Furthur :: 02.06.10 :: Hard Rock Live :: Orlando, FL
Overheard from a father to his son after this show: “It’s about fucking time these boys remembered who they were.”
Hustling as we traversed thru Universal Studios City-Walk in downtown Orlando, a new kind of American Beauty was on display. Modern westernization in the form of Vegas-like chintzy recreations of several things American circa 2010; a Latin Quarter, a full-on RATM cover-band, high end NYC-centric clubs, a KISS karaoke bar blaring “Rock And Roll All Nite” and lastly, NBA City, located next to the Hard Rock Live, which played host to Furthur on a brisk Saturday evening. We crossed the artificial moat and came upon hordes of ticketless miracle seekers; Orlando was definitely a tough score, and this writer lucked out shortly before we left for the venue.
Viewing the many new generation heads pouring around the front, I recalled stories of the Grateful Dead’s 1994 appearance in Orlando, when the police unleashed a series of tear gassings on many unsuspecting Deadheads. Those old enough to remember were a bit surprised the boys would book another gig in this city, as the horror stories still ring from the incident, and it was referenced by a few older cats over the course of the night.
I found myself decidedly on middle ground this evening. I was lucky enough to catch the Grateful Dead with Garcia a handful of times through my teens, enjoying the ride for the final few stops between 1992-95. This audience, however, was divided primarily between many older heads who had experienced dozens if not hundreds of shows, and a newer generation of kids whose exposure to the “Greatest Songbook on Earth” is through the myriad of post-Garcia offerings, be it Phil & Friends, RatDog, The Other Ones, The Dead, Dark Star Orchestra, etc.
The venue was an anachronism for the surrounding scene, an intimate, one-room theater with classic royal balconies and a huge general admission floor. The acoustics were pristine and the security almost non-existent once the show began. The closeness and feel of the music hall betrayed its decidedly corporate, music-by-the-numbers underwriting.
Nonetheless, when Furthur took the stage and swiftly opened with the obligatory “One More Saturday Night,” all seemed right in the world. Tearing thru the rocker, Bob Weir immediately assumed the frontman role and wildly led the band through a lively “OMSN,” his hot-pink Ibanez juxtaposed against his aging-cowboy aesthetic with a humorous twist.
The band then delved into a bustling “Bertha,” and right off the bat guitarist/vocalist John Kadlecik unveiled a cherry guitar tone and youthful vocal exuberance. The rollicking frolic through “Bertha” allowed the band to find its footing and lock in on a few grooves, with Kadlecik singing from the axe and heart. The mics cut out at some point between songs, but Weir and Phil Lesh chatted heartily from the stage with several in the crowd.
Cowboy Weir then directed the boys into “The Race Is On” with a countrified flair that showed another early example of the diversity within this collection of players. But, it was the next selection that really allowed the band to show its true colors. “It Must Have Been The Roses,” delivered with stately elegance, had tears welling up for many during this emotional evening. Kadlecik found a snug approach to deliver the poignant lover’s lament with a bit of Garcia’s subtleties and weeping axe tone. Drummer Joe Russo‘s swift, swinging beat pushed the song a bit harder then usual, giving it a real big band flair. Zoe Ellis and Sunshine Garcia Becker added fantastic vocal harmonies from rear stage left.
Weir then commandeered the stage for “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” the Dylan chestnut, where Bobby was demonstrative lyrically and in motion. The first of many hearty sing-alongs, percussionist Jay Lane augmented Russo with soft restraint as Phil displayed the first of several shit-eating grins as he built the walloping crescendo. “Masterpiece” was a choice slice of charged up ’80s GD, with keyboardist Jeff Chimentigetting his Brent Mydland on with big, bright ivory tickling. Weir was his quirky self, offering signals and peculiar looks while Kadlecik worked huge bends and great tone to the delight of the now firing Hard Rock Live crowd. Phil clearly got off hard because he and Weir shared a joyous high-five at the song’s conclusion. We roared!
