Dark Star Orchestra, The Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR- 10/11
I hadn’t seen the Dark Star Orchestra for a few years, so I decided to head down to the Crystal Ballroom on a Wednesday night to take in the show. They were just off playing shows in San Francisco where Dan Healy mixed the sound and Bob Weir actually sat in with them. Dark Star Orchestra is probably the best Dead cover band out there. They recreate setlists from actual shows the Dead played, and their similarities to the Dead’s sound is uncanny. The guitars, bass lines, and vocals are all very similar to the good ole Grateful Dead, and if you close your eyes it almost feels like you are at a Dead show. Actually, you don’t really even need to close your eyes since Rob Eaton flips his head back like Weir and John Kadlecik looks a bit like Jerry with his dark, long hair. Another endearing thing about a DSO show is that it brings out the old school Deadheads as well as some curious younger folks who may have missed the Dead play live. The vibe inside the show on this night was very kind, to say the least.The band kicked things off with a nice, festive “Iko.” I noticed that the shows in California were all historical, and I suspected the band would shake things up and veer from the DeadBase playbook but I couldn’t be sure. Next was “Greatest Story Ever Told,” and Rob Eaton belted out the lyrics hardily. After the next tune, “Gomorrah,” I knew this was going to be an original setlist night as the Dead never really mixed in too many Jerry Band songs into their shows. Next up was a nice combo of “Me and My Uncle” into “Maggie’s Farm,” which had the crowd hoppin’. The “Lazy Lightnin’”>”Supplication” that followed was long and jammed out, and people were happily dancing all the way through it. Another Jerry Band tune, “Mission in the Rain,” followed before the band busted back into Grateful Dead territory with a solid version of “Passenger.” The help of vocalist Lisa Mackey made it sound and feel like a true 1976 version of the tune. The band finished off the set with the crowd pleasing tune “Touch of Grey.” We will get by, alright, but it would have been easier to get by the setbreak had re-entry been allowed at this very packed show. After the break, the music started once again much to the pleasure of the masses. The song selection, for me anyway, was extremely pleasurable. The set started off with a tried and true version of Box of Rain, a most fitting song for the damp Pacific Northwest if there ever was one. This mellow story tune then veered off abruptly into a rockin’ version of Deadhead favorite “St. Stephen.” The crowd cheered as the opening notes of the tune rang out across the large ballroom. Another great Bobby combo, “Lost Sailor”>”Saint,” followed. While the vocal buildups could not quite match the power of Bob Weir’s on a good night, these were very solid version of both songs, played strong and hard. Next the band dipped back into Jerry Land with a lilting version of the Beatles classic, “Dear Prudence.” Drums and Space was next and provided a break for some and a chance to go out into the stratosphere for others. Crowd favorites “Watchtower,””Attics of My Life,” and “Good Lovin’” closed out this high energy second set with grace and gusto. The double encore of “Tangled Up in Blue” into “Bid You Goodnight” were icing on an already very sweet cake.