ABB - Tweeter Center, Mansfield, MA, 8/10/2002
Sorry it's a little late but this is the first chance I've had to post some thoughts about the Tweeter Center show. First off, we had a great pre-party! Most folks met up as planned before going into the early arrivals lot so we were all together. Most of the usual suspects were in attendance and a few first timers, way too many to list. It was a great, generous happy bunch. We had a crazy amount of good food featuring the creative cooking of Chef Dave "Cranman" Racza . I had to conciously stop myself from eating too much and after a while we started offering food to anyone walking past who looked hungry. Some declined at first, but you could see that hungry look in their eye and they thought we were selling food. Adding the word "FREE" was the trick and it was rewarding hearing the conversations as they helped themselves to BBQ, "Can't believe, they're giving us this for free" says one. "That's the way Brothers fans are dude" says the other. One very skinny young hippy walked by and I said "Hey brother, you want a sausage sub?" "Oh! thank you kindly for the generous offer but I am a vegetarian" came the answer. "No problem, we've got roasted peppers, onions and tomatoes, have some of those on a roll instead!" He left a very happy camper.
Good vibes abounded at the party. One fixture every year, Don from Boston's North End who last year hooked up a dude from Switzerland with a prime seat, asked me where I was sitting. I replied: "I've got a single in Section 6 row G." So Don said "well how would you like Section 2 Row G?!?" Of course I couldn't pass that up! He refused compensation but I insisted that if I could sell my seat I'd give him the cash. He told me if I sold it I could buy him a beer, which enabled me to hook up a stranger with my original ticket for the price of a few beers. Like I said, good vibes flowed around and around!. We elected Kevin Watson as the new MAABBA president which is a very tough job with absolutely no responsibilities! We were missing a few regulars like Glenn B, but we're all sure he'll have a great time making new friends and hitting all the shows inn the mid atlantic around his new home. Especially missed this year was Bill and Cheri Underhill from the Cape. Bill's fighting a miserable, ongoing gastro condition which has him eating through a tube and facing possible major surgery. Bill's son Josh attended in his absence and we all gave him best wishes to pass to Bill for a return to action next summer. Please keep Bill in your thoughts folks. More to come.....
Having heard the setlist from the night before, my pre-show predictions were for a DWYNMNMCTB opener, a first set Dreams, Worried Down with the Blues, YDLM, and Mt Jam + Revival to close the show. I of course spewed these predictions to everyone who would listen as if I had a hand in writing the setlist . The band came on around 8:15 and tore into "Don't keep me wondering". It had a nice deliberate roll to it which was a great way to get everyone's groove going. The bouncing and bopping continued with "No One to Run With". It was amazing how different this song felt being played early in a show as opposed to an encore. Having heard it close shows countless times, almost to the point of saying "not again!", it was refreshing to hear it as an early upbeat tone setter. "Come and Go Blues" and "Woman Across the River" have come along quite nicely since the Beacon. I like the jazzy changes in C&G and it's a wonder that this song was on the shelf for almost 18 years. Warren really muscled out the "Woman Across.." lyrics. For "Old before my Time", I sat down for the first time of the night and really tuned in to Gregg's awesome vocals. I noticed for the first time where the rumored name of the upcoming CD "Victory Dance" came from. There's been some grumbling that this title is some kind of shot at Dickey. If you subscribe to that theory, Listen to "Old before..." and you won't think that any more. I can't remember exactly but one of the lines in this very introspective, somewhat dark tune is something to the effect of "soon I'll do the victory dance". I found it quite cryptic and foreboding. I took it to mean that these new songs and new album are a last hurrah, sort of a fitting, worthy punctuation mark on a storied career, celebrating triumph over a tumultuous life. Heavy stuff folks, take it to heart and mind.