“Rubin and Cherise” displayed even more incredible work from Chimenti, mimicking Vince Welnick-era sounds but taking it deeper. This seemed the one tune of the set where they were not methodically TIGHT, and that served the song well, with the band freewheeling along by the seat of their pants and communicating through looks, nods and winks. Their level of attention and communication made it clear this wasn’t a canned nostalgia run. Russo had the David Kemper moves down, pulsing along and bringing the beat up and down with verve, while Kadlecik shone brightly through more glorious channeling of Garcia’s magical tones. By the end of “Rubin” he had massaged any reservations older heads may have been holding about his inclusion. Again, one couldn’t hold back their emotions as this rarity was dropped on our unsuspecting heads after a very Bobby-centric start.
“Deep Elem Blues,” while solid, allowed the heads to catch their proverbial breath as Weir donned the hollow-body and took the lead, allowing Chimenti more Hammond action before directing the band to the set ending “Deal.” For all of us who have sat through ordinary versions of this tune or skipped it entirely for whatever reason, tonight’s performance excused any of these crimes. “Deal” was chock-full of wonderful interplay between Chimenti and Kadlecik, shared vocals from Bob and John (and Weir botching vocals), never-ending rave-ups, and driving rhythms from Lane, Russo and Lesh boosting the song to new heights.
A lengthy set break ensued, where I took in the magnitude of this experience. It really was strangers stopping strangers, a free flowing exchange of ideas and stories that spanned three generations and thousands of miles. For the older couple in front of me, veterans of 200+ shows, they were at once enraptured by the set and worried about the enthused youngster between us who may have had too much of something but was currently levitating blissfully. A Bay Area veteran named Andy, who also had a couple hundred shows under his belt, was asking all kinds of questions about Russo and The Duo. It was a righteous give and take; listening, learning and sharing in this joyous recreation of a truly revered catalog delivered for souls both old and new. This was an inspirational, if lengthy, set break.
A bulbous Lesh funk rumble and absolutely nasty Russo stomp announced “After Midnight” in its glorious JGB variation to start set two. Phil was up and down the now LED-illuminated fretboard with untamed, ecstatic runs reminiscent of ’77 “Dancins.” Russo was DRIVING this charged rocker, somehow aggressive and funky behind the beat, no doubt the product of his cerebral, kinetic lockstep with Lane. The drummers’ aural kinship and playing gave the tunes a unique spice all evening. Yet, the obvious star of “Midnight” was Kadlecik, who channeled a Bicentennial Keystone tone and proceeded to destroy the J.J. Cale-penned burner with screaming licks that upped the ante with every bar. This was a lengthy grooveathon that had it all and launched the second set skyward.
“Next Time You See Me” came out of nowhere, a hard left turn whilst still in the zone as they transitioned to the R&B Pigpen stomp. Chimenti again colored the blues royal with howling Hammond and dirty piano runs. Older heads seemed charged by this song choice, shouting along to Weir’s hooting vocals.
The cleanly plucked, reverb drenched, snapping guitar ascension that announced “Althea” was like a nuclear blast of energy; a time-traveling stroll back to 1982 with intoxicating Lesh, Kadlecik, and Chimenti interplay giving the song an even funkier undercurrent then it naturally possesses. Again, Kadlecik rose to the occasion with otherworldly Garcia licks that had serious tears falling. His deadpan Garcia vocals were almost too-much to handle, except he wore this huge smile as if he could not believe he was immersed in this magic thing, and that joy transmitted through his words and hands in a way that allowed us to get down with reckless, blissful abandon. Just when it couldn’t get any better, John clicked on the Mu-Tron and the Hard Rock Live began levitating.
