Maybe it was the energy in the room, this veneration coming off the crowd in adoring waves. Maybe it was the clapping, like an old-time spiritual keeping time with sacred rhythm. Whatever it was, the Ogden felt something like a church service last night for the Mickey Hart Band. Hart, of course, is the legendary drummer from the even more legendary Grateful Dead. For his part, Hart can still rock it out. Drumming in and of itself is a ridiculously active exhibition of musical prowess, and Hart was onstage beating his drums for nearly three solid hours. And the crowd loved every snare-drum second of it.
When the band took the stage, it got the crowd juiced right away with "Samson and Delilah," a Dead standard that thrilled the long-time fans, ever eager to show their zealotry. Right from the start, the show was like a dream. For those in the audience that only had a contact-high going, the show overall was strongly reminiscent of a Peter Gabriel concert -- it had that same weird, organic feel, that sense that this was the brainchild of someone who really knew his music and his instruments and just wanted to push them into new and interesting directions. This wasn't just a concert; like the Dead shows that came before, this was meant to be an experience.
That said, this was a pretty intimate experience, and maybe not by design. The crowd, while devoted, was small; they'd effectively closed the balcony to concentrate the audience down below. But those who were there were glad for it -- seriously, these people were like Zoloft happy. And the show's endless riffs on beloved classics just punctuated that uber-joyful sense. The crowd swooned to "West L.A. Fadeaway," and went absolutely fucking nuts over the "cool Colorado rain" line from "I Know You Rider."
Leading the band was a neo-Aretha Franklin songstress named Crystal Monee Hall, who added some flava and soul to the show, which, frankly, was pretty necessary. Without her and her mad style, the show would have been pretty much an endless foray into jam-band territory. Tim Hockenberry was also pretty amazing, especially when he pulled out his trombone and wowed the crowd.
But in the end, this was a show of nostalgia -- if something like that can be said of a show at which the crowd's median age hovers in the mid-twenties. But a Dead fan is a Dead fan, no matter if their love for the music came pre or post Jerry's passing. One of the last songs sort of spoke to that -- a cover of the Dead's cover of the Buddy Holly song "Not Fade Away," a promise that so far the Dead's popularity has kept. In the end, Mickey Hart summed up the show, the music and the message in his final (and nearly only) words to the crowd: "Be kind."
Personal Bias: I have a thing for set decorations that include big glowing balls.
Random Detail: Mickey was wearing braces or gloves on his hands that made him kind of look like he had big hulk hands.
By The Way: Dave Schools from Widespread Panic was playing with the band.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.