Concert Review: Furthur – New York, NY February 24, 2010
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What a difference one night makes.
Bob Weir and Phil Lesh’s latest post-Grateful Dead lineup hit New York’s Radio City Music Hall for the second of it’s two night stand at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The first night was a bit uneven, a disjointed first set, yet a spectacular second set. What an amazing night that was had for those who attended this show. It was a window into the past, without ever coming off as nostalgic.
The evening’s jam that started the first set had a spacious, dream-like quality to it with no single band member taking the reins. Immediately they were floating as a single organism, weaving through a sonic landscape, jamming straight into the evening’s first New York favorite, “Truckin’.” Between the two New York references and the shout back mantra about it all being “a long, strange trip,” it was only fitting this gets played tonight. The end jam seemed to lack a bit of direction, as it were looking for a rabbit hole that wasn’t quite there. This was still a high energy start to what would be a high energy evening. “Dire Wolf” brought the spirit that was, and always will be, the “good ol’ Grateful Dead,” John Kadlecik playing wonderfully and sounding like the youthful Jerry Garcia many of us remember. Cowboy Bob Weir took the mic for a solid version of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” followed by a hot, sinewy “Althea.” “Brown Eyed Women” was particularly heartwarming each time Lesh took to the microphone for any reference to “the old man.” A feisty, bouncy “Til The Morning Comes” gave way to a spacey “The Music Never Stopped.” “Touch of Grey” would end the evening’s first set in great fashion. A few standout jams and terrific playing, this was easily one of the better first sets of the tour. You’d be tempted to write home about it, but you knew something else was in store when all was said and done.
Then the jamfest truly began.
As they’ve done on many nights on this tour, the band would move as a single unit, guitarist John Kadlecik would summon various eras of Jerry Garcia’s tone and style. For those who never saw the Grateful Dead, the second set provided a glimpse as to what it was like.
“Uncle John’s Band” kicked off the second set in fine fashion. This is also one of the songs that truly benefits from backup singers Zoe Ellis’ and Sunshine Garcia Becker’s vocals. Kadlecik remained in control of the band unit during the longest part of the jam, steering the jam in various directions. Had it not been for Lesh commanding the song back to it’s theme, Kadlecik could’ve easily kept going. As it was, this “UJB” was hot and to the point. A joyous “Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain” was next. The “Scarlet” was great, with a slightly subdued jam that hinted at a few of Jerry Garcia’s tones before building a hot “Fire.” Keyboardist Jeff Chimenti sparkling, dare I say sounding a lot like Brent Mydland at times. “Bird Song” would reach the furthest depths of outer space this evening. A patient, transcendental version, this summoned the band that spent thirty years jumping over the cliff on a nightly basis. While not quite taking that leap, it still showed a band that was capable of moving as one. “St. Stephen” smoked. A long raging version, it had numerous opportunities to jam itself right into “The Eleven,” yet veered left into “Born Crosseyed.” This band can sound like the Dead, yet throw a surprise in here and there. Phil Lesh took vocal ownership of marvelous “Eyes of the World.” Jeff Chimenti taking control of the first jam, Kadlecik taking control of the second. “Morning Dew” destroyed Radio City Music Hall. To all those who followed the band, it was a reminder as to what it was like. To those who never had the chance, yes, this is as close to how it was as you’ll ever get. Closer than any other post Jerry incarnation, closer than any Dark Star Orchestra show. The end peak was vintage ’77 Jerry, exploding to near white noise. And what better way to end the stand by finishing what it started. How satisfying it was on those few occasions to hear the Dead start a song on one night and finish it the next. The reprise to Tuesday evening’s first set “Playin’ in the Band” capped off a second set for the ages. Sending everyone home was the soulful “Brokedown Palace.”
One of the best ways to describe the evening was “it.” “It” controlled the band. “It” decided which way to go next. The band constantly surrendered to “it.” On this evening, the music played the band, something that happened to the Grateful Dead on so many evenings. The spirit of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, various eras and band members, hung over Radio City Music Hall for this night, creating a musical landscape over a wonderful setlist. What better compliment to pay this group than to say, “It felt like the Grateful Dead.” There’s one line from the evening’s encore, “Brokedown Palace,” that fits: “I love you more than words can tell.”
So do we, boys. So do we.
Brown Eyed Women
Til The Morning Comes
The Music Never Stopped
Touch Of Grey
Uncle John’s Band>
Fire On The Mountain
Born Cross Eyed>
Eyes Of The World>
Playing In The Band (Reprise)