Allstate Arena, Rosemont
Monday, May 4th, 2009
By the time the latest version of the Grateful Dead took the stage at 7:45 Monday night, the circus surrounding this event was already many-hours old.
Filling most nooks and crannies of the Allstate Arena was the staple group of old-school Dead Heads who were around when the band first hit the road in the mid ’60s. Far more, however, seemed to fall in between them and our next generation. Given that this was a school night, it was surprising to see them prowling the halls instead of at home studying algebra and gearing up for prom.
Seats were optional making the aisles nearly impassable. Dancing, unique and free-flowing, resembled an Elaine Benes (of Seinfeld fame) dance class. There were guys in skirts, gals in various levels of undress and far too many stumbling around barefoot. And, oh yeah, there was a concert going on too.
The surviving members of the original Grateful Dead, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzman, and Mickey Hart were joined by keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and guitarist Warren Haynes. Bob Weir’s white beard and mustache blended in with his long hair making it tough to see if he was actually singing. As reigning kings of the jam bands, they did not disappoint an approving crowd that knew all the words. They aren’t the most engaging bunch, barely even noticing the crazies in the audience and not even flinching at the occasional beach ball tossed on stage. Warren Haynes did justice to All Along the Watchtower right before the intermission, with guitar work worth the price of admission alone. It’s too bad the sound at the Allstate made the lyrics almost inaudible and muffled what could have been a classic for the tapers in the crowd.
The music is truly over shadowed by the people watching. If you think airports bring together the unwashed in society, this trumps anything O’Hare can offer. This band’s amazing appeal goes from the Blackberry-toters to the family that lives in the purple bus. Guys who are dead ringers for the Unabomber, paying $7.50 for a beer, sit on the floor next to people from various levels of upper management, undercover for the night. There are girls looking like they haven’t showered in weeks ending up on the men’s room floor. I’m not sure when the Little House on the Prairie look came back into fashion but isn’t it time to move on? People, this is 2009 in the suburbs of Chicago, not 1967 at the Fillmore East. Your heroes are marketing machines cruising from gig to gig in custom motor coaches. You’re the only ones clinging to that old counter culture.
For a fan base that claims it’s all about the music, can you really be that torqued up on hallucinogens and enjoy what these guys are serving up? Why would you continue paying good money for inferior sound? One wonders where these people come from and where they go from here. Do they have jobs? Responsibilities?
When the Rosemont cops call it a night and find a bar to blow off some steam, wouldn’t you like to be a fly on that wall?
Questions and queries from a weird night.
In a couple of days, when this night works through everyone’s system, the Dead will be in another town down the road building that already bulging bank account. Some of these people will go back to their normal lives, others, well, where do they go? But, it’s probably good, in a way, to know that their dark side will remain inside the confines of the Allstate Arena.
— Brian Ormiston