The Legacy Endures: Furthur @ 1st Bank Center
Last night (night two) showed them settled in and ready to get it done for their dedicated fans. Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and their latest assembly of young guns including: Jeff Chimenti (keyboards), Joe Russo (drums), John Kadlecik (lead guitar, vocals), Sunshine Becker (vocals) and Jeff Pehrson (vocals) proved that they can keep the rich, long-lived saga of the Grateful Dead moving with as much gusto as it ever has.
We headed down to the show a few hours early to unwind and relax before going inside. Parking the car, we grabbed a few beers, and headed over to Shakedown Street (an area of the Furthur show parking lot where the majority of vendors set up). Deadheads love the pre-show scene: hanging out, having drinks or a smoke, enjoying some homemade hippie food, and perusing the merchandise for sale. Furthur fans are on the whole friendly, inviting souls and the lot has always been a fun place to unwind before the performance.
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the Furthur (or Grateful Dead) scene has always been the scents. In the first fifty feet of the vending strip your olfactory senses get bombarded with smells of sage, patchouli, vegetables roasting, nag champa incense, blackened chicken cooking on a grill, marijuana, and other various mystery hippie scents. They bring me back to my high school years seeing the Grateful Dead, and are somehow strangely comforting.
It was nice to see that this venue was not overwhelmed with nitrous oxide peddlers or bad apples. Aside from an isolated incident involving a violent, naked woman who had apparently gotten her hands on some bad drugs, the scene in Broomfield was peaceful, with authorities and concert-goers coexisting without much of a problem.
Furthur shows (as was true with Grateful Dead shows) have always generated a high level of anticipation regarding songs that may be potentially played on a given evening. From pre-show browsing of set-lists of previous shows on the tour to turning a keen ear to the chords and notes of pre-song jams and listening for a hint of what is to come, I was usually pretty decent at calling songs. This was a lot easier back in the days of the Grateful Dead, although predictability has gone out the window as of lately, with the band playing songs that have been retired for years, and with the addition of new originals and unorthodox cover songs. But I am proud to say that I called the “Shakedown Street” second set opener and received a high-five from a fellow Deadhead as my prediction was validated.
The beauty of Furthur is the way that Weir and Lesh are still out on stage perpetuating the Grateful Dead tradition and at the same time providing a platform for new members to share in the legacy; this blend of old and new results in an unmistakably strong combination of talent that is an essential component in the preservation of this particular heritage.
The “Dear Mr. Fantasy” toward the end of the second set was surely the goods. Kadlecik nailed the guitar solo perfectly with his masterful channeling of Jerry Garcia style. It’s almost disturbing how well he can play nearly exactly what Garcia would have played. Chimenti felt it, and answered Kadlecik’s solo by setting the keyboards ablaze with an equally remarkable solo. The tune led into a chorus of “Hey Jude” (Beatles cover), as a disco ball hanging from the center of the coliseum ceiling rained sparkling lights down on the audience, and culminated abruptly into “One More Saturday Night.”
“Ramble On Rose” exhibited a similar attack on guitars and keys, and is always a crowd pleaser, with Kadlecik hitting the nail on the head during Garcia’s signature envelope filter/autowah guitar solo.
The “Truckin’” that opened the concert showed the band moving forward with a full head of steam, and Lesh coming in solid on bass and vocals. Kadlecik courteously did Garcia’s whispery vocals justice in the next up--“Crazy Fingers.”
The band’s trademark jam style—playing a song out to the edge of the universe and bringing it back home lives eternally, as they ripped through the late sixties era “Viola Lee Blues.” When Lesh and Weir reintroduced this retired song back into their repertoire years ago, it was a wonder how it ever got retired in the first place—a true treasure indeed.
“Bird Song” had the back-up singers coming off particularly loud in the mix, though easing the audience back down from the “Viola” jam. Weir, in his signature style since his Grateful Dead days, seemed to be on another planet, coming in too early or too late, throwing the rest of the band off; but hey, at least he’s still coming in. Russo played at least enough to compensate for Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman’s dual drum role, slamming through the segue-way into a hard hitting “The Other One.”
Weir redeemed himself with solid vocal presence on “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” Originally a Reverend Gary Davis song (sung by Jerry), I have personally come to accept and appreciate Weir’s commandeering of vocals on this tune, and tonight he took to the task with fury.
Truckin’, Crazy Fingers, Dark Hollow, Ramble On Rose, Seven Years Ago, Cold Rain and Snow, Throwin’ Stones, Lovelight
Jam > Shakedown Street, Viola Lee Blues, Bird Song, The Other One, Terrapin Station, Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Dear Mr. Fantasy >Hey Jude, One More Saturday Night
Attics of My Life