Words & Images by: Phil Santala
Jerry Garcia Band featuring Melvin Seals :: 12.31.07 :: Whiskey Jack's :: Big Sky, MT
As Melvin Seals and the Jerry Garcia Band took the stage at Whiskey Jack's, two things struck me almost immediately: Seals pours his heart into his Hammond B-3 organ and his smile out onto the crowd. A relative newcomer on the concert scene, Whiskey Jack's treated the capacity crowd to an intimate event that seemed to be anything but small or contained. Maybe it was the high mountain air, the copious amount of timber or possibly just a great soundman, but the acoustics of the venue were fabulous, which can definitely make or break the energy at smaller venues.
| Melvin Seals & JGB :: 12.31.07 :: Montana|
It might seem hard to have the Jerry Garcia Band sans Jerry, but the quality of the performance is not noticeably compromised. Lead guitar player Stu Allen spent years playing in Grateful Dead cover band The Jones Gang prior to joining JGB in 2004. His voice is hauntingly familiar of early '80s Garcia, and the similarity brought goose bumps to many around me throughout the night. Melvin Seals played with the original incarnation of the Jerry Garcia Band for years, as did drummer David Kemper. Besides that, Jerry always said JGB was Melvin's band, and now I know why. Seals' personal enjoyment of the tunes he played was reflected in his singing. Not so much the singing he did into the microphone, but the singing he did to himself as Allen sang lead.
The setlist had its moments. During "Second that Emotion" the power went out momentarily but the band immediately picked up the energy when the lights came back on. "Midnight Moonlight" was a fitting song to take everyone into the break, and J.J. Cale's "After Midnight" was absolutely poetic, a rip-roaring tune to take us into the new year. JGB did a good job of mixing things up, slowing us down with a soulful "Dear Prudence" followed by a bluesy, quick-tempo "Ain't No Bread in the Bread Box."
| Stu Allen - Melvin Seals & JGB :: 12.31.07|
Seals' Hammond hammering during "Dear Prudence" wasn't just eloquent it was down right holy. It was easy to see how Seals could describe his style of playing as "church vibe," a fusion of gospel, jazz and funk that is sure to please. Again and again he looked out to the crowd, grinning and feeding off the energy he was building inside the audience.
The last few songs can almost be viewed as a microcosm of the past year, and perhaps the one ahead, too. Charles Johnson's "Sisters and Brothers" made its third appearance in as many shows on New Year's Eve, and I didn't mind one bit, especially since this version came with a treat. "Sisters and Brothers" segued into Ada R. Habershon's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." The result was sweet and poetic. Seals' gospel influenced funk fusion made this jam a real showstopper. These are two songs about life, about how joyous it can be, even in fearful, uncertain and sorrowful times. I recalled one of my recently departed brethren, and, with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face I danced.
JGB :: 12.31.07 :: Whiskey Jack's :: Big Sky, MT
Set I: Cats Under the Stars > Second That Emotion, Money Honey, They Love Each Other, Midnight Moonlight
Set II: After Midnight, Mission In The Rain, Tough Mamma, That's What Love Will Make You Do, Like A Road, Dear Prudence, Ain't No Bread In The Bread Box, Sisters And Brothers > Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Tangled Up In Blue
JamBase | Montana
Go See Live Music!