Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Furthur - February 13 - George Mason University

For those of you that don't know, Furthur is a band put together by Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, to keep Dead music alive and out there. Joining them for this tour are keyboardist Jeff Chimenti (from Bob Weir's band Ratdog and he also played with the Dead last year), drummers Jay Lane and Joe Russo (we've seen him before with Benevento/Russo) and a couple of backup singers. But what had me most perplexed and anxious was the presence of guitarist/singer John Kadlicek. We've enjoyed John's performances for years as the lead guitarist for Dark Star Orchestra, which is the very popular Grateful Dead cover/tribute band. He plays and sings just like Jerry Garcia and when he plays with Dark Star and he has been essential to their ability to "re-create" the live Dead experience. So I was apprehensive when I heard that this Jerry imitator was filling in with Phil and Bobby. I did not have this feeling when the Dead toured last year with Warren Haynes as the lead guitarist. Warren didn't try to be Jerry, instead he brought his own sound and his own style which meshed really nicely with the Dead songs.

We rolled in the GMU Patriot Center, it was a near sold out crowd, a suprisingly older demographic. Of course you expect there to be many gray hairs there, but these shows usually attract a good number of young folks as well, especially on a college campus, but for whatever reason it was just us old folks.

They opened with "Playing in the Band" and my apprehension quickly slipped away. The band was tight, they were having fun and the music was good. Unlike earlier shows in the tour, Saturday night turned into a greatest hits sort of show, with "Friend of the Devil", "Ship of Fools", and "Truckin'" in the first set. I was particularly impressed with Jeff Chimenti's \crazy piano solo on "Wang Dang Doodle".

The second set kicked off with the superb trilogy "Help on the Way>Slipknot>Franklin's Tower" from the Blues for Allah album. This was followed by a really nice version of "Cassidy", it was here that Phil, Bobby, Jeff, and John seemed to get into a synergistic state where they were really listening to each other and playing together well. "Lovelight" had a nice part where the backup singers and Bobby were calling back and forth, almost gospel style. However the backup singers were mostly redundant on the other songs as they only sang the chorus lines where the crowd sings along anyway.

The band jammed on with "St. Stephen", a loose version of the Beatles' "Revolution", then "The Eleven" and "So Many Roads". Now I've always thought that John Kadlicek really sings "So Many Roads" very well, he sort of makes it his own song (as they might say on American Idol) and he rose to the occasion here as the band let him take the spotlight. So what was I all worried about? Let the music play! They finished up with "Let it Grow" and then slipped back into "Playing in the Band" to put a nice bookend on a fine evening of music. The crowd called for more so they came out and ripped through "Johnny B. Goode" to get us fired up for the long trip home.

Furthur is named for the bus that Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters drove through history in the 1960's. Phil and Bob were there and it's inspirational that some 40+ years they're still out there playing music and having fun. In fact watching Phil on Saturday night I've never seen him in such an great mood, laughing, singing and playing. I salute him and wish him the best as he celebrates his 70th birthday next month

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