Although Vermont pulled out of the opportunity to host Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh’s new project, Pennsylvania kindly accepted the offer to take it Furthur on July 5, 2010. Other than rehearsal shows in California, the Sherman Theater is the smallest venue Furthur has played. It felt as though it was 100 degrees in the theater, and it may have well been, but that did not stop the jam-packed show from exceeding expectations.
From the first song of the evening, one could safely assume the band was locked in tightly, and well rehearsed. “Scarlet Begonias” sent off the introduction to an unbelievable night of music in the right direction. A deep jam towards the end evolved into a funky “Shakedown Street,” where Bob Weir came through with intriguing rhythm guitar. John Kadlecik laid down astounding guitar work, and Jeff Pehrson and Sunshine Becker Garcia shined with gorgeous backup voals. The last segue flowed into a slow tempo and abruptly stopped as Bob Weir signaled for “The Promised Land.” After fumbling the lyrics, Weir humbly and with humor acknowledged the error. However, Weir’s strong vocals overshadowed what could be embarrassment.
John Kadlecik rightfully approached “Candy Man”, where his vocals were highlighted throughout. “Playin’ In The Band” rose above the previous jams, with all around merited playing. “The Eleven” was a first set highlight since John Kadlecik and Phil Lesh’s channeling and building off of each other. Confusing the crowd with a new Lesh tune, “Colors of the Rain” played for only the second time ever. For being a new song in the repertoire, the improvisation portion lifted off fairly well. This segued back into the end of “Playing in the Band,” then followed by another highlight, “Throwing Stones.” Weir let his freak flag fly, toward the end chanting the words “we are on our own,” adding variety to it every time he repeated the phrase. Weir seems to own this tune with the vision to outshine all other versions every time. Joe Russo continued to fire throughout the show, and Lesh, comfortably with that in mind, picked away at his bass across all the frets. Ending set one, and the crowd gave it up for a face melting first set. From the heat, to the music through the speakers, everyone needed to cool off in some way, shape or form.
With the start of set two, “China Doll” caused a loud cheer because it is a favorable classic, as well as a rarity for this tour. When it pushed towards the chorus, the crowd chanted along with the band as they harmonized in a warm manner. Chimenti took the spot light for a bit, ripping it up on his keyboard. When “China Doll’s” jam came to an end, some loose noodling created an opening for Lesh and Russo to pick up the tempo; in addition Weir and Kadlecik teased out the beginning of “Fire on the Mountain” until the song actually took flight. Everyone contributed to a perfect groove, which segued into a Weir frenzy of “The Other One.” As soon as the bass intro began, the crowd erupted into a loud applause all the while watching the psychedelic masterpiece unfold in the form of a tight-knit jam. When the song came to a finish, the clocks and bongos started up for the beginning of Pink Floyd’s “Time”. The Sherman Theater was filled with the roar of Dead Heads until the song took off and continued throughout. To end the five song combination, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” brought out the deep blues roots in the music of Furthur. Weir put a lot of effort into his singing, which was appropriately accompanied by his genuine instrumentation.
The mood accelerated even more with a 13 minute power filled bass heavy “Unbroken Chain,” where the moods of the song transitioned easily, and picked up intensity with every melodic switch. The last song break in the second set led to “The Music Never Stopped” which reintroduced a funk atmosphere, with a huge part of this tone being set by Weir’s sublime rhythm guitar. At the end of “The Music Never Stopped,” Weir went into a “Never stop, never stop now”, craze that was new for people that hadn’t seen him perform it with recent projects. This transitioned into a lively “China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider,” both appropriately humble, and energetic as usual.
When Phil Lesh came on for his donor rap, the crowd was on the verge of tearing down the building with the amazing amount of volume. And to end the night, “Box Of Rain” was well structured, and smooth.
This was certainly a great night of music, in an intimate venue, where the band didn’t lay low, but rather experimented with taking it Furthur.