First off, I should admit that I am a salty old Deadhead. Since that terrible day in 1995, I have had a real love-hate relationship with the Boys. I always get to see old friends, make new friends and - let’s admit it - you can’t find a better environment in which to get “silly.” I know we are all lucky that these guys are still out there playing, but it rips my heart out when the music is sub-par.
With the exception of the Other Ones, I have seen all iterations of the post-Dead projects. For me, every other time I went, I left disappointed. Being from the East Coast, disappointed equals pissed off. After catching two bad shows in a row, coupled with the stupid Phil vs. Bobby thing that was going on at the time, I stayed away for a couple years.
Now, I know Fire is Mickey’s song to butcher, Joan Osborne arguably has talent, and Phil and Bobby have the right to sing any Jerry song they want, but I couldn’t bear to watch.
You grow up a little bit. You get over these things. You go back and have fun.
Occasionally, I have had to concentrate on keeping a positive attitude, but in each show the Boys have been able to produce, at least, a few of those moments. Those moments that reminded me why the Grateful Dead was my compass point for four years.
Slipknot becoming Franklin’s – China becoming Rider – Getting shown the light in Scarlet
The Furthur run at the Fox was full of these moments.
The Fox theatre has to be the best indoor venue anywhere. Beautifully renovated and friendily staffed. You can get a drink in less than five minutes, move around freely, and loose yourself in the crazy carpets and Arabian/Babylonian ornamentation of this classic 20’s movie house.
Having been once previously, I knew what I was getting into. A lot of folks at this run where there for the first time. Friday night, before the show even started, the energy was up with that “kid on Christmas morning” feeling that any music fan feels when they first get to run around the Fox.
So, the show starts off with a noodle fest. Phil and Bobby are out there, alone to start. Phil with his crazy new bass and Bobby with his beard. The pessimist in me is thinking – Hmm, Joe Russo recruited for this gig – Maybe we are in for some avant-garde, jazz driven experiment that is going to put me back on boycott. Well, the band took the stage, Phil dropped the bomb and we were off into the best Other One they have played since Jerry passed away.
We all heard the Wheel coming starting in the opening jam. The transition from the Other One and the segue filled rest of the first set were masterfully done. It really seems like these guys worked on the songs and the transitions. It is possible that Joe Russo and the other “new guy” John Kadlecik are simply so good that they were able to jump in with both feet and absolutely kill it right off the bat. Whether they practiced a bunch or not, it sounded like they did.
They seemed to, consciously, come to points in songs and jams where “we traditionally go there, let’s try go here.” “Here” was repeatedly a great place. Music Never Stopped, in particular, produced some great new grooves, in and out. Joe and Jay looked like they play together all the time; Gelling with Phil and, with Jeff, filling out the thick percussion that gives these songs so much power. Yeah, I know – the ultimate Bobby set. Maybe, but I could not have been happier with how it rolled out.
The Bobby fest continued into the second set. Lost > Saint was great. Sailor was long gone before I started seeing the Grateful Dead so I love to hear the medley. Saint of Circumstance is just the epitome of summertime fun. I felt like I was twenty-one, dreadlocked and at RFK stadium. (’93, anyone?) John Kadlecik is really showing some chops. Althea might have been the highlight of what I consider the best night. He got the greatest crowd reaction when he stepped up to sing. We deserved. DSO does not sell out three and four night runs at the Fillmore for no reason.
Scarlet > Fire then, St. Stephen > the Eleven. Did that just happen? Who wrote this set? The beat rolled on through the second set. Well played, interesting arrangements, lots and lots of energy. I was sweating like a pig waiting for the encore. Friday was so good; I almost didn’t come back for the rest of the run for fear of spoiling that feeling. I walked out the door absolutely beaming.
The set started off fun. Bertha into Good Lovin’ was a great choice to open. They moved into more serious material, and continued with the “new twist that works” theme with Estimated. I would have had someone else sing Friend of the Devil but whatever. Stranger was super funky and the highlight of Saturday. The rest of the set trucked right along. Short but sweet - a good ol’ Grateful Dead kinda set.
The second set continued strong with a Shakedown opener. I had gotten an “I’m spun, Help!” text from a buddy towards the end of the set break. Five seconds after they dropped into Shakedown, I got an “I’m wonderful now” follow up. I was wonderful too - Glad I was no longer on a rescue mission just boogein’ down where the Dead meet New Orleans.
Having gravitated to Widespread Panic since ’96, I was glad to see a dirty New Speedway - Probably the edgiest song from the GD vernacular. China > Rider – no comment needed. Playin’ > Eyes > Unbroken then Help > Slip > Franklins – I mean… C’mon. The obligatory Saturday Night capped off another great show.
I woke up at like 6:30 on Sunday night after a much needed nap after a stressful but successful football day (Go Ravens!). Thank God the show was four quick Bart stops away. Did I mention that I like the Fox?
You gotta love the Bible songs on Sunday. Sampson was very strong. The sweat was flying off the drummers in short order. Again, whoever thought of Joe Russo for this band is a genius. Casey Jones went off. Very rare when I was seeing the Grateful Dead – (RFK ’92 anyone?) I really like the super amped up “fade out” that has emerged for this song. Interesting that with Pride of Cucamonga and Passenger we have two songs that were on the shelf soon after they were new. I never wondered why Pride was but thought Passenger would have been a cool bust out. We won’t even talk about “who should have sung what.”
The final set stayed interesting. Cumberland was prominent in my GD career and one of my favorites. Cool to see them work it in with some of that old, “forgotten” Grateful Dead material with Viola Lee Blues. Solomon’s was fun as well. Good new stuff in Cassidy and the jam into Dark Star. I’ll hold my opinion of the new Phil song until I’ve heard it again. Standard but good end with Uncle John’s and Sugar Mag. Cosmic Charlie ended the run on a good note.
For closing thoughts: Friday was the best night, followed by Saturday and then Sunday. Didn’t feel like a letdown, though. Great stuff every night. The Fox kicks ass.
John Kadlecik and Joe Russo were great additions to the usual players. Here’s to Phil and Bobby for being ballsy enough to bring John in – Let him sing more! If you are anywhere close to the shows they just announced, do yourself a favor and go.