Furthur, still reaching to recreate at Red Rocks - Reverb

Live review: Furthur @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Day 1

Bob Weir was searching for a foregone era last night at Red Rocks. Photo by Joshua Elioseff, denverpost.com/reverb.

Bob Weir was searching for a foregone era last night at Red Rocks. Photo by Joshua Elioseff, denverpost.com/reverb

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have spent Friday afternoon listening to live Jerry Garcia-era Grateful Dead while tooling around Denver before going to see the first night of Furthur at Red Rocks. With my ears having bloated expectations, there was bound to be disappointment.

Further, anchored by surviving Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh on bass and Bob Weir on guitar, is, to some extent, a no-win situation. In the years since Garcia’s death, various members have carried on in different projects. Lesh put together Phil and Friends, which reached its apogee in 2002 with the guitar talents of Jimmy Herring and Warren Haynes. Weir has chugged along in Ratdog, and every now and then, as in 2003, the surviving members get together and go on the road, sometimes reaching greatness.

View a full photo gallery of last night’s show!

The current touring band includes longtime Ratdog keyboard player Jeff Chimenti, drummer Joe Russo, backing vocalists Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson, and guitarist John Kadlecik, who co-founded the Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra. Now, in the best tradition of the movie “Rock Star,” he’s filling the Jerry slot on stage.

Kadlecik is adept at Garcia stylings on the guitar, and at times when he stepped to the mic, his singing sounded very Garcia-like. For some, having someone like Kadlecik playing with Weir and Lesh is an “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” type of situation, and the only thing they want. For people like me, who would prefer a very non-Garcia guitarist to create something new, it’s more of a mixed bag.

Ironically however, the problem Friday night wasn’t really Kadlecik, whose single-coil guitar pickups sounded bright and punchy, but it was Weir and, to a lesser extent, the sound, which was very treble-y and could have benefitted from a stronger low end, even though Lesh’s brilliant bass playing shown forth.

Weir, who really needs to shave the Jerry-like beard, struggled all night. Weir sang some of the Garcia material, such as “West L.A. Fadeaway” in the first set, but botched some of his own songs. He biffed the words to the first verse of the show-opening “Truckin'” a song he’s been playing for 30 years, and struggled on the harmonies with Lesh on “Cosmic Charlie.”

After trying to give the band a four count that led to a stutter step on “Estimated Prophet” in the second set, he managed to sing the words right, but the whole song sounded like it was being played by people on Quaaludes dragging it a whole step or two slow, even during the happy solo section.

Despite the missteps, there were some bright spots that showed what could happen if Furthur starts firing on all cylinders. The version of “Casey Jones” that closed the first set had a maniacal pace that meshed well with the lyrics, and the combo of “Eyes of the World” and “Fire on the Mountain” brightened up what had been a lackluster second set. Chimenti and Kadlecik were both given free reign, and for a moment, Furthur breathed life.

View a full photo gallery of last night’s show!

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Candace Horgan is a Denver freelance writer/photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. When not writing and shooting, she plays guitar and violin in Denver band the defCATS.

Joshua Elioseff is a Boulder-based freelance photographer and regular Reverb contributor. Check out his website.

  • Billdenver

    Candace – maybe the stuttle step with the “four count” in Estimated Prophet is that Bob wrote this brilliant song in 7/4 time. And Bob has been biffing his own lyrics for 40 years. Why stop now?!

  • Billdenver

    Candace – maybe the stuttle step with the “four count” in Estimated Prophet is that Bob wrote this brilliant song in 7/4 time. And Bob has been biffing his own lyrics for 40 years. Why stop now?!

  • Billdenver

    Candace – maybe the stuttle step with the “four count” in Estimated Prophet is that Bob wrote this brilliant song in 7/4 time. And Bob has been biffing his own lyrics for 40 years. Why stop now?!

  • Mike L

    Like Billdenver said, Weir always screws up the lyrics and it’s been a running joke for both the group and fans for as long as I can remember. The Grateful Dead have always been about the vibe… and Furthur has found a way to latch onto it. If you spent Friday night critiquing the show and not climbing on board the bus, you missed the point and failed the test.

  • Dsacas

    Candace, you clearly aren’t a Dead Head. This, if nothing else, is evidenced by you shallow comment on one of the band member’s facial hair. Concern about how one wears his beard is the furthest thing from the philosophy that surrounds our community, to which I proudly say i have been a member for more than 30 years. Your understanding of the vibe at Friday’s show is nowhere to be found. The jams were great, as were the segues, and Bobby’s lyrical troubles are forever. Get the love, or don’t bother going.

