Allman Brothers Band / The Dead / The Doobie Brothers
The Gorge Amphitheatre
May 16, 2009
For the last forty years or so, a sure sign that summer had arrived was seeing bands like The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers on the road, rocking hippie masses at the hottest venues of the land. It is safe to say that bands like these helped to build and grow these venues as well as define and shape what summer “touring” is all about in America.
The summer of 2009 is a milestone in rock and roll history and if the road-wise royalty from the original summer of love have anything to say about it, the party just ain’t over until it’s over.
If you play, they (and their grandchildren) will still come.
The Doobie Brothers started the bright and sunny afternoon off on a spiritual foot by performing their classics "Take Me In Your Arms" and "Jesus is Just All Right With Me."
The band sounded well-rehearsed and obviously placed importance on maintaining a tight original harmonic quality to the now classic material.
Early arriving hippies favored the song "Rockin Down the Highway" and sang along to "Takin’ It To The Streets." The colorful all ages audience received this hour and fifteen minute set with smiling, hands in the air enthusiasm.
The Allman Brothers Band arrived with a cool afternoon breeze and moved swiftly to fill the sky with the mellow and accommodating sounds of "Mountain Jam."
Shortly thereafter, in west coast fashion, the air was also filled with sweet smells of summer as the crowd prepared to embark on the evening’s festivities.
Warren Haynes supplied a "Good Morning Little School Girl" and gave it a lingering and softly diminishing finish that suggested he could go on teasing the crowd for as long as the band would have it.
The band didn’t have it for too long before kicking it up a few notches with a rough and rowdy "Statesboro Blues." Gregg then sent out the heartfelt message of "Ain’t Wastin Time No More" with unabashed and beautifully aged vocals.
Set break saw the sun set over the river gorge and made for a great time to stroll around the venue. The entire space is a natural visual delight and as long as the wind is not out in force, the sound is fantastic under the open sky.
This evening offered up quintessential weather and served as the perfect backdrop for the tie dyed crowd.
As the Dead took the stage, a loud and contagious smile spread quickly across the grassy hill and people of all ages hurried to stand on their blankets to get moving to "The Music Never Stopped." A standard over pleased reaction occurred with a very elongated verse one of "Dark Star." Phil Lesh took over with his bass solos and gave the audience something they all seemed to (still) be longing for.
A nice surprise of the first set occurred when Warren Haynes chose to go off the Dead path for a short spell and take the intoxicated crowd "Into the Mystic." Bobby Weir closed out the set with a playful and chunky "Women Are Smarter."
Haynes clearly took charge to contribute premium guitar solos on a powder blue Firebird with his own brand of Garcia-esque finger work. His stalwart vocals did stand out amongst the others in this band but the songs definitely did not suffer for it. " Passenger" started off the second set and was sung with an obvious intention (and perfect pitch) to channel Brent Mydland.
The drums and space section of the show was a great time to gather more vibes. Mickey Hart was obviously at the helm and the booming that occurred under the starry sky provided a sort of precursory lullaby to Bobby singing a hauntingly slowed down "The Days Between."
The show continued with a dragging slow pace to finish out verse two of "Dark Star" before all were reminded that it was indeed "One More Saturday Night." Of course, as usual, Phil sang the praises of becoming an organ donor before he consecrated the tired crowd with an encore of "Box of Rain."
This triple bill worked well together and offered families a days worth of classic rock entertainment that will no doubt provide the next “new” generation of Deadheads a lifetime of colorful childhood memories.
The summer of ‘09 holds few similarities to the summer of ‘69 in terms of music being produced, but the spirit of ’69 remains in the hearts of many who are gathering for this tour.