Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart had already been playing together for 20 years before Davy Knowles was even born. Yet there was the young Knowles out front leading the band, the former Grateful Dead tandem drummers churned away in the background, providing the rich polyrhythmic foundation for all of that famous tie-dyed noodle-dancing.
Yes, Kreutzmann and Hart may have been the beat, but Knowles was the heart of the Rhythm Devils, as they whipped through a pair of 75-minute sets in Clifton Park. He was the eye of the sonic storm.
The concert began perfectly with the dual-drummers kick-starting the big Bo Diddley R&B beat. Knowles howled through the bruising “Hey, Bo Diddley,” shifted gears toward the country end of the spectrum on the Dead gem “Jack-a-Roe,” navigated the rhythmic switch-over to a syncopated New Orleans parade beat for “See You Again” and slammed into some serious blues twang for “Sittin’ On Top of the World” – all before the band stopped to take a breath. And when they finally did, we were already a half-hour into the concert.
Not surprisingly, the venerable Dead canon of songs grabbed the spotlight more often than not. “Loose Lucy” was given an appropriately funky, soulful treatment, an ideal fit for Knowles blues-rooted voice. Second guitarist Tim Bluhm stepped to take the vocal reins for “Brown-Eyed Women,” as he did for most of the more country-oriented selections.
“We’d like to dedicate this song to Paris Hilton for all her years of support,” Hart said with a wry smile as he launched the second half of the night with “Casey Jones.” And when they sang the lyrics, “Driving that train, high on cocaine,” they crowd let out the requisite cheer.
Of the newer material, the blues-based “Strange World” (with some nifty twin guitar riffing) and the hard rocking “Wrecking Crew” (featuring a dynamic guitar duel) emerged as clear highlights.
But the song that best seemed to capture the spirit of the night was the first-set closer, a loping sing-along rendition of “U.S. Blues.” On the eve of the season-ending Labor Day weekend, Knowles led the crowd in singing, “Summer time come and gone, my oh my.” It was at once celebratory and wistfully nostalgic.
And for Nippertown Deadheads, the song (and the whole concert) brought the summer of 2010 full circle. After all, Kreutzmann was also on the drummer’s throne with 7 Walkers at Revolution Hall to kick off the summer on the eve of Memorial Day weekend just a few short months ago.
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Kreutzmann sits high above his set, so you could see what he’s doing. He plays straight ahead without tricks. Hart, on the other hand, sits low and keeps a part of his kit very low, so the stunts he’s pulling are done unseen, until he expands his strokes; this is similar to his sneak-up-on-you drum style when he stays under the radar before blowing up the bottom end with his power thrumming on the larger tom-toms.”
RHYTHM DEVILS SET LIST
Hey Bo Diddley >
Jack a Roe >
See You Again >
Sittin’ On Top of the World
Brown Eyed Women
Comes The Dawn
Cumberland Blues >