The first night of this three-night Dark Star Orchestra run at the Boulder Theater was powerful, exciting, and fun. They played the first night of Red Rocks 1978, which was on August 30th, and it featured the first time ever played “’I Need a Miracle,” “Stagger Lee,” and “If I Had the World to Give.” Many of the patrons of the Boulder Theater were extremely happy as the buzz went around the venue of which show it was. There was one couple that attended those shows, and they were in the balcony so happy because here they were almost forty years later celebrating a birthday listening to an epic show in their relationship and Grateful Dead experience.
But the show that I am reviewing was the next show from the following night of that same Red Rocks run. The nostalgia was felt around the venue especially as soon as “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo > El Paso” commenced. The Garcia-Hunter rustic classic blended perfectly into the cowboy song “El Paso,” especially if one uses imagery to imagine a nice Red Rocks day listening to this Marty Robbins cover. Dark Star Orchestra above all other cover bands surely knows how to provide the imagery for these moments. Guitarist and Bob Weir master, Rob Eaton, sang El Paso flawlessly. Eaton used to be in the New Jersey Dead cover band Border Legion until joining DSO in 2001. He is a perfect fit due to his uncanny Weir’ness.
The beautiful traditional “Peggy-O” always makes people smile and reminisce about love. The room really picked up when the Noah Lewis Jug Band country blues theme continued with “New Minglewood Blues.” I cannot say enough about the playing of guitarist Jeff Mattson. It is unbelievable how he can do justice to one of the greatest guitar players of all-time. His Jerry licks are loud, clear, and resonate the way that Garcia’s did. This fairly short set ended with “Candyman,” “From the Heart of Me,” and “Jack Straw.” “From the Heart of Me” gave the great Lisa Mackey a chance to spread her wings or vocal chords while representing the Donna Godchaux song. The first set ended with “Jack Straw,” although I think the original Grateful Dead’s version from this particular show was a bit slower.
The whole set break I could barely contain myself because I knew what the second set opener was going to be. It just happens to be my favorite Dead song to dance to, so I could not leave my spot upfront. When they came back, they opened with the funky “Shakedown Street.” For some reason on this version, Jerry played a super high pitched squeaky funk wah-wah throughout the song. Mattson played it more in the traditional style, but it still sounds magical. This set an automatic tone for the whole rest of the show. I love when openers are this impactful. It makes the whole set better. I recorded the “Good Lovin’” so that you, the reader, can tell us what you think of the song.
After “Ship of Fools,” “Sampson and Delilah” blew the theater up. It is such a fun dance party as is, but DSO played this so well. Mattson flowed from Jerry’s spirit on this one. From this, what could have been better than the song from which the title of the album came from Terrapin Station. This is always an epic moment in a Dead show. After “Playing in the Band,” DSO went into “Drums > Ollin Arageed > Not Fade Away > Black Peter.” If you have never heard Hamza El Din’s version of “Ollin Arageed,” I highly recommend giving it a listen. It is important to know the roots of a song. In doing so, “Not Fade Away” is a Buddy Holly song while with the Crickets, but it is credited to him under his first and middle names, Charles Hardin.
The best song of the night was DSO’s rendition of “Sugar Magnolia.” Everyone was dancing and spinning to this one. It seemed like the volume even got louder. The encore of the Grateful Dead’s Red Rocks show was “Johnny B. Goode,” but on this night, DSO had a couple extra surprises for us. The first song I believe was “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu,” and that was followed by “Mr. Charlie.” Most of the fans that knew the setlist were happy to get two extra songs out of the band, and of course, there was another night left of the run to enjoy.