Phil unveiled the beautiful intro to “Cryptical Envelopment,” and then proceeded to sing it with grace and beauty. The band followed suit, playing in a way reminiscent of the late ’60s incarnation of the early song. A brief but blatant “Dark Star” tease gave way to the otherworldly “Wharf Rat.” A tall order for Kadlecik, he accepted the challenge with honor. For this writer, it is the definitive Garcia ballad, a cathartic exercise almost unparalleled in the canon. Kadlecik’s humble, watery-eyed rendition was moving and magnificent. His “dreams do come true” expression worn proudly, his vocal and guitar delivery were impeccable. The power of the song, the story, and the Fat Man shining down on JK; a truly gut-wrenching and inspirational reading that transfixed us.
Lesh and Russo silenced the band, and then constructed a monstrous “Fly Away” coda that was the evening’s emotional crescendo, with the audience belting the divine refrain with a gleeful enthusiasm that was as infectious as the music itself. Soaring Garcia style leads filled the outro, and the band sped into a segue that veered towards “Spanish Jam” and possibly “Just a Little Light” before Phil revisited the “TOO” rumble, setting up the bomb as Russo stoked the flames with rim shots and meticulous stick work. In uncorking an unholy “The Other One,” Phil played the intro more powerfully than I’ve ever heard. Upon detonation, “The Other One” was like a runaway train full of uncompromising furious rhythms and Kadlecik’s wailing, psychedelic bolts from above. This was a fully executed, cryptically enveloped engine barreling with force, a la 1968.
Weir took it back to the bus for which this glorious endeavor has been christened, eulogizing Cassady, Kesey, Graham, and Garcia in one fell swoop, leaving only a smoking crater in his wake. The power and electricity behind this roaring “TOO” was palpable and transmittable. I think I speak for most of the building when I say we propelled into the stratosphere with this enormous rendition. Phil then brought things to a hush like a mad-conductor, and reentered the serene “Cryptical” ending with aplomb. Skull fucked we were.
As we tried to wrap our heads around the 40-minutes we’d just enjoyed, Kadlecik’s dreamy tones danced above a focused, spinning undercurrent. Aided by Lane’s soft, machine-like flourishes and a dalliance between Phil and Russo, the band succeeded in bringing it down to Earth, somewhat. Ellis and Becker’s stunning vocals rose above “The Wheel” with grandeur, their harmonies iridescent above John and Phil’s sonic telepathy, which sent the building back into orbit. Russo and Kadlecik shared some great lyrical instrumental interplay, too. Russo, a consummate professional and veteran of a caché of diverse collectives, was never a Deadhead prior to Furthur, yet vigorously served the songs with purpose and nuance. Kadlecik, as we know, is a lifelong Deadhead and made his bones emulating Garcia with the Dark Star Orchestra. Yet here they were, flanked by an absolutely giddy Phil Lesh and an astonished Bob Weir. What a scene to behold!
A spirited run through “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” felt like some good ol’ Grateful Dead, and arrived at a heavenly “And We Bid You Goodnight.” The emotional quotient again reached mammoth proportions, as Phil, John and Bobby all sang their hearts out, with the ladies enhancing these beautiful tones exponentially. Elation abounded, and we were blessed with an extended campfire sing-along to close the set.
A brief but thorough “U.S. Blues” might have been the lone, nondescript encore, but the boys presented a sensitive, yet high-spirited “Touch of Grey” to close the show. The song’s eternal resonance was not lost on this adoring, decade spanning crowd united in a shared passion for this illustrious songbook and the greatest American rock ‘n’ roll band ever birthed.
I could not have asked for anything else from this final song, an emotive scamper through the first sweet song I heard Garcia sing to me, rocking my 13-year-old soul on that fateful March night in 1992.
Happy 70th Birthday Phil, and God Bless The Grateful Dead!
Furthur :: 02.06.10 :: Hard Rock Live :: Orlando, FL
Set I: One More Saturday Night, Bertha, The Race is On, It Must Have Been the Roses, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Reuben and Cerise > Deep Elem Blues > Deal
Set II: After Midnight > Next Time You See Me, Althea, Cryptical Envelopment > Wharf Rat > The Other One, The Wheel > GDTRFB > And We Bid You Goodnight
E: U.S. Blues > Touch of Grey
JamBase | Sunshine State
Go See Live Music!