Furthur, Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA- 7/18
Photo by George Brown
Furthur brought an energetic show with a lot of serious instrumental jamming on a sweltering night in an outdoor venue overlooking Boston Harbor. Despite the soaring heat and humidity, the band played well and sounded in good voice, with the cleanest sound mix the band has brought to a Boston-area show yet.
Things got off to a brisk start with the psychedelic funk classic “Alligator,” with trippy instrumental interplay among band members setting the tone for an evening that put the “jam” squarely into “jamband.” Although the pace for the first set slowed down considerably with singer/rhythm guitarist Bob Weir taking center stage for his solo chestnut “Looks Like Rain,” the band continued weaving jams through and between songs throughout the concert.
Furthur gave fans a broad look at the musical history of the Grateful Dead and its forebears for the rest of the first set, highlighted by the little-played title track to the final Dead studio LP, 1989’s Built to Last, as well as covers of Americana classics “El Paso” (Weir still has impressive cowboy chops) and “Big Railroad Blues.”
The second set also started out with a funky number, a cover of the Otis Redding gem “Hard to Handle,” before slowing down with a second “Built to Last” number, “Just a Little Light,” originally sung by late Dead keyboardist Brent Mydland. Lead guitarist John Kadlecik did the vocals justice, with his raspy interpretation of the vocal stylings of the late Jerry Garcia perfectly fitting the melancholy ode to sweetness and light.
A powerful rendition of fan favorite “Eyes of the World” brought the crowd back to their feet, and Furthur kept them there by dipping in the funk well once again with a spirited rendition of disco-era crowd-pleaser “Shakedown Street.” Bass player Phil Lesh proved he can still lay down a groove and Weir, who was noticeably impacted by similar hot and humid weather during a July 2011 show by Furthur in Mansfield, Mass., dove into the song’s energy enthusiastically. The band then gave the crowd another gift with a bouncy take on “The Wheel.”
After Weir poured some gruff sex appeal into a cover of Wilson Pickett’s “Midnight Hour,” the set ended on a more solemn note with Kadlicek providing heartfelt, mournful guitar soloing and singing on the post-apocalyptic ballad “Morning Dew.” Following liver transplant recipient Lesh’s customary plea for organ donation, Furthur began the encore with a tease of the bassline for “Touch of Grey” before breaking into “Row Jimmy,” followed by a show-ending “Touch of Grey” that had the entire crowd dancing and singing along to every word. Dead fans have had a bit of a love-hate relationship with this song over the years, but on this night its message of staying true to your youthful ideals and rolling with the punches as the years pass clearly resonated.
Furthur put on a cohesive show, managing numerous shifts in tempo and mood and performing a wide range of songs spanning several decades from both the Grateful Dead and pioneers of blues, country and R&B. Keyboardist Jeff Chimenti effortlessly provided accompaniment in styles ranging from psychedelic to boogie-woogie to funk and drummer Joe Russo provided the motor that kept everything running on time and in sync. Furthur continue blending the many different moods and eras of the Grateful Dead to create a potent mix that keeps the whole thing alive in a new age.