Dark Star Orchestra | Lake Tahoe | Review

Words & Images by: Brennan Lagasse

Dark Star Orchestra :: 10.04.11 :: Mont Bleu Casino :: South Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Dark Star Orchestra by Brennan Lagasse
Dark Star Orchestra (DSO) continues to tour the country in ravenous style. The circus rolled into South Lake Tahoe’s Mont Bleu Casino after seven well received shows in California. This was a special night in Lake Tahoe as the first winter storm of the season was slowly easing in from the Gulf of Alaska, blanketing the local peaks with their first taste of snow. The crowd was pumped!

Taking the stage, rhythm guitarist and vocalist Rob Eaton addressed the fans, acknowledging the storm and the fact that it wouldn’t be long before it made its way to his home state of Colorado. Keyboardist Rob Barraco, always smiling, then proceeded to tease the crowd and band with a little “Let it Snow” jingle before the band took off on the opener for the evening in “New Minglewood Blues”.

“New Minglewood” was tight, jammy, and Eaton really seemed to drive the band from his rhythm guitar slot in a uniquely DSO manner. Lead guitarist and vocalist Jeff Mattson stepped up for the shows second tune in “Dupree’s Diamond Blues” before a nicely played version of Bob Dylan’s “Stuck Inside of Mobile with The Memphis Blues Again”.

Dark Star Orchestra by Brennan Lagasse
The placement of the first three songs made it seem as though the band was recreating yet another Grateful Dead classic, as they have done so many memorable times before. But the Jimmy Cliff/Guilly Bright classic “Sitting In Limbo” that was played next threw off any bets of a recreated show. Or did it? Did the Grateful Dead ever perform the song? Jerry Garcia obviously did, but what about the Dead? Those were common musings overheard from show attendees as a nice pairing of “Me and My Uncle > Mexicali Blues” filled the Casino showroom, after the acoustic delight of “Sitting In Limbo”.

The rest of the set was just as tight as the first six songs. A beautiful “Candyman” was laid out before the set-closing, 70’s-infused-triage of “Lazy Lightning > Supplication > Might As Well” sent the crowd outside beneath a stormy sky for setbreak.

Set two built on the phenomenal energy created from set one. “Samson and Delilah” was a nice way to break back into the groove, but “Cold Rain and Snow”, so well chosen for the exact conditions happening right outside the venue doors, spoke to the many skiers and snowboarders in the profound way that only this music truly can.

Dark Star Orchestra by Brennan Lagasse
“Man Smart (Woman Smarter)” was snappy, danceable, and picked up the energy of the crowd even more, before a beautifully jammed “Foolish Heart” took its place. It was perhaps at this juncture in the evening's festivities that time and space really got lost. The rest of the show just went on in one long, smooth segue.

Particularly notable in the evening’s performance, DSO’s 1,989th show to be exact, was the move from “Foolish Heart” into “Fire on the Mountain”. Describing it as a smooth transition does not do the segue justice. It fit so well I actually started wondering if the Grateful Dead had ever offered this pairing themselves, or if this was purely DSO's own touch on the timeless music they play so impeccably.

An uplifting “Drums” came out of the “Fire on the Mountain” jam before a soaring take on the Bob Weir classic “I Need A Miracle”. This offering was paired perfectly with one of the more beautiful take-a-breath songs in the whole Grateful Dead catalogue, “Comes A Time”. The crowd was completely locked in with the move into “Throwing Stones”, and “Deal” was a stellar way for DSO to end the set, having showed the folks in Tahoe nothing if not a real good time. It turned out to be an original setlist afterall, and was capped off by an encore featuring one more Bob Dylan classic, “Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)”.

Set One: New Minglewood Blues ; Dupree's Diamond Blues ; Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again ; Sitting In Limbo ; Me And My Uncle > Mexicali Blues ; Candyman ; Lazy Lightning > Supplication > Might As Well

Set Two: Samson and Delilah ; Cold Rain And Snow ; Man Smart (Woman Smarter) ; Foolish Heart > Fire On The Mountain > drums > I Need A Miracle > Comes A Time > Throwing Stones > Deal

Encore: Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)

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