The best big concert I ever went to was Pink Floyd. They played all of Dark Side and during On the Run, a model airplane zipped along a wire running the length of Giant Stadium, finally crashing in an enormous ball of flame behind the PA stack, whereupon 70,000 peoples’ heads just exploded from the amount of awesome that had just been placed in there. Later in the show, a massive disco ball eructated from the center of the stadium, opening like lotus petals to reveal Gilmour, coincidentally just in time to play the solo from Comfortably Numb.
The Dead did not do things like that. They engaged in virtually none of the tricks and antics that most other bands rely on; two reasons come to mind. Firstly, they were congenitally incapable of most show business bullshit. Of course, being the Dead, they felt the need to take this to its illogical extreme: sucking at big shows, punching record executives, and (depending on the lineup) being made-up of anywhere from 67 to 80 percent really ugly dudes. This is not how Jon Bon Jovi did it.
Second, the Dead’s audience could be counted on to provide at least half of their own entertainment. At any show, most of the crowd would have been just as amused by their own hands as by a flying drum kit, so why spend the money? While Tommy Lee’s roller-coaster drum solo was immensely cool, it wasn’t for Billy or Mickey. Drums did not fly in the Dead. Thrown? Quite often.
Not that they didn’t have their own little stage moves. Phil would march up three feet, then back three, then up. Garcia unconsciously pushed his glasses up his nose before he took most solos. Keith did this adorable thing where he would pass out in a corner, a pool of hot piss spreading slowly underneath him. They all had their thing, is what I’m saying.
It just wasn’t the usual way to rock. You know that move where the two guitarists stand back-to-back, as if they can no longer remain upright unassisted because of the sheer POWAH! of the rock they were laying down? Imagine Bobby trying to do that to Garcia. Now, in your head, did Garcia gracefully side-step, leaving Bobby to tumble onto the ground? Because he did in mine. I wouldn’t even let the Bobby in my head TRY to do that shit to Phil, because I need the Bobby in my head to keep doing silly things I can tell you nice folks about, and we all know that touching Phil leads to hiring attorneys.
There was never any of that happy horseshit about “how nice it was to be here in (checks note affixed to monitor) THE FINGER LAKES, YEAH! We been all around this country and nowhere rocks harder than the (double-check) FINGER LAKES!” No pandering nonsense about the local teams, we were not asked to put “them” up, nor was it demanded of us that we wave “them” in the air. No enquiries were made about our level of interest about waving “them” in the air, whatsoever. Paul Stanley would have been disgusted.
P.S. Credit does have to be given to the entire group for avoiding the most pernicious of rock tics: Guitar Face. I mean, occasionally Garcia would knit is brow in concentration during Slipknot! or something, but none of them ever came down with a full-blown case of Les Palsy.