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Furthur, The Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY- 4/20

Photo by George Brown

Furthur has gained some powerful momentum since their inception in 2009, and have built their own loyal following. The band ended up selling out Madison Square Garden last year, and just sold out a stellar nine-night run at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY. Furthur played the smaller venue for the first time this April, retooling the song catalog of the Grateful Dead and sparking some inventive covers. Bob Weir (solo) and Phil Lesh and Friends have each played the Capitol, separately, since its revival last September, and were eager to return. The concert was broadcast live on Sirius XM.

The Grateful Dead played The Capitol over a dozen times in 1970 and 1971 and developed a special fondness for the venue because of its great acoustics. An audience member shared his recollections from that era: “I loved going to The Capitol, it had the best sound and no security. It was mostly suburban kids tripping and having a good time. I remember one Grateful Dead show in 1970 with Catfish as the opener. The amps were in a semi circle and Pigpen was jamming with ‘Easy Wind,’ it’s 1a.m. when a beautiful naked woman starts dancing on-stage. Jerry mostly ignored her and kept playing until, eventually, she was carried off. There were various equipment problems and the show turned acoustic. The stage was low and you could get real close. Jerry was so generous. He would make eye contact and smile and nod at you when you cheered on his riffs. They played the best versions ‘Uncle John’s Band’ and ‘Friend of the Devil.’ It’s been over forty years now and I’m still excited to see tonight’s show.”

With such ritualistic, communal devotion and emotional ties to the Grateful Dead experience, everyone has their favorite era, song, band member, and post-Garcia band incarnation. Having touched so many lives, there are many strong personal opinions and attachments to the Dead’s music. Younger generations, having missed out on the chance to see the Grateful Dead perform live, continue to get turned-on, and have become vital to the sprawling jamband community.

Being mindful of the fact that the Grateful Dead, as a band, has its place in music history and can’t be duplicated, Furthur is the combined vision of Weir and Lesh, who got together to take the material in the creative direction of their choosing. As for putting together the band, after careful consideration, they chose the voracious drummer Joe Russo, Ratdog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, DSO’s John Kadlecik on lead guitar and vocals, and added back-up singers Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson. Each carries their own wealth of experience and talent for improvisation. As two of the founding fathers of the jamband scene, Lesh and Weir must feel a great satisfaction to work with artists who were inspired by the very scene they helped to create and firmly establish.

On the evening of 4/20, Furthur seemed to have settled comfortably into the run and proved to be a tight, instinctual band, indeed. The first set opened with everyone in the balcony up on their feet for a spirited “One More Saturday Night,” followed by “Stagger Lee” with Kadlecik on vocals. Chimenti wove in some funky sounds on the Hammond. The audience sang along with Weir during “Cassidy” as Russo fell into a relentless groove on the drums. Lesh provided some complex bass runs, as Weir and Kadlecik played off each other for a jazz-inspired jam that bled into “Althea.” The energy swept over the crowd as the first recognizable notes were played. Chimenti laid down some heavy piano tracks as Weir blended in some textures on rhythm guitar. Russo pounded out a soaring finish. Next up was Lesh on vocals for “Pride of Cucumonga.” The lively country verses gave way to a long bluesy jam with Chimenti switching off between piano and Hammond. Russo really shined as the jam transitioned back to the final country-vibe verse.

Fast-moving clouds were projected onto the walls and ceiling from the light show for the Weir vehicle “Black Throated Wind.” The song built slowly until Weir belted out the final verses to wild applause. The set ended with the fast-paced favorite “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” with the audience loudly singing out the responses to the vocal turns from Kadlecik, Weir, and Lesh.

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