Home > Music Reviews > Concert Review: Furthur – Charlotte, North Carolina, Feb 10, 2010

Concert Review: Furthur – Charlotte, North Carolina, Feb 10, 2010

February 11, 2010

Hand it to Phil Lesh and Bob Weir. After years of trying, the band formerly known as the Grateful Dead finally got it right.

No small feat, as that collaboration has yielded too many band combinations in search of the Jerry Garcia x-factor. Having drummer Joe Russo (Benevento/Russo Duo), percussionist Jay Lane (Primus), and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti (RatDog) was genius enough. When they tapped Dark Star Orchestra’s John Kadlecik to take over Jerry’s guitar and vocals, they came as close to nailing that x-factor as they ever will. Over the years, Kadlecik has developed the uncanny ability to mimic Garcia in both voice, guitar style, and tone. So much so that one could close his or her eyes, focus on his playing, and almost trick yourself into believing that Jerry was actually on stage. This happened on occasions too numerous to mention during Furthur’s stop at the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte last night.

Proving that some things never change, the fact that a Lesh and/or Weir collaboration will never start on time, the band started with a short, but melodic jam that wove its way into “Here Comes Sunshine.” It was apparent that the Jerry factor was in full swing, but even moreso the second Kadlecik opened his mouth. Sounding like a more youthful Garcia, the opening line “Wake of the flood, laughing water, forty nine” had the crowd of older hippies (and, let’s be honest, freaks . . . but spoken with affection) up and dancing. It also became clear that Kadlecik has enough confidence in his situation to be more assertive than in earlier shows. “Crazy Fingers,” normally a second song, second set selection in the Grateful Dead world, found its way second song first set tonight. Again, it was another example of how this band can trick you into believing you’re seeing the Grateful Dead as opposed to a glorified cover band.

The “Cowboy Bob Weir” selection of “Me and My Uncle” was standard enough, but the show took its turn during the Bob Dylan cover of “Maggies Farm.” Gone was the breakneck speed of Dylan’s version, as well as the version the Grateful Dead would do. This one was slowed down, bluesy, with more than a dash of funk. Kept at somewhere above simmering but not far below a rolling boil, “Maggies Farm” was one of the standouts of an already terrific first set. “Candyman” brought us back to 70’s Dead, Kadlecik’s flange toned guitar solo sounding almost too much like Jerry’s. “New Minglewood Blues” continued Weir’s hot streak. “Foolish Heart” would’ve been a great enough set closer, played well above average, but it was the “Cosmic Charlie” that really did the trick. Taking us right back to the 60’s, a beaming and animated Phil Lesh had a wonderful time with this song. By the end of the first set you knew that not only was this band hitting on all cylinders, but they were clearly having a good time doing it. It was something that seemed to be lacking in former lineups.

“Lost Sailor” would kick off the second set in slightly ragged fashion. After finally getting its feet off the ground, it kicked off a set where the music would not stop until the short break before the encore. “Saint of Circumstance” kept it’s Grateful Dead spot after “Lost Sailor,” and a fine version it was. “Doin’ That Rag” was John Kadlecik’s challenge. A workout of a song, filled with odd time signatures, different tempos both instrumental and vocally, Kadlecik never took his eyes off of his lyric sheet.  At times it looked as though he were going through a fraternity initiation, given the nature of that beast (I really wonder if someone backstage said, “let’s throw this at him and see how he does”). However he was more than up to the task and nailed everything. “Come Together” was given a sleazier, slinkier, back alley type of sound than what appeared on the Beatles’ Abbey Road. “Caution” and “New Potato Caboose” again took us back to he 60’s before bringing us an epic version of Ryan Adams’ “Nobody Girl.” This was a wall of intense, glorious sound and one of the band highlights of the entire evening. The personal highlight came during “China Doll.”

If the Jerry x-factor was in play all evening, Jerry’s spirit took it’s turn near the end. Listening to Kadlecik sing the final line, “Take up your China Doll, it’s only fractured. Just a little nervous from the fall” and it wasn’t just Jerry Garcia. For that moment, it was the Grateful Dead. After the set closing “Cold Rain and Snow,” it was the best compliment one could pay: “It felt like the Grateful Dead.”

