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.