The first of a three-night stand was a start-stop, lurching endeavor for Furthur at the 1stBank Center on Friday night, with moments of inspired brilliance riding shotgun with clumsy segues and careless sloppiness.
Still, the overall performance was impressive, with the hammering Joe Russo reining in the occasional staggering with his torrential beats and deep-end despot Phil Lesh captaining amazing turnarounds. John Kadlecik sparked the night early with a heartfelt and poignant “Dear Mr. Fantasy” that surely had the house embracing the dearly departed Jerry Garcia. Kadlecik has ditched his straight – and tiresome yet spot on – Garcia impression for a more personalized approach, taking his own tack with both vocal and guitar phrasing; a strategy that established the Grateful Dead’s luminous leader as rock’s apostle of improvised exploration. Kadlecik’s new approach shined brightest in “Shakedown Street” and a wandering “Mountain Song,” with the guitarist patiently – if not aimlessly – working through escalating funky peaks that easily marked the night’s finest moments.
Bob Weir had a hot-cold night. While a lifetime of work in the shadow of giants has hidden Weir’s admirable skills that stretch well beyond simple rhythm guitar, on Friday he struggled to align tempos, resulting in some mushy, awkward riffs in “Good Mornin’ Little Schoolgirl” and “I Need A Miracle.” But Weir blazed in the second-set opener jam that spilled into a memorable “Jack Straw” and the show’s smoking highlight “Shakedown.”
Phil went fractal in “The Other One,” which he teased mightily throughout the first set. Breaking the song down to its base elements – i.e. thundering, disjointed bass – before methodically driving the “bus to never ever land” to its vibrant crescendo, Lesh unleashed the bone-rattling prowess that has defined his life on stage. Lesh, before his “Donor Rap” urging everyone to enlist as an organ donor like the one who saved his life when he needed a new liver in 1998, called the 1stBank Center “a favorite place to come play.”
Furthur is certainly comfortable at 1stBank, at least enough to wobble on occasion. My joke for Furthur has long been: “They sound a lot like a band I used to chase around the country. Only better.” But after Friday’s occasionally erratic performance – punctuated with episodes of heart-swelling radiance – the band is starting to sound like the good old days.
Hell In A Bucket>
Dear Mr. Fantasy>
Good Mornin’ Little Schoolgirl
It Must Have Been The Roses
I Need A Miracle>
The Other One>
Fire On The Mountain>
Not Fade Away
E: Knockin’ on Heavens Door
Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.
Dylan Langille is a Fort Collins-based photographer and a new contributor to Reverb.