A Dead, Heads Weekend.

David ByrneBobby, Phil & David. Not exactly Abraham, Martin & John. But impressive nonetheless. They actually aren’t a trio. Bobby (Weir) and Phil (Lesh) are long time Grateful Dead members and a very short-lived duo, and David (Byrne) kicked of a mind-blowing new tour with an 11 member band.

What links them together? I saw them all perform in March on back to back nights:

Bobby & Phil–Friday March 2—Radio City

David Byrne–Saturday March 3—Count Basie Theater, Red Bank, NJ

Kind of a Dead, Heads weekend.

Both shows kicked off tours for the respective artists, so aside from my obvious familiarity with their music, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect from these shows. Different vibe from each, but both were great.

Bobby & Phil

bobby and philI braved the mother of all bomb cyclones on Friday night to get up to NY City to see this show at Radio City. It was a megillah (note the Purim reference) to get there, but well worth it. Bobby & Phil have a 50+ year history as members of the Grateful Dead. However, post-Fare Thee Well in 2015, Phil Lesh has not toured with Dead & Company, instead playing infrequently with his own band. This abbreviated tour marks a reunion of these long-time mates. The “tour”, such as it is, consists of 6 shows, March 2-3: Radio City Music Hall, NYC, March 7-8: Wang Theatre, Boston, March 10-11: Chicago Theatre, Chicago.

It is a stripped-down show. No supporting band. Just Bobby & Phil and a percussionist. (Trey Anastasio did join them for the second set of the March 3 show). Radio City is a great venue with 6000 seats with world class acoustics. Great place for this kind of show. It was part acoustic and part electric. And 100% memorable. Dead classics and covers. From song one (Uncle John’s Band), to the encore (Box of Rain) it was terrific. I have no idea if Phil will ever rejoin the band. He is no spring chicken, has had health issues, and turns 78 later this month. But he sounded great and looked great. It was great to see and hear him again. Been too long. And the show was terrific. Any concert which opens with Uncle John’s Band and closes with Box of Rain is great by definition. They could have had 3 hours of Drums & Space in between those 2 classics and it would have been worth it. But they didn’t. Here is the full set list:

Set 1:

Uncle John’s Band


Ramble On Rose

Friend of the Devil

Bird Song

He’s Gone

Lost Sailor

Saint of Circumstance

Set 2:

Loose Lucy


Me and My Uncle

Mountains of the Moon

Let It Grow

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

Not Fade Away


Box of Rain

David Byrne

Bryne photoEvery David Byrne tour is different. Songs, concept, etc. I am never quite sure what to expect. Though I’ve seen the Dead 75-100 times perhaps, alas I have never seen the Talking Heads, despite my love of their music. Shame on me back in the late 70s and early 80s. And a “reunion” Heads tour isn’t happening. But I’ve seen David Byrne every tour in the last 15 years.

David Byrne is a true genius and I am reminded every time I see him. This tour, kicked off at the intimate 1,500 seat Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ (a great venue) is in support of a just released album, American Utopia.  I wasn’t familiar with most its material yet, but no matter. First of all, Byrne is touring with an 11-member band, which has no stationary instruments on stage. That’s right. A couple of guitarists, an organ player and mostly percussionists, all with instruments on harnesses. Think of the half-time marching band. But the band was not “marching in line”. The choreography was as brilliant as the music. And Byrne is as dynamic and manic as ever. He’s 65—a youngster compared to Bobby and Phil–and shows no sign of slowing down (hope for me yet).

As mellow as Bobby and Phil were, David Byrne was conversely dynamic and frenetic. And so brilliant–same as it ever was (Yes, he played Once in a Lifetime as shown below).

As Byrne said prior to the show, the Count Basie show was the first of their world tour, and they practiced in Trenton the night before. He asked for forgiveness if the show was not perfect. No forgiveness was needed. The initial part of this tour is limited to five smaller venues in secondary markets, and then off to Chile later this month. This might have been their first show, but it seemed flawless to me. Here was the set list:



I Zimbra–Talking Heads

Slippery People –Talking Heads

I Should Watch TV

Dog’s Mind

Everybody’s Coming to My House

This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)—Talking Heads

Once in a Lifetime—Talking Heads

Doing the Right Thing

Toe Jam

The Great Curve—Talking Heads

I Dance Like This


Every Day Is a Miracle

Like Humans Do

Blind—Talking Heads

Burning Down the House—Talking Heads


Dancing Together

Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)—Talking Heads

Hell You Talmbout

David Byrne is a mega talent, like no other. His voice, music, movements, intelligence makes him a must see. I am in awe. Don’t miss this tour! I will be seeing him again as well Dead & Company later this summer, this time in the same bigger venue (BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ). Can’t wait.

A great Dead, Heads weekend. Doesn’t get any better than that.

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One Comment

  1. Mike Moynihan says:

    Lonny – a GREAT set list! I’m so happy that Phil & Bobby are performing together again, even if for a very brief tour this time around. I’ve been really busy in my new role at Boys & Girls Clubs of America and travelling significantly – sorry to have missed them – I was invited at the last minute on Saturday and wasn’t as brave as you in heading up to the city spur of the moment – those days are long gone for me.

    We MUST find some time to get together to discuss our Dead experiences and simply catch up. Let me know when you have some time. You can always reach me at 609 410 2181 – Mike.

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