That’s what the blimp circling Chicago’s Soldier Field Stadium periodcially scrolled across its giant display, as 70,000 Deadheads — all of whom know the Loose Lucy lyric — did indeed thank the band for 50 years of a real good time.
For three nights running, as you probably saw on the news.
Here was the Empire State Building in New York bopping to the sound in Chicago Saturday — how often does the Empire State Building bop?
And here‘s the video I took of the fireworks Sunday. That’s the night my friend and I went. You may have seen us on TV — two specks in a potent haze.
(Here we are. Move your mouse from the top of Phil Lesh’s upraised left pinky straight toward that giant black rectangular at the far end of the stadium. Now go back about a quarter inch, which is to say 20 rows from the lower edge of the black rectangle. That’s us. The woman next to us is from Alabama.)
The irony is that I, an old guy, am at best an aspiring Deadhead . . . a Deadhead-in-training . . . having jumped on the band’s wagon just last summer — somehow I missed the first 49 years — whereas my friend who snagged us tickets, just 2 years old when Cherry Garcia became a flavor, knows seemingly every lyric of all 200 songs and could reliably tell from virtually the first note, a good 5 seconds before the rest of the crowd, what was up next.
The songs I didn’t know were fine. But, oh, the difference it makes when you do know them. I was out getting us more beer and a pretzel when “Unbroken Chain” began to play — not one I knew — and half the people in line bolted to go back to their seats.
(It still took forever, and just as it was my turn to order, they cut off all beer sales to give folks an hour to sober up a little, I guess, before driving back to Iowa. And the pretzel I got was unsalted. What, please, is the point of an unsalted pretzel?)
But then there was “Days Between,” which I also didn’t know but could appreciate on first listen . . .
. . . one of the deepest and darkest cuts in the Dead catalog, its lyrics painting a grim landscape where “summer flies and August dies, and the world grows dark and mean.” Still, the song’s soaring finale offer “all we ever wanted was to learn and love and grow … [we] gave the best we had to give, how much we’ll never know,” lines that seemed appropriate here. . . .
. . . followed by “Not Fade Away” to close out the night and “Touch of Grey” (the first encore), both of which I have on my jukebox (actual 45’s in an actual jukebox) — and suddenly I was not just bopping to the music, enjoyably, like a tiny Empire State Building; I was involved.
I was invested.
“No our love / will not fade away” had a chorus 70,000 strong . . . who kept repeating it acapella for several minutes after the music stopped. Literally. It was tribal. And the “Touch of Grey” lyric? “I will get by — I will survive.” After what a fair number of the folks there at Soldiers Field had been through over the decades? Maybe even including, in some small way, your humble servant?
You had to be there.
And we were.