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Published: 2010/09/20
by David Steinberg

Furthur, Marymoor Park Redmond WA – 9/18

Bob Weir with Furthur earlier this summer – photo by Julia Rickert

In their first appearance in Washington State, Furthur packed Marymoor Park. Despite an atypical September monsoon – the soaking rain started falling right at the 6 PM show time and didn’t stop until well after the band left stage – the band managed to keep the audience entertained and involved throughout the show.

Like the rain, the show started out a little slow other than a nice sing-along to “Mississippi Half Step.” The first section was solid (other than some lyrics flubs by Bob Weir during “Promised Land,” nothing along the lines of the infamous New York “El Paso” incident) if non-eventful until the high energy of “Sittin’ On Top of the World” energized the damp crowd. It was followed by a cover of Ryan Adams’ “Peaceful Valley.” This song of longing for forgiveness – apropos for a Yom Kippur concert – led into an interesting jam. Toying with themes of “The Other One,” “Eyes of the World,” and “Let It Grow,” it was an inventive jam, one that showed why people bristle when Furthur is dismissed as a nostalgia act. The jam and its segue into American Beauty’s “‘Til the Morning Comes” was the clear highlight of the first set, one that made dancing in the deluge more than worthwhile.

One of the questions for any rock band is how to handle the aging process. If you can’t play as fast and precise as you could when you first wrote your hits, what can you do to make up for that? Furthur’s blueprint was shown during the “Cassidy.” Instead of rocking the middle jam, they turned it into an exploratory one. For an improvisation hungry crowd like Deadheads, this is an effective technique. Little of the entire second set crackled with energy, but what it was was interesting.

For many fans, one of the weaknesses of previous post-Jerry projects was the vocals on ballads. Jerry’s delivery was so powerful that a “Stella Blue” or “Morning Dew” could make an entire show. In the hands of a less charismatic singer, the attempt could fall flat or be actively bad. Furthur attempted two ballads in the second set, “So Many Roads” and “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.”

The former – sung by Dark Star Orchestra’s John Kadlecik was solid. Coming close enough to Jerry’s style without sounding like it was an attempt to mimic, he let the beauty of the song shine through. However, it was the second ballad that showed the difference between Furthur and previous projects. Bob Weir has fallen into the trap of trying to sing Jerry’s songs using similar phrasing and technique to his late band mate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really fit his style of singing (at least in the eyes of this reviewer). During “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” Bobby did something different. He sang it in his old style, along the lines of a “Black Throated Wind” finale. It was a reminder that Bob Weir indeed can be an emotionally moving singer.

The reports from Furthur tour were that there was a massive improvement from The Dead to this band. If Marymoor Park’s show was typical, that seems to be the case. While there still was a hit or miss aspect to the show, the lesser numbers were still enjoyable and the highlights were up there with almost any post-Jerry project. The proof of the quality of the show came from the encore. After “One More Saturday Night” came to an end, the band started up another song. As it turned out to just be a reprise of the song (starting with the “Hey little Saturday night” section), I found myself disappointed. I might have been cold and wet, standing in some rather deep puddles, but I was still longing for one more song. They might not be worth going on tour with – although there was a little crowd of vendors that showed there were some people doing just that – but it’s definitely worth the time of any Deadhead.

Comments

There are 5 comments associated with this post

gmo September 21, 2010, 08:23:36

I wanted to give my two cents about furthur. Now I’m only 25 and I’ve never seen the the grateful dead. I really have no business telling you any sort of advice or opinion to a deadhead. I want to make it clear that I’m not speaking on the basis that what I say is fact but only my humble opinion. As an avid grateful dead fan and a possessor of countless shows, tapes, and books on the band I feel somewhat confident to share my thoughts. I live in new York and have had the chance to see further a handful of times. This band is hot. Very hot. For someone who has only had the dead experience shared with him through recordings and good stories I’ve pieced together a classroom expectation of how I would feel leaving a show. Previous projects that I’ve seen were always great and the music was always fun and pleased, but I always felt like I was in a museum. It was a journey back for the deadhead legions. Furthur is different its in the now. It’s creative and living and really feels as if the music never stopped. I feel so blessed to share this portion of the bands his5try as it truly is inspiring. See this band. Support this band. I’m not saying they will ever top your personal favorite show, but they will leave you feeling like they have the ability to do so. They will make you look to the future instead of trying to live in the past.

Steve Kennedy-Williams September 21, 2010, 14:00:32

Great show. Not a psychedelic jam fest like Cuthbert, but very fun with fun outside jamming. Last half of First Set was so good. The band’s harmonies are solid. The level of comfort that Bob and Phil have with John’s playing makes for a beautiful vibe that made me feel like I was at a GD show. For the first time in years, I didn’t notice Jerry’s absence. Before the show I was worried that the best jam vehicles had been used up in Eugene. Dark Star, The Other One, St. Stephen had all been played. Instead we got a jammed out Cassidy, a new/old song High on a Mountain. A trippy Wheel followed. My wife who mocks me for being an obsessive Phil fan, insisted we listen to the CDs of the show all the way through after the show. It was that good. Photos from the show are here…
http://kennedy-williams.net/photo/main.php?g2_itemId=788

Bryannabis September 21, 2010, 14:20:23

This band is smokin’!!! Two nights in Eugene were as good as it gets, kids. It sounds like Marymoor was pretty sweet, too. So great to hear everything so fresh and new, yet sooo familiar. I love these guys, long live The Grateful Dead!!!

Mark September 26, 2010, 16:48:03

Meh, if I didn’t know they were capable of better I wouldn’t bother seeing them again. Another disappointing WA show. Totally forgettable.

Scott M October 16, 2010, 11:59:19

Sadly, I started to really get into the Grateful Dead only 3 days before Jerry’s death. In those three days, I had high hopes of catching a show on the Fall ’95 tour, but Garcia’s death left me feeling like I missed out on something special. I kicked myself for years. I felt like things were over. Boy was I wrong! I started collecting tapes by the dozens. I saw the Dark Star Orchestra a few times to really get the experience of a live GD show. I saw one of Bill Kruetzman’s bands. And finally, about a month ago, I saw Furthur perform in Vegas. What a great show! It crackled with energy, especially the second set. I truely felt like I was at a Grateful Dead show. Finally, I am no longer disappointed in not getting to see the Grateful Dead. I’ve come to the realization that nothing really ended when Jerry died. Yeah things will never be the same, but the music and what they started lives on! Furthur (as well as The Rythym Devils) is simply a piece of the evolution of the Greatful Dead. Think about it, The GD was always changing and evolving. Every time there was a death of a band member, the band changed, but it still carried on. I think that’s how we have to look at it. Yeah with Jerry gone, the band will never be called “The Grateful Dead,” but it continues on in it’s own way, just as it always has!

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