Concert Review: Furthur – Charlotte, North Carolina, Feb 10, 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
Here Comes Sunshine>
Me And My Uncle
New Minglewood Blues
Saint Of Circumstance>
Doin That Rag>
New Potato Caboose>
Cold Rain And Snow
Box Of Rain