DARK STAR ORCHESTRA | 12.01 | BOSTON

I feel like I just left Bizarro World. You know, that crazy backwards world where that Superman look-alike guy lives. The Dark Star Orchestra are the Bizarro versions of the Dead musically, and in Rob Eaton's case (the "Bobby"), physically as well. For those of you not familiar with DSO, what they do is recreate a Dead show in its entirety. They pick a show out of Deadbase and play the whole thing, encore and all. The gimmick itself is pretty incredible, but imagine being able to actually pull it off. These guys pull it off and worlds more. They left me and all the other Boston Deadheads at the world-famous Orpheum stupefied.

I had heard that these guys were the real deal but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw this evening. They say there are clues as to the date of show that is about to be performed. Things like the number of mic stands, number of drummers, stage setup, etc. I'm a big Grateful Dead fan , but was never lucky enough to catch them live, so I didn't know exactly what to look for beforehand. However I had the feeling it would be a Brent Mydland show, so I figured it would be an eighties or nineties show. I was right. The opener, "Hey Pocky Way" by the Meters, was a nice surprise. Scott Larned on keys handled the vocals and from note #1 it was pretty obvious he was playing Brent. His voice was a Dead ringer (pun intended) for Brent's. The next song was "New Minglewood Blues" and it was Bobby's turn now. I'm pretty sure that Rob Eaton is Bob Weir's secret twin brother. This guy looked just like him, held his guitar just like him, moved just like him, and did that head thing that Bobby does. He even tossed his hair like Bobby. And the voice, an exact perfect replica, down to the snarl. So, two songs so far, two different vocalists, and both sound exactly like their counterparts. 2 for 2 so far.

Next up was a little nugget off In the Dark, "When Push Comes to Shove," and guess whose turn it was to sing? You guessed it, Jerry's! Now, at the risk of sounding redundant, John Kadlecik's voice sounded just like Jerry's! 3 for 3, this was starting to get ridiculous. Next song up we got a classic, "Me & My Uncle." Nice tight version, then on to the silly Bobby tune "Mexicali Blues." The next song is when things really started to get hot. They went and played my favorite Dead tune, "Row Jimmy." John's vocals were Dead on and so were his guitar solos. You could tell that it was an eighties version of the song. We were next treated to a Dylan classic, "Queen Jane Approximately." Then a monster "Tennessee Jed" that was absolutely rocking. John had Jerry's fast paced power solo down pat. The crowd absolutely loved it and they then closed the set out with a nice "Music Never Stopped." I think everyone has one of those Dead bootlegs where instead of jamming each song out to 20 minutes they play a bunch of songs short and tight. This was one of those sets. It's hard to say what I like better, long winded jams or tight Dead. You can't lose either way.

During the break I commented that a "China/Rider" would make this just about a perfect night. Sure enough, they opened with "China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider." What a beautiful version. I've heard about those nights when the Dead didn't really have it all together, and this wasn't one of them. In between the next song, John hit a few notes and I called an "Estimated Prophet." Right again. Nothing like a good song call... Once again, Rob was Dead on. Next song, you'll never believe it, another one of my favorites! Wake up to find out that you are the "Eyes of the World." This was special to me because it is my favorite song to jam on with my buddy Megs, the next Duane Allman. I moved up close to check out John's positioning on the solo, maybe gain some tips. Next came a boring "Drums>Space," which segued into another classic, "The Wheel." Once again, perfect. These guys never cease to amaze, I never thought any Dead cover band could sound this good, but these guys really do. If you close your eyes you literally can't tell the difference. It is absolutely amazing. At times I couldn't stop from bursting out laughing at the sheer craziness of it all. We were then treated to a gentle "Black Peter," and a "Sugar Mags>Sunshine Daydream" to close it out. They came back up and played another Dylan song for the encore, "It's All Over Now Baby Blue."

After the encore we were told that this was a Grateful Dead concert originally played on September 15th, 1987 at Madison Square Garden in NYC. DSO then gave us a few more tunes of their own choosing for the "Filler." They played a Beatles tune, probably in tribute to George, called "I Want To Tell You". What Dead show would be complete without a "Scarlet>Fire?" 25 minutes and one "The Weight" later I got out of my seat and left the Orpheum a changed man. WOW!

Sam Katz
JamBase | Beantown
Go Celtics!

[Published on: 12/4/01]

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