Furthur, led by rhythm guitarist Bob Weir and bassist Phil Lesh, returned to Nippertown for their second show in just four months, and unlike their appearance at SPAC this past July, there were some sparks coming from the stage this time.
Weir and Lesh have never been traditional rhythmic components of a band, but at their best they provide unexpected accents, fills, and phrasing that were and are critical to the “Grateful Dead” sense of musical improvisation. In order for Furthur to live up to their name, the other band mates have to be given opportunity and space to step up.
And step up they did; the star of the evening was drummer Joe Russo. He provided a foundation for the ballads, propelled the up-tempo numbers, but most importantly provided rhythmic direction whenever an improvised section of a song started to stumble a little.
The Grateful Dead were always as much a cultural phenomenon as a musical one, and there continues to be a renaissance-fair quality in the parking lots at Dead related concerts. It is now more structured and has a name – “Shakedown Street” – but it hasn’t lost any the communal vibe that concert-goers associate with the sixties counter-culture.
I had not seen Bob Weir and Phil Lesh on stage together in close to 20 years, and I was curious about whether I was going to see and hear the ultimate Dead tribute band or a band that was still in the process of defining itself. I think that I got some of both.
“It might have been the Kingston Trio, but I’m not sure.
Whatever it was, it was clean and white and safe.”
Guitarist-vocalist Bob Weir and his former Grateful Dead bandmate Phil Lesh lead Furthur into the Saratoga Performing Arts Center at 7pm on Tuesday. The band also features keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, guitarist John Kadlecik, drummer Joe Russo, vocalist Sunshine Becker and guitarist-vocalist Jeff Pehrson. Reserved amphitheater tix are $39.50, $49.50 and $69.50; lawn general admission tix are $25.
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