birthplace of our nation and of the cheesesteak sandwich, Philadelphia is famous as home to some of the toughest-to-please audiences in the world. This is, after all, the place where Santa Claus was booed and pelted with snowballs at an Eagles game. But if Philly fans are no pushovers, once you’ve won them over, they’re yours for life. That was certainly the case with the Grateful Dead who felt that brotherly (and sisterly) love in their many visits to the city from the late 60s on, most frequently at The Spectrum, the arena that played host to the Dead some 53 times between 1968 and 1995. Sadly, the Spectrum had long since closed and been reduced to rubble by the time Dead & Company got up and running, replaced just across the Sports Complex parking lot by the larger and more modern Wells Fargo Center, but the enthusiasm of Philly Dead Heads for this music made the transfer from building to building with no trouble at all, as you’ll hear on this recording from the 2017 Fall tour.
A local reference is always a good way to get an audience firmly on your side, and so it is when the band invokes “PHILADELPHIA, PA!” in the show-opening “Dancing In The Street.” The crowd remains right with them through such first-set highlights as “Row Jimmy,” “Friend Of The Devil” and “Let It Grow.” Opening a second set with “Dark Star” is always a sign of wide-open exploration to come, and this time is no exception, as the band goes to some rewarding improvisatory places, shifts gears into “Truckin’” and then swings into Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin’.” The energy sustains through the rest of the show with fine versions of “Deal,” and “Eyes Of The World,” an always-welcome side trip into Beatlemania with “Dear Prudence” and the set-closing combo of “Uncle John’s Band” and “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad,” followed by an encore of the moving “Black Muddy River.”