Photos and review: Furthur at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Day 1 - Reverb

Live review: Furthur @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Day 1

If you closed your eyes at Red Rocks Friday night during the Furthur show, it was easy to feel transported back in time to vintage ’80s-era Grateful Dead shows. Guitarist John Kadlecik drenched the sold-out crowd with plenty of auto-wah solos in his best Garcia tribute, and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti’s piano and organ fills fit in perfectly with a selection of classic Grateful Dead tunes.

Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir’s voice seems to be stuck in a time warp; pop on the “Dead Set” CD and listen to Weir sing “Greatest Story Ever Told” from 1980 at Radio City Music Hall, or listen to him sing it with Furthur, and there is little, if any, difference. Phil Lesh is as deft on the bass as ever, and when he sang “Box of Rain” to close out the first set, it was impossible not to smile and feel lifted.

There were also the obligatory Colorado references, as the crowd roared in the first set to the “honest as a Denver man can be” line in “Me and My Uncle,” and cheered louder to the “cool Colorado rain” line in the second set-closing “I Know You Rider.”

After indulging in the “Adams Family Tuning” as they walked on stage, the band launched into the Zydeco-stylings of “Aiko Aiko.” Chimenti tore into a Hammond-organ style solo on “Cold Rain and Snow,” weaving in and around Kadlecik’s fills.

At the start of the second set, Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson, who played with Weir in August at Folks Festival, joined the band for three tunes, kicking off the set with a jaunty take on Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” On “Hard to Handle,” a song the Dead used to do with Ron “Pigpen” McKernan in the late ’60s that was also a hit on the Crowes’ first album, the pace seemed to drag. It could have benefitted from some Rich Robinson-style sultry blues slide.

It’s not hyperbole to say that Robinson was the best vocalist of the night, something he proved on a soaring, aching “The Stranger (Two Souls in Communion).” Backup singers Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson harmonized well with Robinson, who infused the stage with an energy and passion that had been somewhat lacking in the show to that point.

After Robinson left the stage, FurthUr went into jam mode, and it sometimes worked, as on the controlled chaos of “The Other One,” and sometime dragged, as on “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” which had none of the majesty of the late Jerry Garcia’s interpretation.

Ultimately though, it’s hard not to wonder if Furthur has simply become the best Grateful Dead cover band on the planet. While Kadlecik is an amazing guitarist, he is, for the most part, playing the songs the way Garcia did, and bringing nothing new to the table. It’d be nice to hear different guitar tones and solos, instead of something that could be heard on all the soundboard tapes and CDs floating around in Dead-land, or the “Dick’s Picks” series.

Click here for a full review and photo gallery of Day 2.

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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 Black Postcards.

Lisa Higginbotham is a Denver photographer and a new contributor to Reverb.

  • Stella Blue

    Speaking as a veteran of over 200 Grateful Dead shows, I absolutely LOVE what John K brings to this band…his vocals are spectacular, he has great energy and is an amazing guitarist.  What’s NOT to like?  I think he’s fantastic!  The run of shows at Red Rocks was epic fun!  Couldn’t have been better!

  • Nycityjeff

    Terrible review of a great band. This is why there are no statues anywhere in the world honoring critics. Please find another job. You suck at this one