The first thing I observed while waiting for the 1st of three BGCC (Bill Graham Civic Center) end of 2011 Furthur shows to begin was that Phil Lesh’s rig (Phil’s Station) had changed to Stage Left and that his normal speaker set up had changed.  Other than a flip in stage real estate in the early ’80s, for me Phil has always been stage right.

Bob Weir & Phil Lesh - Furthur Dec. 29 2011 (♥);} Deadheadland.com

Last night he had 4 4×10 Eden Cabs piled high, one atop the other to form a very sonically pleasing 12+foot bass tower that had tremendous definition, tone and sonic impact throughout the show. The bombs were bombier, the piano tones more detailed – it was pure fuckin’ sonic gravy.Furthur - the New Phil Side - bill Graham Civic Auditorium 12.29.2011 - photo by happycat! for DeadHeadLand.com

The scene was very mellow with room to spare on the floor, though where I stood in the first set was filled with Lou Ferrigno sized heads and plenty of whackos spilling drinks all over the dancing space.

The opening jam was deep and morphed into the tell take minor chord signature of “Help in the Way”. Though the set indicates a “Slipknot!”, it did not occur* – the tune simply gelled into Bob Weir’s hookiest theme: “Estimated Prophet”.   The pace of this was perfect stoner tempo – mellow and easy without a hint of forced rushing by the collective. The place was ecstatic with repeated choruses of “California, Knockin’ on the Golden door…”

From there things went to back to the Jerry side with JK (John Kadlecik) delivering “Brown Eyed Woman” and Phil intoning the “Look’s like the old man is getting on…” chorus ending. “Cassidy” and “Tennessee Jed”  had huge, chewy jams with Jed featuring shared split verse vocal delivery between JK and BW. The “Any Road” (from George Harrison) was well jammed and really sits nicely in the Furthur repertoire with it’s theme of wandering and wondering.

"Look's like the old man is getting on…" - Phil Lesh - Furthur 12.29.2011 | (♥) by happycat! for  Deadheadland.com

To cap the excellently played 1st set Weir stepped up with a perfectly rendered “Weather Report Suite: Prelude > Let it Grow” that was thrown down with casual excellence.

Accounting for the set at the break I was loving the fact that Weir kept it solidly on the tracks with 3 of his best ever tunes: Estimated, Cassidy and WRS. No fluff, no cowboy music, no Dylan – just sweet and tasty goodness.Sometimes the lights all shiing on me!  - Dead Heads at Furthur concert 12.29.2011 photo by happycat! for DeadHeadLand.com

Bob Weir sings "Big Bad Blues"  at Furthur 12.29.2011 San Francisco - phot by happycat! for DeadHeadLand.comThe second set gave us a lot of Phil and and 12 foot tower starting with a great “Box of Rain” that featured a fantastic and slightly extended JK Jam. Furthur’s latest, “Big Bad Blues”, wowed the place with groove and got a huge response. This thing just rocks. A total keeper.

From there it was all gravy with “China Cat Sunflower > Scarlet Begonias > Truckin’ > New Speedway Boogie”… The transition from China to Scarlet was pretty abrupt but the tunes were thrown down aggressively. Both Truckin’ and Speedway were audibly teased before the signature riff of Truckin’ kicked in**. The standing on the Moon was sublime, other than the oddball Captain Kirk like Weir Vocal delivery.

From there the throwaway but rockin’ “going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” propelled the place to boogie with an abrupt transition to an abbreviated “Slipknot!” >*** and a rollicking, Lesh led “Franklin’s Tower”.

It’s All Over Now Baby Blue put the exclamation point on this appetizer show.

I had a blast, the sounds were brilliantly mixed, the tones potent, the jams hot and long.
It was worth the too much $$ they were asking just for the music.
Furthur rocks IMHO – YMMV.

HAPPY New Year!

Grateful Ted

*ed. note: I beg to differ, and go with the “Double Slipknot!” theory  – listen again, about 4:20 into the 3rd track – that’s Slipknotty!- hc
** heard that too
*** “Slipknot! Reprise” ?