Dark Star Orchestra, Oriental Theater, Denver, CO- 3/26
Despite sketchy driving conditions resulting from the first official blizzard of the year, DSO managed to fill up Denver’s cozy Oriental Theater for a night of good old Grateful Dead music. Rob Eaton greeted the crowd, saying “We’re like the Pony Express. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow can keep us from doing what we do.” The audience cheered at this declaration and the band launched into a crowd pleasing “Bertha,” which was immediately followed by a nicely jammed “Greatest Story Ever Told.” The show the group performed was its version of a little-known gem by the Dead that was originally played on 3/28/91 at the Nassau Coliseum in New York.
The venue was as cozy as only an old theater can be. The low-key concession tables, conveniently placed in the corners of the room, offered locally produced Dale’s Pale Ale, as well as other fine micro brews, and even good old Pabst Blue Ribbon in a can. There was a little something for everyone, with the Wharf Rats organization staffing a table that, for a small donation, offered candy, bubble gum, information about staying sober and decals, including its classic “Save Your Face" sticker.
The Oriental theater, aka "the O," which for the first few years following its impressive 2005 renovation remained a bit of a lonely outpost on the west side of town, has teamed up with Denver jam venue owner and promoter Jay Bianchi, who has helped attract bigger crowds by booking popular roots and jam acts, including DSO.
Dark Star Orchestra continues to refine its acclaimed ability to consistently channel the authentic sound of the Grateful Dead. The band's take on Dead classics such as “Ramble on Rose” “Black Throated Wind," and "Good Lovin'" captured the spirit and energy of the most solid of classic Dead performances and saw audience members singing and dancing passionately along. The high level of musicianship and the care that the band takes to preserve the sound and spirit of the original GD were very apparent.
Rob Eaton's rendering of "Victim or the Crime" did justice to Weir's best readings of the tune, while John Kadlecik's lead playing and guitar tone were spot on throughout the night, with particularly pleasing flashes on "Let it Grow," "Foolish Heart," "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad," China Doll" and "Terrapin."
There's not a shabby member of the band and each musician brought his and her expertise to the overall sound. Drummers English and Koritz held the time expertly with some very Leshian low-end assistance from Kevin Rosen, who dropped several venue-rumbling "Phil bombs" over the course of the evening. Rob Barraco's well-tested keywork seemed effortless on his part and Lisa Mackey made a welcome appearance at the end of the evening to add her Donna-inspired vocals to the "filler" material, which featured excellent renditions of "Stir It Up," "Let Me Sing Your Blues Away," and an extended and very well received "Midnight Hour." As the crowd filed out of the venue and back to the snow-filled streets it was as if the Dead scene had never gone away.