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Published: 2012/01/09
by Brennan Lagasse

Furthur, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium San Francisco, CA – 12/29-31

If you happen to be one of the lucky ones to have caught Furthur’s soon to be infamous NYE run there’s no doubt you’re still glowing. Each night was clean, left fans wanting more, and kept building set by set. It was a true masterpiece in all aspects that not only sent a message to the greater jamband community, but respected and honored the storied tradition built by the one and only Grateful Dead.

Thursday’s offering was the loosest night of the stand with an obvious absence of the pre-weekend crowd. With the only non sold out evening of the run Furthur took the stage with a bouncy warm up jam and proceeded to drop right into a hot “Help on the Way,” arguably one of the most revered openers in their vast catalogue.

While “Slipknot!” followed it wasn’t the usual melodic jam seasoned listeners are used too. It was rather quick and not quite as pronounced although as soon as the notes to “Estimated Prophet” filled the Civic we all knew why. Carried at the end by several trademark Bob Weir “Haaa’s!” as a few thousand strong sang “California!” as loud as could be the rest of Furthur’s first set was tight, fun, and showcased interesting improvisational moments throughout every song selection. This was perhaps the singular most salient theme of the run, a theme that continues the progression of Furthur as a band since their first shows back in 2009.

Some detractors and critics have called the band flat, unoriginal in their playing, and unoriginal in their interpretation of the classic Grateful dead catalogue. Sorry folks. Those criticisms are completely unwarranted, especially when put up against these three shows. Each song offered, simply noted in just the initial first set of night one, showcased unique jams and unique takes on these classic tunes. The jam in “Cassidy” is a great example as is the “Weather Report Suite” > “Let It Grow”. Both are clear examples of not only the superior playing of Furthur, but of how well this band is putting their own stamp on this timeless music.

Thursday’s second set built a step from set one opening with a great Phil Lesh led “Box of Rain.” An interesting pairing in “China Cat Sunflower” > “Scarlet Begonias” was a nice treat not just for the love of the songs and how well they were executed, but in the interesting delivery of these two particular songs that are normally segued with two other classics. “Any Road” and “Big Bad Blues” added that unique Furthur feel to the set before the welcome notes of “Slipknot!” brought us all back from the beginning of the night culminating in a lively Phil led take on “Franklin’s Tower.”

After Thursday’s effort the buzz in Furthur camp was alive and well. People were stoked and it showed amongst fans Friday afternoon and early evening as night two got ready for liftoff. The Bill Graham Civic was visibly fuller compared to Thursday night and that special NYE energy was being shared in costume, conversation, and comradery throughout the greater scene.

After having left us all with heads full of Dead from the previous evening Furthur took the stage with Bob Weir starting the night with a solid “Jack Straw.” Although Jerry Garcia favorites like “Bertha,” “Eyes of the World” and “Deal” dotted the set it was the Bobby tunes like the opener, “Music Never Stopped” and the classic segued pairing of “Lost Sailor” >”Saint of Circumstance” that stood out the most.

If there was any set to throw off my framing of this run as a near perfect buildup from set-to-set it would have to be set two from Friday night. Even walking into the show on NYE many were a tad reserved that what would be offered could capture the energy, musicianship, and psychedelia offered during this set. Like several parts of this overall run, it’s highly recommend to listen to this set if you were unable to make the show. If you made the show I’m sure you’ve already taken care of that by now.

The “Dear Mr. Fantasy” opener was a nice surprise that almost seemed as though it was a bonus once “Passenger”, a not uncommon set opener itself followed. “Wharf Rat” also seemed surprising in its number three position for the set although the first three songs fit very well together as a triad. It was clearly shaping up to be a great set, and then came the Anthem of the Sun vibe that took the venue into alternate realms.

“New Potato Caboose” brought us there and was followed by a truly slick take on “Cryptical Envelopment.” With the energy of a twenty-something an absolutely huge bass bomb by Phil was dropped, and a soaring take on “The Other One” sent the Civic ablaze. The venue was swirling, dripping with smiles, and for that one beauteous moment we show goers know can happen from time to time it felt as though there was a mutual shared acknowledgement happening with all in attendance knowing Furthur was indeed taking this music and the fans further. “The Other One” proceeded to bleed right into “Caution (Do Not Stop on the Tracks)”, which might’ve been the highlight of the night. Bobby leading on the vocals, Phil walking his bass perfectly to a steady drum beat from Joe Russo, spacey keys from Jeff Chimenti, all revolving around an absolutely ripping guitar from John Kadlecik. It was a moment.