The moody side of Warren obviously had a heavy hand in producing this song. He emphatically yet silently sang along with every verse. While I thought it was kind of a downer at the Beacon, tonight "Old Before My Time" was absolutely captivating. Two things struck me throughout this show. One, was that the interplay between Derek and Warren seems to have developed exponentially since March where it pretty much went Derek takes a part, Warren takes the next and so on. It's hard to remember two guys playing together and off one another as well as Derek and Warren did the other night which is amazing given this was only the second show of the leg. Another conclusion I came to is that this band is now mirroring the roles of the 1971 ABB. Not the riffs or notes, the roles. Warren still directs the band, but his musical role is now much more as a foil to Derek. There is no question that Derek is now the featured player and he filled that role with complete confidence. This was the first time I've ever seen Derek where his lead playing (fingers, no pick) rivaled his slide playing. The pace of this kid's continued growth is just astounding. That "1971" sound was clear as a bell in "You Don't Love Me". It started with a huge intro that sounded like it was plucked right out of the middle jam section of a marathon YDLM from the original band. This tune was a major highlight of the show. "Worried Down with the Blues" was one of my favorite songs of the last two Beacon runs and this one lived up to my high expectations, showing one of the only role reversals of the night with Warren commanding the spot light and Derek playing flying support.
Maybe it just seemed like time after a big Warren vocals tune, or maybe it was just how badly I wanted it, but I KNEW Dreams was next and I screamed it out a few times during the brief breather taken after "Worried Down...". Needless to say I was ecstatic when I heard the drummers lead us into my first Dreams since Beacon 2001. You'll probably think I'm getting a bit carried away with this comment, but Derek's patiently built Dreams solo, first on lead then switching to slide, was one of the most enthralling 7 or 8 minutes I've ever experienced at a concert. I closed my eyes as it washed over me and for a while I was conscious of nothing other than Derek's ebbing, growing, soaring cycles of sound. This was the absolute pinnacle for me. It was the type of elusive coveted feeling I chase from show to show and band to band year after year. Perhaps Gregg got as caught up in it as I did because he seemed to forget that Warren hadn't even taken a solo, jumping back in with the vocals before Warren got his chance. Warren winced at Gregg and Gregg nodded an apology. As much I would have loved to hear Warren take a solo, sometimes it's best to leave well enough alone. I never really came back to reality after Dreams, maybe I just didn't want to.
I was vaguely conscious of time and it dawned on me that this was the longest ABB first set I could remember. Early on in "The Same Thing", I came to the realization that this show would be just one long set and I just had to leave to answer the call of nature. I spent the next couple of songs just bopping around the venue not completely tuned in to the music, just taking it all in. I remember digging the new instrumental from the walkway behind Sec 2 and I know for sure I was back to my seat for the start of Soulshine which featured some tasty dueling slides . Was "End of the Line" actually played or did it get cut from the setlist due to time? Beats the hell out of me. Anyway, with hardly a pause after Soulshine, Oteil led the way into Whipping Post. Not to take ANYTHING away from Oteil's powerful, funky playing, but the thing I enjoyed most about Oteil throughout the whole night was how into the music he was. Not what he was playing but the entire "product". When Derek or Warren did something that made me smile, I'd look over at Oteil and he'd be smiling too. Oteil often had his eyes closed and his head back as if like me, he too was letting the music completely carry him away and seeing him diggin it brought a grin to my face many times during the night.
Since last year's Whippin Post opener, I have judged every other one I've heard (live and on CD) by that standard. The other night's Post was close, maybe lacking a little bit of energy of last years which is understandable as this Post came at the end of 130 minutes of straight playing instead of the beginning. My favorite part was at the end of Warren's solo where he fit in a piece from the height of his jams on early 90's "Nobody Knows". After "Post" the band left their positions and took a well deserved breather and I asked Don what time it was. He showed me his watch which said 10:30 and I said "just enough time left for a Mt Jam" which I'm happy to say they did! Pretty tough not to get the chills when you hear Butch's kettles introducing the song out of the darkness. They had to rush it a little, and Warren did a nice job directing things. I especially liked how he queued everyone into the drums/bass section by teasing "Amazing Grace". Like the show, I'm in danger of running overtime so I'll cut to the chase. This show was overwhelmingly good. Best ABB show for me since the Summer of 1999 and better than any concert I've seen since Phil's outstanding Orpheum run last fall, maybe better than those shows too. My spirit's been singing since. Just a few more comments to come.....
Added: Monday, August 12, 2002