Furthur, Schottenstein Center, Columbus, OH 11/16
A few nights earlier on tour – photo by Vernon Webb
On a Wednesday night in Columbus, Bobby, Phil and the rest of the Furthur gang returned to the city for the first time in over a year. The mellow feel and open setup of the Buckeyes’ beloved Shottenstien Center gave fans the perfect opportunity to partake in a hazy three and a half hour dance party. Throw in a set list full of early Dead gems and an energy that breathes the ‘70s, and you’ve got a show that will keep the young and old happy until the next time around – or at least until Chicago.
Wasting no time, the band opened with “Deal,” setting the bar for a night full of sweet vocals and some fierce and haunting jams. John Kadlecik passed the vocals to Weir for a rocking “Beat it on Down the Line,” much to the fans’ delight. The band’s energy seemed to translate directly to the crowd and never dipped, even for the slower-paced and swanky “Easy Wind.” Kadlecik shined as the band’s resident Jerry, incorporating his own unique sounds and style into the music while channeling the legendary front man at just the right moments and at a modest rate.
Giving the crowd a little rest before the booming second set that was to come, the band took the pace down for a smooth and punching “Black Throated Wind” followed by the calming and familiar bass line and lyrics of “Ramble on Rose.” Almost overpowering the band, the crowd’s singing was only silenced by the sweet guitar-turned-piano jam slipped into the middle of Ramble.
The shouts picked back up for the chorus of a slow and powerful “High Time.” Next, the crowd welcomed “Cumberland Blues” and bodies could be seen in the aisles, stands and distant lit doorways of the upper levels of the huge venue. Just when it seemed like the energy of the first set was at its peak, the band broke into a surprising cover of “The Mighty Quinn” brought to life by strong background vocals and an approving audience.
A lengthy set break ended at the command of Weir, who stole the show with a smooth “Lost Sailor” into “Saint of Circumstance.” The well-traveled veteran musician proved that a voice can sustain the weather of time as he temporarily stole the show with his right-on and comforting tenor tone. The crowed roared as the band channeled the Beatles for “You Never Give Me Your Money,” which started haunting and harmonized and culminated in true Fab Four upbeat fashion.
Highlights of the second set included a building “He’s Gone,” completed with sassy solos and some soulful organ work from Chimenti. The band gave a nod to the Buckeyes with an energy-charged “Scarlet” that rolled straight into “Fire on the Mountain,” picking up momentum with each note. From Weir and Lesh at the front right corner of the stage and Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson on back vocals to the glow stick donning fans in the isles and doorways, it was difficult to tell who was having more fun mid-jam.
The spotlight soon moved to Lesh for a powerful “Eyes of the World,” leaving only for another sweet piano solo from Chimenti. The unexpected and melancholy rift of “Black Peter” filled the air, accompanied by the soulful sound of Weir taking the reins for Jerry. The pace picked up, and never slowed back down, for a booming and slightly-trippy “The Wheel.” Picking up even more momentum, the band launched into a rocking version of “Casey Jones,” which culminated in a chorus repeat that increased in intensity and speed like a demented locomotive until the very last phrase.
Making up for time lost during the set break, the band barley left the stage before coming back out for a celebratory “Touch of Grey” that seemed to summarize the energy and feel of the entire show. Although fans were aching for a two-song enchore, after dancing to that set list all night long, there was nothing to do but smile, smile, smile – before hitting the parking lot for a Grateful Grilled Cheese and heading to Chicago.