April 6, 2011
Mizner Amphitheater could not handle the volume of Deadheads down to rock out with Furthur on Wednesday night, so a lively ring of dancing hippie types surrounded the venue, partying in the street. Though they were deprived of the nice view of Bob Weir and Phil Lesh playing passionately alongside each other, they were treated instead to a view of passionate ravers swinging glowsticks alongside stoic but mostly friendly police officers.
The band delivered two charged sets, exciting the crowd with playing that exhibited a group maturity that has developed since their stop in South Florida last year. Phil Lesh and Joe Russo make for an explosive combo, and John Kadlecik did not rely so heavily as he used to on Jerry Garcia imitation, which was one of the main issues fans have had with this band thus far.
The show kicked right into gear with a pounding "Not Fade Away" opener. The anthemic beat pulsated out beyond the amphitheater through the adjoining shopping plaza. The opener was followed by a Kadlecik-led "Mississippi Half Step" and "Music Never Stopped." The latter was taken for a nice, funky ride, propelled by Russo and Lesh, who were locked in and charging straight out of the gate. Throughout the show, the two got deeper and deeper into their groove and broke into very creative, lively space.
Rounding out the first set, which fell into a few too-slow moments, was a two-song concluding jam featuring guests Clarence Clemons, of the E Street Band, and Al Schnier, of moe. The sit-ins contributed substantially to the jams, making for nice treats for the crowd. Clemons got nice and dirty with his sax, and Schneir played powerful bluesy guitar, mixing in nicely with Weir and Kadlecik, especially during "Little Red Rooster."
The second set was a nicely strung together frame, mostly upbeat and high energy. The playing was cohesive and creative throughout, building on the momentum of the first set. The set opened with a "Hard to Handle>China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider" sequence and then went right into "Scarlet Begonias>Eyes of the World>Viola Lee Blues." The transitions between the songs were exciting and seamless, and the jams got deep and saucy at times.
The peak playing came during the sweet "Eyes of the World" and the down-and-dirty "Viola Lee." The set resolved into soulful renditions of "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad" and "And We Bid You Goodnight." The encore for the show -- which was band's tour ender -- was "Uncle Johns Band," which went into "The End," the last tune from the Beatles' Abbey Road. The band popularly covered much of Abbey Road during this tour, which made this an appropriate and fun way to end it.
Personal bias: I adore Phil and Bobby but was totally weirded out by Kadlicek with his non-Jerry behavior last year. I went in expecting to cringe again, but his presence was not nearly as discomforting this time around.
The crowd (who did not make it into the show): Was not fazed by their position in the middle of the street next to cops.
Random detail: The pre- and postshow Shakedown Street was very vibrant and healthy. Great to see in South Florida.
By the way: This review is straight from the streets!
Not Fade Away,
Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo,
The Music Never Stopped,
Tom Thumbs Blues,
Seven Hills Of Gold,
Little Red Rooster, (w/ Clarence Clemons & Al Schnier)
Lovelight (w/ Clarence Clemons & Al Schnier)
Hard to Handle,
China Cat Sunflower >
I Know You Rider,
Scarlet Begonias >
Eyes of the World >
Viola Lee Blues,
Death Don't Have No Mercy >
Going Down the Road Feelin' Bad
And We Bid You Goodnight
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E: Uncle Johns Band >The End