With Donna the Buffalo
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Revolution, Fort Lauderdale
Rather than blowing the roof off of Revolution and drumming with primal, psychedelic fury out toward the dark corners of outer space on Sunday night, Mickey Hart and Bill Kruetzmann stuck to playing tunes, giving those who were still wobbling from Jam Cruise, and those who had stayed on land, a chance to appreciate the complex and powerful textures that the pair of Grateful Dead drummers create even within the framework of a traditional song.
The set was about an even split between Grateful Dead material and original material from the band's two singer/guitarists, Tim Bluhm of the Mother Hips and 21-year-old blues guitarist Davy Knowles.
Though the song format -- as opposed to the more trance-oriented approach the Rhythm Devils have taken in the past -- was fun at first, beginning with opener "Don't Ease Me In" and continuing with other early highlight "Brown Eyed Women," eventually the original material, which was less than exciting songwise, began to occur too often, stalling out the crowd momentum built by Dead favorites like "Cold Rain and Snow" and "Brokedown Palace." However, regardless of the song being played, the chemistry between Kreutzmann and Hart was enough to keep this reviewer in awe and feeling appreciative for the chance to share in their groove throughout the whole show.
As far as song performance from the other members of the band went, the highlight may have been "Brokedown Palace," which was sung beautifully, but not perfectly, by Bluhm. After delivering a captivating rendition of the Garcia-Hunter fan favorite, Bluhm flubbed the last lines of the song: " Fare you well/Fare you well/I love you more than words can tell." This may not have jumped out at me quite as much if I hadn't noticed two separate T-shirts with those lines written on them on my way to the bathroom, preshow.
Jamwise, the highlight was a string of songs and jamming that began with a powerful "Cold Rain and Snow," which featured the only "Drums" segment of the show (besides a teensy little one during the encore) and a strong guitar solo from Knowles. Knowles, the youngster of the group, received encouraging nods and shouts from Hart throughout the show. It was cool to see him rejoicing in the great musical feel and skill of the 21st-century kid. "Cold Rain and Snow" eventually segued like clockwork into "Cumberland Blues," which became spacy and then segued nicely into "Uncle John's Band."
In all, the band stuck mostly to the Americana side of the Grateful Dead catalog, which was neat to see and hear, but no doubt left everyone a little bit hungry for some deeper jams. The originals played were good enough, but there were just too many of them. If the ratio had favored Dead songs a bit more, the show wouldn't have had the slack spots that it did. As a whole, the show was a great occasion for checking out one of the great drumming duos of all time, singing along to a few favorites, and getting a taste for a couple of solid, lesser-known artists.
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The crowd: Was not as thick to begin with as it was during Bob Weir's Jam Cruise kickoff, and it thinned out as the show went on.
Random detail: Within about 15 minutes, two women passed out cold in my general vicinity. Could they not handle the power of rhythm or the powerful pills?
By the way: The best seat in the house for this show may have been upstairs, behind the stage, looking at the drumming duo from behind through the windows.