October 5, 2012
Greek Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Maria Younghans

The Furthur they go, the Furthur they seem to travel beyond the realm of the Grateful Dead. Or, at least by the two sets they played the first night of a two-night stand at the Greek, you’re lead to believe Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and the rest of Furthur are working hard at establishing an identity of their own, while the foundation of their music and their very being stays firmly attached to the Grateful Dead community.

It’s become a customary event — Furthur and the Greek. For the third year in a row, they rolled in for a pair of Fall season shows before taking a holiday break (aka other projects). By all accounts, Friday night was THE night to be there, and based on subsequent set lists, I couldn’t agree more. Lifting off with a lumbering “Truckin’,” how couldn’t you already be sucked into the jam vortex after the first fuzzy pulls? Weir got plenty of vocal support from background singers Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson to bring out the best of this classic song.

The evening took an earnest turn when they visited Weir’s “Money For Gasoline,” rather apropos considering the surging fuel prices in California (although the lyrics don’t seem to address the issue). Once again, vocal support from Becker and Pehrson, followed by a superb piano solo from Jeff Chimenti and an equally fluttering of notes from guitarist John Kadlecik, really kicked this number up the register.

There’s no disputing how electric Kadlecik is in the role formerly occupied by Jerry Garcia. Yes, his tone is eerily similar, but the execution is unparalleled by so many others who have tried. You throw guys like Trey Anastasio and Warren Haynes into the mix, and it will undoubtedly sound great; but if you’re really looking for something closer to the real deal, Kadlecik is pretty much on the mark. It’s no wonder Furthur has lasted this long.

The guitarist sings and steers the rhythmical row of George Harrison’s “Any Road,” a song that needed a band like Furthur to earn its due as one of the Beatle guitarist’s cooler latter-day tracks. It also seems to work out as the perfect launching pad for one of the first set’s more kinetic jams.

Phil Lesh took over the vocals for “Peggy-O,” while Jonathan Wilson and Lukas Nelson (son of Willie) joined the band for “Mission In The Rain,” Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and a truly epic “Althea” to finish off the set. As I scampered off for refreshments, I didn’t realize that the music so far was merely a prelude to arguably one of the best second sets from a post-Grateful Dead gathering of former members this reviewer has ever seen.

They began with “China Cat Sunflower,” and the audience instantly fell into a trance. Weir purred through the verses as the band wrapped itself around the whirling measures with surly precision. Drummer Joe Russo (of the Benevento Russo Duo) gets extra credit for anchoring the tempo. Next thing you know, “I Know You Rider” comes along with its catchy refrain and it’s 1974…or 1984…or 1994 all over again. There were undoubtedly heads filling the aisles of the Greek from one or the other or likely all three. Generations transcend the whole scene, the very idea idles in a state of suspended gratification. When the coolest guy in the joint (Phil Lesh) is 72, it tends to work that way.

"The Mountain Song" (a Furthur original), “Scarlet Begonias” and “Fire On The Mountain” set the Greek in motion for a solid 30 minutes before the faithful were tucked in and smothered up with a simply dandy reading of “Standing On The Moon.” This is one of those that make you really miss Garcia, and Weir applied a certain grace and reverence to the vocal that said he was feeling the same.

“Shakedown Street” brought them back to their feet with its infectious disco kick before Wilson and Nelson rejoined the band for Van Morrison’s “Gloria” and the Beatles’ “Revolution,” choosing the slow White Album arrangement over the faster, more popular single version. Nice move. You couldn’t have asked for a better ending of one of the Greek’s best shows of the 2012 season.

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