By: Bear Connelly
Kreutzmann-Burbridge-Murawski :: 05.28.08 :: Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel :: Providence, RI
Since the passing of Jerry Garcia almost 13 years ago, the music of the Grateful Dead has been carried on by hundreds of bands. Some are spin-offs that include ex-members, some feature look and sound a likes, and some are just guys at your local watering hole jamming on some old Dead classics. All contain unique interpretations of music that's touched a couple generations.
KBM :: 05.28.08
Welcome to the Dead version of the power trio. Ex-Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann has left his quaint, tropical surroundings in Kilauea, Hawaii to provide some volcanic eruptions in the music realm. Accompanied by guitarist Scott Murawski (Max Creek) and bassist Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band), Kreutzmann is reinventing the wheel, no pun intended. KBM has taken Dead standards, Creek classics and a delightful array of cover choices and thrown them into a rock-fusion stew. Last Wednesday the band brought their bubbling cauldron to Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel for a little taste test.
"Scarlet Begonias" kicked off the night with a bouncy '77-era feel before mutating into a grungy, bluesy jam that eventually evolved into KC Douglas' "Mercury Blues." As the night progressed they seemed to be having a blast, all smiles while continually trumping each other with more virtuosity than one band can normally contain.
The band chilled out a bit with a lovely stab at "Sugaree," which highlighted Burbridge's strong, tuneful voice. Murawski then led the trio through the first of his original tunes, "Cruel World," which rocketed into a long jam before concluding with the "The Faster We Go, The Rounder We Get" section from the Dead's historic "That's It For The Other One."
KBM :: 05.28.08
As I listened to Murawski's feverish guitar licks I noticed he had a very familiar looking guitar that gave him the gleeful sustain commonly associated with Trey Anastasio. Apparently, about a year ago Murawski was mulling around in Paul Languedoc's guitar shop while visiting Vermont and came across a guitar that Paul hadn't offered up to anyone. Long story short, Paul fixed it up according to Murawski's specs and the guitar now resides in his growing guitar arsenal.
Late in the first set the band switched up their feel with a funky take on the Neville Brothers' "Yellow Moon." This gave Burbridge a chance to show off his mastery of the six-string bass and his innate ability to lay down a solid groove while interjecting his own little melodies without losing any steam.
To start the second set, they tried out "Help On The Way" with Murawski singing and emulating some of Garcia's trademark licks. Not only did this guy play the Bobby and Jerry parts, he did so with his own flare at the same time! While Burbridge would read the lyrics for the songs he sang, Murawski knew every word, every note and every inflection by heart. Mr. Kreutzmann, I think you found your go-to guitarist.
The trio continued to flex their improvisational muscle in songs like "Chains of the World" and "Mas Y Mas." Using the jazz fusion format, they would go off on completely different musical tangents before coming back to the traditional parts of each song. Despite the forays into psychedelia, the jams never lost their purpose thanks to Kreutzmann providing a solid backbone while the other guys experimented. His drums sounded amazing, too. Since they were mixed in stereo, each tom roll echoed like a wave breaking on the theater's walls. For a band that hasn't been together long they sure know how to follow one another's lead smoothly, a feat that shows how long these veterans have been in the business.
KBM :: 05.28.08
The best cover choice of the night was a tight, rhythmic, dance-provoking version of Al Green's "Rhymes" with Murawski and Burbridge sharing vocal duties on the song's "Don't let it get you down" refrain. The show closed with a hot one-two punch of Dead heavyweights "Eyes of the World" and "Bertha." The former shifted between up-beat verses and sparse harmonic riffing while the latter brought down the house with fans dancing furiously while shouting along with the song's most famous lines, "Test me, test me, why don't you arrest me?" and the final "Anymore!"
After a good five minutes of cheering and stomping, the crowd finally got the guys back onstage for an encore. They selected a staple from the late '60s Dead repertoire, "Turn On Your Love Light." Burbridge had the singing duties, which seemed a little forced at first but built momentum as he settled into some Blues Brothers quality showmanship.
In a world where bands like Dark Star Orchestra are trying to replicate a defunct band's music the way it once was, it's refreshing to see one of the guys that was actually in the band continuing to push their music into uncharted waters. KBM has added the power trio branch to the Grateful Dead family tree and its leaves are beginning to blossom.
KBM :: 05.28.08 :: Providence, RI
Set One: Scarlet Begonias > Mercury Blues, Sugaree, Cruel World > The Other One, Yellow Moon, Franklin's Tower
Set Two: Help On The Way, Chains of the World, Mas y Mas, Rhymes, Eyes of the World, Bertha
Encore: Turn On Your Love Light
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