FURTHUR at RED ROCKS | NIGHT TWO | 9/20/13 As Furthur took the stage to a sold out crowd last night at Red Rocks, they were upstaged by a massive orange Harvest Moon coming up over the horizon. The band began some preliminary warm-up jamming, as tons of cell phones snapped pics of that massive moon on the clearest day we had seen in a while here. That was the only time cell phones were even brought out, something that's always appreciated.
Weir started things off palm-muting his strings, creating a percussive sound that turned into "Hell in a Bucket," an opener that quickly got people dancing and showed that Weir's vocals were once again in top form. Whirling sounds came from John Kadlecik's guitar as Weir repeated the lyric "at least I'm enjoying the ride," aiming higher with each repetition.
"Ship of Fools" came next, and Kadlecik sang perfectly, his rendition more hopeful sounding than Jerry Garcia's inflections in the past. Weir's guitar sounded pretty sharp and a little too loud at times here, but the jam was solid as Kadlecik played a solo of long, yearning notes and Jeff Chimenti added some nice Hammond B3 organ work. The backup vocalists made the climax of the song sound like a church choir. All in all, it was a great version.
"Looks like Rain" was next with a great buildup between Chimenti on organ and Weir hitting power chords that once again brought a church-like feel to the show. Phil Lesh took over on vocals for "Pride of Cucamonga," and also took the lead slapping his bass in a dirty blues breakdown. Vocals went to Kadlecik next as he sang a rare first set "Wharf Rat" with as much conviction as the original.
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Once again, the backing vocals swelled as a jam of palm-fretting and sustain built; a guitar melody from Weir transitioned into an energetic version of "Throwing Stones." This rare political song from the Grateful Dead catalog let Weir shine vocally, taking it down real low and causing the audience to cheer before having it curveball effortlessly into "Not Fade Away," the Buddy Holly classic. The jam was very bright sounding and had an excellent organ solo by Chimenti, and audience vocals were the icing on the cake.
After a fifty-minute set break, the second set kicked off with the band teasing "Truckin'," playing around a little more before going full steam into the song. Female backup vocalist Sunshine Becker was exemplary here, and the audience sing-a-long increased until it exploded at the line, "what a long strange trip it's been." A "New Minglewood Blues" tease was thrown in, as Joe Russo got a chance to take center-stage on drums with a big drop back into the song.
As "New Potato Caboose" started, fireworks went off over Denver, and then seemingly out of nowhere "St. Stephen" was being played. Russo hit his drum twice, and instantly the band went into a funky breakdown. He really got to grab all the attention here until the climactic roar came from Weir and was echoed by 9,000 people. It would be nice to hear Kadlecik sing the "lady finger dipped in moonlight" refrain instead of Lesh in this song, but he's Phil Lesh, and he can do what he wants.
And so he did as the outfit next went into "Birdsong," a former Jerry Garcia sung ballad about Janis Joplin that Lesh took over the vocals on. This version seemed a little meandering for a bit until Chimenti started vamping some chords on the piano and started a cool minor-key jam. A big walking bass line from Lesh brought it back around, while "Truckin'" sounded like it was sneaking back in for a second.
"Scarlet Begonias" made the whole place jump, as the big, tropical beat of the music caused everyone to really get down. Big flowers projected across the stage and changed colors as the beat adjusted, thrusting the band into "Fire on the Mountain" like it was nothing. Chimenti carried this song, playing the main melody with different emphasis on various notes, and vamping a huge chord on the organ to take them back to the chorus.
Soul ballad "Death Don't Have No Mercy" followed with Weir pouring his heart out. He was really getting at Pigpen levels as the song segued into "Viola Lee Blues," which kept that raw soulful energy going. At one point, the musicians started getting spacey and slowly tapering off, one by one, until it was just drums, and like a switch was hit, everyone was back on again for a big final refrain.
This transitioned into a quick tempo "Touch of Grey," which induced a sigh of happiness from the crowd. People hugged, people cried and quite a few could not get up the steps as Lesh said his donor rap and they finished out the night with a sweet sounding "Attics of my Life." This second show was more up-tempo than the first, and the band seemed as focused as they could be. The orange moon just added that extra touch, letting you know that Red Rocks Summer Season is indeed coming to a close.
Personal Bias: I am a big Pigpen fan, so my highlight was "Death Don't Have No Mercy" and "Viola Lee Blues" tonight. Random Detail: A neighbor told me he wanted to open a venue with a built in organ. I'd like to go there. By The Way: I have never seen security check harder than these last two nights.
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