I’m not usually one ever looking for a chance to catch my breath at a show when the music is taking people to such new heights, but at the end of “Caution” it would’ve made sense. The energy of the venue was through the roof, but “Caution” didn‘t stop the jam sequence as drummer Joe Russo nailed the groove on “King’s Solomon’s Marbles.” “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” was finally that moment for physical rest, although not mentally as it was a passionate take on the old school tune. “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” eventually rolled right into a nice jam, “The Eleven”, and then right into “Turn on Your Lovelight.” Wow is all I have to say and I know I am far from the only one. “Touch of Grey” was a fitting one off encore as much as the Bob Dylan classic “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” was on night one.

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Comments

There are 10 comments associated with this post

DeadHead January 9, 2012, 15:15:10

That was what I call a detailed report. Great review, great shows.

Stagger Lee January 9, 2012, 15:31:29

Thanks for the first person account of the setlist.

Jensen Lee January 9, 2012, 18:47:30

1970’s “American Beauty” was a masterpiece as the Dead evolved from the psychedelic era to the country-rock of groups like New Riders of the Purple Sage. It included one of the Dead’s best loved tracks, “Box of Rain,” bassist Phil Lesh’s song to his ailing father. Lyricist Bob Hunter says the song’s title means “the world we live on.” On Rockaeology at http://bit.ly/j20zF4 Jerry Garcia describes how Hunter pairs his writing with the band’s music. Hunter says, “I’m able to translate peoples’ scat. I hear English in it, almost as though I write down what I hear underneath that.”

pugdog January 9, 2012, 20:21:35

proper review…a fan’s review…and a breath of fresh air!

TCinNYC January 10, 2012, 10:09:27

Good stuff here. Im happy for the members of Furthur. Have a great 2012!!

Gr8flDad January 10, 2012, 11:18:47

I was there for all three shows. Still feeling the BUZZ. So much energy on stage and in the audience. Can’t wait for the next time.

joe January 11, 2012, 21:14:09

first night was off the hook. second night was a bit off.. NYE was off the hoook.

joe January 11, 2012, 21:14:12

first night was off the hook. second night was a bit off.. NYE was off the hoook.

Rob from Ct. January 13, 2012, 11:36:27

Can’t wait to see them at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford Ct. Rock On !!!

Nancy Angelos January 19, 2012, 15:59:58

I’ve been going to Dead shows since 1969. Friday nights show was one of the best I’ve heard. The house was rockin!

Cristobal March 12, 2012, 18:00:20

MY New Year’s eve was spent in aa0cold maximum rtiuscey dorm room with 17 felons incaradceradated for sexual assault crimes from 10PM-​​6AM. And hmmm… so was my Thanksadgiving and Christmas evening/​morning! That’s because I’m of the shitty pattern I’m on. It was aa0dandy evening, all of them… with difadferent co-​​workers and either the Aa0or Ba0side of juvenile offenders who were NOT genaderadally happy to be locked up on any of those days. Some drama, as expected, but nothing too out ofa0hand.Nor were the staff happy, in general, but ohhh, well. The Holadiaddays come and go and I’d most rather see them past and done with. Working graveadyards puts one in aa0warpyzone schedule that doen’t have much in comadparadison with aa0Real Life, haa0ha.More posts to follow — I’ve been having WAY too much for fun and prophet lately and got beguiling stories to share — and HEY!! Glad to be Back In The Saddle, pardner.Got aa0stencil made up for aa0NEW TATTOO to be put atop the SYN​CHRONIUM​.NET tattoo Ia0put on my leg. Irene drew it and Ia0think it’s ahhhh… I’ll keep y’all posted (hint: It’s Too Funny) and get pics up hopeadfully within the next 3a0days I’ve got away from The SlavePit, starting as ofa0today.And Twitter ON, folks!!!! Gotta love what you do. I’m ready to follow… yeeehaw.

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