FURTHUR at RED ROCKS | 9/30/11, Night One
You know a show atRed Rocks
is sold-out when the tow truck drivers are blocking the entrances to the park. Cars, trucks and VW buses lined every road in the park, leaving only a few spaces here and there by 6:15 -- and frustrating caravans of tie-died kids still trying to make their way into the venue. The band didn't give any leeway for latecomers either. Bobby Weir took the stage right as the lights dropped for the scheduled 7:30 p.m. start, noodling his way through tuning while Phil Lesh fiddled with settings on his preamps.
Photos: Furthur at Red Rocks, 9/30/11
First set was a mix of stand-alone folky songs, with the band staying pretty much in a comfortable zone the entire time. Lead guitarist John Kadlecik moved the band into the opening "Iko Iko," with drummer Joe Russo falling into line with the shuffling New Orleans jazz tune. The song was a familiar kickoff to the weekend, though it pretty much stayed on track with uptempo and breezy sounding versions from the 1990s. Clouds of burning sage wafted through the flailing arms, spinning bodies of the middle-aged heads all smiling and dancing near Pulpit Rock.
"Greatest Story" was well played and well placed, giving Weir a chance to lay into his heavy baritone crooning on the quirky tune that kicks off with lyrics about Moses riding in on a quasar and making the Old Testament more groovy. General admission was packed, as was the reserved seats forcing the overflow into the north side stairs where several hundred pounds of rock fell recently at a STS9 show, a fact not lost on one group of baby-faced teens making jokes about the likelihood of Lesh's heavy basslines bringing down more rubble.
The rest of the set fell into more of a space cowboy realm, with Kadlecik doing his creepy-good Jerry Garcia channeling on "Cold Rain and Snow," "Ramble on Rose" and "Loser." It's becoming cliché to say, but the guy is borderline creepy similar in everything from his guitar tone to his touch on the fret board to his wise and slightly weathered voice. Keyboardist Jeff Chimenti's thick Hammond B-3 swells and fills brought "Cold Rain and Snow" to a powerful climax.
"Ramble" eased things back into a slow shuffle which would have been more appropriate had a snail-tempo "Loser" not followed. While one of Garcia's most haunting ballads, even on forty-year-old recordings of the Grateful Dead, the dark, bluesy tune dragged last night. Weir took back over and lifted the mood some on "Money for Gasoline," a song penned with his solo band RatDog. Chimenti's grand piano was a big force in this tune, propelling Kadlecik's guitar solos with interweaving melodies. Lesh's "Box of Rain" came next and surprisingly ended the set just a few minutes past the one-hour mark at 8:36.
Setbreak was needlessly long. Weir, Kadlecik and Russo sat behind the amplifiers for the first ten minutes or so, smoking cigarettes and talking over the set before retiring back to their dressing rooms for the next hour. Now, to be fair, an hour of setbreak for the Dead crowd is nothing. It's a chance to roll up another joint, catch up with the people around you, let the old legs get a rest, or wait out the intense part of your psychedelic trip on the secluded patio behind the museum. But by the time the lights dropped for second set, the crowd had reached a general restlessness with some of the baby-boomers eying their watches every few minutes.
Photos: Furthur at Red Rocks, 9/30/11
The band came on for second set joined by Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, instantly improving the vocals of the band tenfold. Robinson, on guitar, led the band through Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere" and into the Otis Redding classic "Hard to Handle." Both the dead and the Black Crowes were pretty well known for their differing versions of this, with the Dead's being more roadhouse blues than the southern rock approach of the Crowes. Last night was an awesome blend of the two, with Robinson adding some grit and Furthur backup singers Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson giving the vocals a choir-like boost.
Unfortunately, Robinson's stint with the band was arguably the highest energy of the rest of the set. Things took a trip into the trippy after his exit, with the Acid Test-era "Cryptical Envelopment." Lesh's vocals haven't gotten much better over the years, but his bass playing and accents on the delicate, spacey tune were the most intriguing element. But the meandering jams led into a thick, soupy version of "The Other One," which structurally was uplifting but it dissolved back into the ether it came out of and moved back into "Cryptical Envelopment."
"The Wheel" picked things up for a bit with the gospel-like vocals and carnival melody, but like "The Other One," the band seemed to want to move back into a jammy space. They touched on "Supplication" for a few minutes before really slowing things down for "Death Don't Have no Mercy." Like "Loser," this is an amazing song and was an amazing show of force for Garcia. And while last night's version had some amazing soloing from Chimenti and Kadlecik, it was the big weight on the set that kept it from ever lifting off.
Photos: Furthur at Red Rocks, 9/30/11
The crowd was clearly ready for some energy by the time "China Cat Sunflower" emerged out of the swampy blues jam, going from a stand-still to bouncing and grooving over the opening melody. But the energy of the crowd (and the band) didn't last long, and the "I Know You Rider" that followed was the exit music for a good number leaving to the upper North parking lots to get a jump on the huge traffic jam that ensued after a sweet but lackluster "Attics of My Life" put the nail in the coffin for this fun, but otherwise dead Dead-esque show.
Scroll down for the setlist and Critic's Notebook.
Personal Bias: Clearly I didn't want a slow, bluesy show last night. I'm sure it was heaven to some people, though. Random Detail: That was the first time Furthur has played "You Aint Goin' Nowhere" By the Way: I couldn't get my Dead fix last night, because I ended up at Quixotes afterward listening to more jammy covers by the DeadPhish Orchestra.
Furthur 09/30/11 Red Rocks Amphitheatre Morrison, CO
SET I Aiko Aiko Greatest Story Ever Told > Cold Rain and Snow Me and My Uncle Ramble on Rose Loser Money for Gasoline Box of Rain
Set II You Ain't Goin' Nowhere Hard to Handle Two Souls in Communion Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One > Cryptical Envelopment > The Wheel > Supplication Jam > Death Don't Have No Mercy > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
ENCORE Attics Of My Life
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