Phil Lesh’s hopeful “Box of Rain,” also being the final song the Grateful Dead ever played as a band, seemed an appropriate encore to me. It was as if Charlotte got flash backed twenty five years when Jerry Garcia occupied stage right. John Kadlecik does more than an admirable job taking one of the hardest spots in music. His younger age, as well as his “he sounds so much like Jerry, it’s creepy” style was a huge kick to the two veterans.

The other less spoken factor seems to be that Jerry isn’t there. The setlists are no longer static, set to certain songs appearing in certain slots in each set. Without the big guy calling many of the shots, the setlists are more prone to surprise, and numerous songs have been given either a slight reworking or more of a re-imagining. It’s no less of an adventure than when Jerry was alive, just a side step down that same alternate reality. And missing this trip shouldn’t even be an option.

Furthur- Bojangles Coliseum, Charlotte, North Carolina 2-10-2010

Set 1:
Here Comes Sunshine>
Crazy Fingers
Me And My Uncle
Maggies Farm
New Minglewood Blues
Foolish Heart
Cosmic Charlie

Set 2:
Lost Sailor>
Saint Of Circumstance>
Doin That Rag>
Come Together>
New Potato Caboose>
Nobody Girl>
China Doll>
Cold Rain And Snow

Box Of Rain

  1. DT Remens
    February 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Well said.

    I’ve seen three shows on this tour, and have been saying the same thing: After having seen every iteration of the band since Jerry died, this iteration is far and away, THE best. John K has a passing physical and demeanor resemblance to a young Jerry, but musically and vocally, he not only matches Jerry, but often surpasses him.

    While, as you point out, the crowd is filled with aging hippies and freaks, it’s a real treat for those of us to whom the Grateful Dead has meant so much over the years to see the occasional two and even three generation family experiencing something that can’t ever be adequately described in words….the tapping into the collective consciousness which, every once in a while, if you look at it right, can happen at a Dead concert.

    Hope these guys will stick together for years.

  2. Randy
    February 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Thanks for the great review, it looks like you know what you are talking about.
    I saw close to 100 shows from the mid 80s to Jerry’s last show (and brent’s too), and saw them post Jerry maybe 10 times.

    The ticket prices are what kept me away, but just might make it to another soon seeing how John K is breathing new life into the Dead.
    Phil singing Cosmic Charlie would make me cringe though 🙂

  3. brianh1970
    February 11, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    The thing about Kadlecik is that he has an ability to channel some of what Jerry would do, yet still infuse a bit of his own style into the playing. He’s got terrific musical sense. I’ve seen every single incarnation of this band since Jerry died, and was pretty skeptical when I heard they hired Kadlecik. It’s this lineup that shot me straight back to my days following the band. I’d close my eyes at times and it felt like the Grateful Dead. I’ve never said that about The Other Ones, about The Dead, about the PLQ or any of their later lineups (although I loved the classic Quintet).

    I never thought I’d say this, but Phil seemed to be in decent form vocally….at least for Phil, that is.

  4. Jay
    February 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Great review. Only thing is that “Come Together” is from Abbey Road and not the White Album.

    • brianh1970
      February 12, 2010 at 3:14 pm

      You, my friend, are absolutely correct.

  5. KF
    March 9, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Aside from the different songs played, your review could have been from last night’s show in Portland, Oregon (3/8). Eyes open or closed, it was hard to believe that wasn’t our dear Jerry on stage right… such a lovely flashback to the late 80’s/early 90’s for me. Soul-hitting notes. Lots of x-factor moments right from Friend of the Devil, and especially during the 2nd set. Lots of smoke once the lights went out. A night to remember.

    • brianh1970
      March 9, 2010 at 10:12 pm

      This is definitely the right lineup at the right time. Lesh and Weir had their projects, John Kadlecik had the chance to essentially embody Jerry. It’s been as close to perfect as we’ll ever get.

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