Kreutzmann, Burbridge, & Murawski Give Cheers to "Good Times"
In the late sixties and early seventies they had Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but they didn't quite have in sound and performance what Bill Kreutzmann's power trio has today. The Grateful Dead drummer was joined on stage Saturday night at the Fox Theater with the Allman Brothers Band's Oteil Burbridge on bass and Max Creek's Scott Murawski on lead guitar. For the older Deadheads and hippies from the Haight Ashbury days, the two and a half hour set may well have been a drug induced flashback. Pent up in one area off stage right of the theater where the drinking minors were secluded, the concert in contrast may well have been a wide-eyed, crazy experience. Not one person was standing still as the group played like it was the last show they would ever disport. The show had it all: drugs, liquor, dancing, and of course above all, a long night jam session that, in its range, sound, speed, and overall presentation, was in the most simple terms, impressive.
With his widely known membership and role in the Grateful Dead and the one to have brought this impeccable band together, it is no surprise that the group's tour is billed as Bill Kreutzmann, featuring Burbridge and Murawski. Despite Kreutzmann being "the man" as Scott introduced him at Saturday's Boulder show, the music put no focus on him in particular and the audience wasn't fixated on only his presence. Of course there was a good amount of people who were in fact Grateful Dead fans, their appreciation for the acid rock band made known with patches, hats, t-shirts, bandannas, and the like with the steal your face skull, dancing bears, and skeletons and roses of the Dead. With no formal introduction, little talking between songs, and the mesmerizing music, Kreutzmann's presence and performance was equal to that of the selfsame extremely talented Burbridge and Murawski. The truly amazing music created by each of these musicians individually and together was the epicenter of the performance, and its power was felt throughout the entire venue.
From more heavy rock to psychedelic, Cuban beat to Southern folk, various musical styles and characteristics surfaced throughout the entirety of the set. Most prominent in such range of styles was the changes in rhythm and vocal timbre. While this range showed the band's ability and understanding of how to play different music, their sound more exclusively reflected their knowledge and use of instruments. Passion and fervor were pounded out on drums from Kreutzmann, one of the strongest deciding factors of rhythmic atmosphere. Finger tapping, distortion, feedback, scales, solos, and melodic vocal impressions by Murawski on lead guitar created sounds it wouldn't be expected to come out of a guitar. Rising above them all was Burbridge on his six string bass, with not the slightest hint of restriction or boundaries in his playing. Freeing it from any strict or conventional role commonly assigned to the bass, Burbridge tapped, slapped, shook, strummed, and moved all over the seemingly simple instrument. His speed, dexterity, and coverage on bass could be matched to the likes of Jimmy Page on guitar. Burbridge, Murawski, and Kreutzmann's individual expressive showmanship was solidified in their playing as a trio. Each song and jam was met with close unspoken communication and unprecedented playing between them that often times concluded in an explosive face-off of overwhelming speed and power that could only be received with awe and bewilderment.
Perhaps Muraswki captured the essence of the concert most accurately when he said, pushing aside the complexities of musical elements, it was nothing but "just a good time." By the time one thirty in the morning rolled around when the show ended, only a small portion of the decently packed audience had cleared out. In their two part set, Kreutzmann and friends put on a show that was truly about the music. Little emphasis on lyrical content and the images and names of the musicians themselves put the limelight on the musical art form. For a group of older guys, the trio gave a highly supreme performance that embraced music's potential and showed the audience what true music of the rock era is all about.