Does the Colorado Symphony get preemptive credit for the title of “Most Diverse Musical Performer of the Year in Denver?” Two days after gracing the Red Rocks stage with Rodrigo y Gabriela, the orchestra was back at the famed amphitheater, this time backing guitar virtuoso Warren Haynes‘ tribute to the late Jerry Garcia.
For longtime Deadheads, the most exciting part of this show was seeing the “Wolf,” a guitar built by luthier Doug Irwin that Garcia played from 1973-1979. It was used on many of the Dead’s most famous tours from that period. When Haynes plays with Gov’t Mule, he usually has a rotating stock of guitars, but Tuesday night, the “Wolf” was it. Many of the familiar Garcia guitar tones from the ’70s could be heard dripping from Haynes’ dexterous fingers, though Warren’s harder-edged playing still was the backbone of most of the songs.
Before getting to the music, a question needs to be answered: what is it about celebrations of jam music that turns middle-aged hippies into drunken buffoons? Many in the audience Tuesday night spoke before, during and after the songs, which was a shame, because they were missing a great musical performance. A friend of mine who does sound out west posted on Facebook recently about an experience where a patron complained that the sound was too loud for her friends and her to talk. News flash: a concert should be about music. If all you want to do is relive your drug-hazed, booze-addled early ’20s on the one or two nights a year you still get out to a concert, do the world a freaking favor and stay home.
Throughout the first set, I was stationed in and around the soundboard, where people were carrying on loud conversations about the show, their day, their friends, etc., while spilling beer on everyone around them and stepping on people while dancing around dangerously. Whether it was the achingly haunting “Standing on the Moon,” with Haynes’ voice taking on a reverent, gospel-like quality, the happy hippy anthem “Scarlet Begonias,” with Haynes’ fuzzed out guitar rolling nimbly over a swelling string section and Jeff Sipe’s drum beats, or the anthemic “Morning Dew,” wherein the double basses and cellos of the orchestra added a gravitas to the desperate tune, the music proved secondary to those around me.
That did make for an interesting second set, as my friend and I retreated high into the amphitheater during the setbreak to enjoy the music free from distraction while looking at the twinkling lights of Denver in the distance. Those higher up seemed less interested in talking and more interested in chilling to the music. And low and behold, the symphony was much more discernable in the mix, and you could really appreciate what the orchestra can add to rock tunes. Hearing the violin solo on “Russian Lullaby” or the booming brass and silky strings on “Terrapin Station” renewed the songs, making them something completely different and yet utterly the same.
Dark Star -> Bird Song, Crazy Fingers, Standing on the Moon, Scarlet Begonias, Shakedown Street, China Cat Sunflower, Morning Dew
Mission in the Rain intro, High Time, Russian Lullaby, Uncle John’s Band, West LA Fadeaway, If I Had the World to Give, Terrapin Station -> Slipknot! -> Terrapin Station, E: Patchwork Quilt, China Doll