  • BobLovesShortShorts

    Nothing like somebody reviewing a band they don’t like. Of course people want a Garcia type presence, it’s what the music is founded on. John Kadlecik did a wonderful job at both respecting that, but there were multiple times over the weekend he was doing his own thing. In fact many people I’ve talked to, some whom have seen Jerry a couple hundred times, think Kadlecik was playing better and more original than Jerry did in the last few years. Sad but true. Bobby has forgotten lyrics since he the jug bands days. It’s part of the party to cheer when he does it. Both the Dead and Furthur are mostly instrumental anyway. Saturday night was better than Friday, but all nights were better than anything Phil & Bob have done since Jerry passed away, and even better than some of those 1994 and 1995 shows.

  • Candacehorgan

    For those who don’t agree with my review, that’s fine. However, I saw close to 50 Dead shows between 89-94, so I do know the music, and love it. Jerry however, is gone. I don’t want a guitarist who is playing Jerry riffs in Jerry style; I can stay home and listen to the countless live recordings I have for that. I want someone who will take the material into new directions, much like Warren and Jimmy did.

    Bobby keeps trying to be Jerry, shown not only by the beard, but playing Ratdog shows that consist almost entirely of Garcia material. Just because Bobby has always forgotten words, it doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s sloppy. I had friends who went to both Friday and Saturday, and they said that Saturday was much much better. But most of the people around me in the taper’s section weren’t grooving on the show Friday.

    • Jack Straw

      John K was playing stuff Jerry never even thought of… did you really listen? Or did you just here the main Jerry riff and assumed all the came after would be the same as well? It wasn’t. It wasn’t even close. I just talked to somebody who said: “It was so familiar, but it wasn’t something I never heard before”. Sat. Terripan was wicked, and Jerry never would have done it that way. That’s fine. But yet it wasn’t outside of the Jerry tone. It was 100% perfect of being old yet new again. Haynes would crash in with a southern guitar lick in the middle of something that it wasn’t right for. The only time I walked on Phil Lesh was with Haynes. He was good the first time I saw him with Phil, by the 3rd time I saw him he has used his whole cannon of tricks and I left and never returned until Furthur. This band I might travel to see.

      And I was in the taper’s section (well so close to it I could touch two mic stands). People were grooving.

      And it was great to see Sunshine Garcia!

    • Lazylghtng

      So, you don’t want a Jerry imitator like Kadlicek, but in the same breath you slam Weir for having the audacity to to pack a Ratdog show with Garcia material that is often reinterpreted much differently tha chapter-and-verse? Damn that Weir for having the audacity to play Grateful Dead songs written by Garcia that that Bobby himself played an integral role in developing. And damn him for playing different set list with Ratdog each night that occasionally lead to a night dominated b Garcia material that Weir has made his own over the last 15 years!! Anyway, back to Furthur — I think you should stay home with your bootlegs and pictures of clean-shaven Bobby. If you can’t hear the joy and buoyancy that a fleet-fingered, colorful guitarist like Kadlicek brings back to this music, I am bummed for you — you are comparing it to much to the days that were instead of enjoying it for what it is now…a new chapter in that old familiar sound rising again with new voices to stretch it out. Kadlicek plays n Garcia’s style but has new things to say. And Weir’s guitar playing, fwiw, is completely different than it was in the GD — much more single line playing than chord shadings. By the way, Weir had a beard in the mid-70s for some time, too. Was imitating Jerry then or does he just enjoy sporting a beard? By the way, Garcia never sported a Yosemite Sam ‘stache or pirate pants, either, so give Bobby his due for being the eternal prankster.

    • Shakedave

      Stay home and listen to your countless tapes then. As for me, I’ll step out whenever possible to hear the music I love with the best people on earth…. Cheers

  • The Bus Driver

    Candace honey, I’m so sorry you missed the bus. Perhaps you should try a new bus stop.

    • The Bus Driver

      I was teasing!! You are right Climbingartist, Candace gets her opinion too!

  • Climbingartist

    I don’t see why Candace should get a hard time. She wrote what she thought and I appreciate her honesty. I know I have been disenchanted with various incarnations, and moments, with this outfit. I got lucky and picked a winner on Saturday night.
    With Jerrys passing, Bobby still looks pretty good, but I also remember (to Candaces point about Bobby) in the old days that people at Grateful Dead shows would take their potty-breaks during the Bobby songs, so even with the old school fans, at times Bobby has been endured rathered than revered. Nothing new about that.

  • Rlandydblb

    Candace, quit trying to OVER analyze and OVER intellectualize Furthur. You’re OVER your head. They’re human. All three nights were stunning and a blast.

  • Woonjo

    His beard in the 70’s was his attempt at being Fleetwood Mac. He thinks he’s Jerry now, he’s not. According to an astrology book by Jools and Gary Goldschneider, Weir needs to lose the facade. You see, he’s always been trendy which may have been cool in the 60’s and 70’s, but wearing a Madonna shirt in 1987 tells me he either wanted to fuck her or her female fans.