Photos by C. Alan Crandall (https://www.facebook.com/RockyMountainJams)
Video by evenstev (http://www.youtube.com/user/evenstev)
Audio by Otterman
No band unifies the tribes like the Grateful Dead. They are the spring from which all jam flows and they are the founders of a musical lifestyle that reaches far beyond the concert. With the passing of Jerry Garcia the remaining members of the family have had to find various outputs for their creativity. The most recent and well known of these is Furthur. Helmed by Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, Furthur has been a celebration of the art that was created by the Grateful Dead throughout three decades of nonstop touring.
During this past summer Furthur experienced some hardships. Weir collapsed on stage in the spring and the band was forced to cancel a headlining spot at BottleRock Napa Valley scheduled for May 9th. So it was no real surprise when just prior to their four-night run at Red Rocks Amphitheatre that Furthur announced they would not be touring for the majority of 2014. Originally I planned on missing this run, but given this fact my wife and I opted to head to The Edge for the sold out show on Saturday.
We got on the road early but weekend traffic didn’t put us on Lot until around 5 PM. We parked in the Upper South and relaxed a bit before show time. It’s always a little odd jumping into a four day run on night three. Everyone is well into his or her flow and I end up feeling a little bit like a tourist. That being said I didn’t let it bother me as I headed up the ramp. At this point, I must give props to my good friend Tuber for securing us tickets and getting us settled in the 8th row. You’re a good man and thorough.
Rarely do I get the chance to watch any concert at Red Rocks from the first ten rows so this was a real treat. Furthur opened with a fiery “Feel Like A Stranger” that went deep into the dark side musically to begin the night.
Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger, Althea, Jack Straw> Doin’ That Rag, Fennario, Mason’s Children, Promised Land
Set 2: Dear Mr. Fantasy> Wheel, Estimated Prophet> Dark Star> Standing On The Moon> Terrapin Station: At A Siding> Terrapin Flyer> Terrapin Refrain> Unbroken Chain> Space> Shakedown Street> All Along The Watchtower> Turn On Your Lovelight
Encore: Box Of Rain
http://archive.org/details/Furthur2013-09-21.aud.flac16 (AUDIO ON ARCHIVE)
On paper this is a Deadhead’s wet dream. The beautifully executed “Althea” featured some amazing and accurate guitar and vocal work from John Kadlecik. The band gently eased into “Jack Straw” with Phil and Bobby trading vocals back and forth. The entire crowd seemed to join in on the refrain. Vocally it was fair, but Chimenti’s keys were the real highlight. “Doin’ That Rag” was spot on while “Fennario” aka “Peggy-O” was like a fresh breeze washing over the crowd. “Mason’s Children” is always a great addition, and this version was stellar. They closed with a classic “Promised Land.” Musically the band sounded incredibly tight. Joe Russo does the work of three people on the kit, watching him is like trying to focus on an octopus pulling a card trick. It’s magic. Early Furthur performances with Jay Lane were excellent, but Russo has filled the void tremendously.
The second set featured a more extensive setlist feature many songs from deep in the Dead catalog. They surprised the audience by opening with Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” It was accurate but deliberate in the rendition. The band simply exploded into a powerful “Wheel.” The rows of Red Rocks soon became a massive dance party. Furthur went dark again with a well-played “Estimated Prophet.” Both Pehrson and Becker were outstanding on the backup vocals, but they seemed present much less than previous shows I’ve seen. In fact they frequently departed the stage leaving just the core of the band to rock it out. The Dark Star continued the trek into the shadows musically, and this was an obvious high point for the second set. These two songs combined stretched to about thirty minutes and featured some of the most heroic jamming of the evening. Afterward they went into an impeccable “Walking On The Moon” with some great vocals from Mr. Weir. They went into a truncated “Terrapin” themed jam that featured a sick “Terrapin Flyer.” Phil’s sounded a bit shaky on “Unbroken Chain,” but that’s nothing new. His bass was in full effect regardless of who was at the microphone. Further went into a “Space” jam before concisely ripping into another fan favorite “Shakedown Street.” It was awesome to see Furthur perform Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” which was yet another unexpected gem. The elder statesmen of jam finished with an energetic “Lovelight.” They encored with a Phil sung “Box Of Rain.”
Overall this was a solid outing from Furthur and I was happy that we made the trip. Red Rocks is a special place and as each year passes the possibility that Phil or Bobby will stop touring or worse rises. The fact that 2014 will see the two split ways just gave me the excuse I needed to go. Assuming they will both be touring with Rat Dog and Phil and Friends respectively means that both are looking for a different outlet right now. Lets hope that they come back energized and reinvigorated towards the end of next year. Time will tell.
Note: This article contains some excellent collaboration. Thanks to the superb Mr. Crandall for providing photos, thank you to Otterman who posted his audio recording on Archive, and finally thanks to evenstev for shooting the entire show on a tripod and posting on YoutTube. We live in an amazing time in technology where you can go online after a concert and re-experience the show in so many ways. The dedication of fans like these three makes it easy to really examine and understand the individual performances of bands like Furthur. For that I thank you all.