Furthur is no longer simply sounding like the Grateful Dead. Now two years into a lineup, the band is playing like the Grateful Dead, with cohesive, instinctual, bred-in-the-moment fluidity. The band’s three-night stand at Broomfield’s 1stBank Center unveiled a tighter-than-ever Furthur, able to subtly tweak 40-year-old tunes with fresh licks that rekindle old vibes lost long ago.
Led by the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, today’s Furthur is the best incarnation of a 15-year effort to keep the Dead boat afloat. Drummer Joe Russo, who very likely loses weight every night from his calorie-burning approach to rhythm, has opened doors for everyone in the band, especially bassist Lesh. (There’s no way Lesh and Weir haven’t realized that if Russo was around 40 years ago, they never would have needed two drummers. Lesh is unquestionably invigorated by Russo’s passionate play and the pair seem to be perpetually competing for who can be louder.)
Lead guitarist John Kadlecik has grown into the late Jerry Garcia’s role with poise and a confident style that mirrors the Fat Man. Kadlecik’s bluesy tone melds well with Weir’s sound, as Sunday’s first-set syrupy-slow “Sugaree” and twangy “Tennessee Jed” illustrated with the lockstepped duo layering intricate riffs. And Jeff Chimenti on keys adds even more depth, especially when unleashed for a jam. Chimenti’s groove on Sunday’s “Eyes of the World” had the entire house leaping.
The two grizzled veterans Weir and Lesh have been working hard with their new colleagues and it showed all weekend with graceful, practiced harmonization and many smooth transitions – Lesh’s captaining from “Estimated Prophet” into “Eyes of the World” Sunday night was top-notch.
Indeed, Sunday’s show capped a strong run for Furthur, with a second-set string that ignited the three-quarter capacity 1stBank. Spinning off the new “Colors of the Rain,” growled by the melody-deprived Lesh, the band fired up a stellar-as-ever “Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain>Estimated Prophet>Eyes of the World>The Wheel>Not Fade Away” that ignited the joint like a flamethrower. Those six songs – about an hour of relentless yet surgically precise jamming – can stand up to the Grateful Dead at their best. Add in Kadlecik’s gentle touch on “Wharf Rat” and a Beatles-Stones encore that defies the Grateful Dead’s long adherence to lifeless send-offs, and Sunday’s show is certainly a contender.
New Minglewood Blues
On the Road Again
Pride of Cucamonga
Man Smart (Women Smarter)
Colors of the Rain
Fire on the Mountain>
Eyes of the World>
Not Fade Away
Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.
Todd Radunsky is a Boulder-based photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.