Night 2 at Bill Graham Civic Center in SF – with Furthur:
The second night of this year’s New Year’s Furthur run was wide in scope as concerns the songs delivered. Both nights so far commenced with furious and aggressive jams that set the table for what was to follow. The preliminary moments were chaotic and swirly but amidst the sturm and drang you could sense the imminent Jack Straw. Phil Leshs’ 12 foot tower-of-bass speaker power was profoundly pumping with chest thumping potency.
“Bertha” at first seemed to lack cohesiveness but gelled as it progressed especially toward the end where Phil layed down huge synchopated time bombs. The “Eyes of the World” made for a tasty choice that put the crowd in the sing along mood. Jeff Chimenti took the first solo out and back – and the rest was JK (John Kadlecik) laying it down heavy.
Bob Weir’s “Music Never Stopped” kept the party vibe going and the “Cold Rain & Snow” had all the sway and swagger – along with the sing-along moments the crowd was craving…… “Winds don’t Blooowwww owwwww owwww owww, I’m going where those chilly winds don’t blow.”
Up to this point in the show it was time tested chestnuts of musical bliss…. Adding to the pile (with a taste of ’79) was “Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance” which ebbed, flowed and exploded toward the hookier moments of Circumstance. The “Deal” was crushingly good. But at the same time – its specific requirement of a fully thrashing last solo over the A to G to D changes seemed slightly lacking to my Jerry Garcia Band loving ears. Regardless, this first set kicked ass in the classic Grateful Dead way. “All killer, no filler.”
Once again, no throw away Bobby Cowboy tunes or covers. Just pure kick ass Grateful Dead Music.
Set two was deeper, more mysterious and challenging. The Fantasy opener rocked mighty hard with JK riffing hard throughout and fanning a huge last solo. “Passenger” had Phil smothering the room with a sonic wave of bass and aggressive band dynamics pushed it all from behind.
An early in the set “Wharf Rat” kept the sing along vibe going nicely and then things began getting darker and decidedly more lysergic. Phil’s “New Potato Caboose” provided a fat dollop of Psychedelia – “All graceful instruments are known.” Last night’s effort kept the deep unearthing of the GD’s most psychedelic repertoire moving forward.
Then Phil blasted a number of earth shaking bombs to kick the tune into the more familiar “Cryptical Envelopment” portion of the suite*. From there Weir took it out and back with “Caution.” Phil attacked the riff with a vengeance and Weir stepped up to the mic to try and channel Pig Pen. The instrumental explorations here were aggressive and morphed into a “King Solomon’s Marbles” that made Joe Russo seem like a mad 8 armed octopus pounding out the accented cadences.
The Reverend Gary Davis classic: “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” was heavy with Weir doing an admirable job of avoiding any vocal histrionics. He was both passionate and to the point in his delivery and JK wailed hard during the jam in paying tribute to Jerry and those lost to us over the last year.
The intense pre-70’s music continued with a very heavy dose of “The Eleven” that once again put Phil out front with huge bottom end and JK playing runs of 15 over the dominant beat of 11… A truly trippy tune. What other world famous Rock n Roll band jams over an 11 beat? And with that much frenzied energy?
That energy was defused with a rollicking “Turn on your Lovelight”. This was perhaps the weakest point in this very potent show as it seemed like the band might have run out of tracks to fully stop the train. The song just sort of simply petered out instead of coming to a definitive crescendo. But it still was fun.
After a brief pause, Phil came out to suggest Organ Donation and to thank “The Home Team.”
The “Touch of Grey” Encore brought us back to ’87 from the ’67 era themes of the second set, but its message of survival was a great way to tee up the NYE events to come…..
Thursday night’s Help – Slip Franklin’s sandwich of a show was more unpredictable other than the notion that by truncating that suite of tunes, they’d eventually get around to closing the envelope with it. But last night was a huge throw down that swung for the fences, kept em dancing and singing in the aisles and helped to reinforce the power, skill and beauty that is Furthur.
– Grateful Ted
*Ed. note: That’s It For The Other One