April 2, 2011
North Charleston Coliseum

They’ve been called the greatest cover band in the world, but the Grateful Dead are also one of the most covered bands in the world. That continues with Furthur.

Moments during Saturday night’s show found a higher plane – the sublime exploration during “St. Stephen” was a real gem. The band clearly enjoys their new material, offering a version of the “The Mountain Song” superior to the live one recently released via Relix Magazine. And the “Help On the Way>Slipknot!>Franklin’s Tower” line-up was fantastically fun. Throughout the small portion of the show I caught, however, it didn’t necessarily feel ‘further.’ Still, for someone who occasionally plays in a Grateful Dead cover band, and has seen the gamut of Dead cover groups, the living members ‘cover’ their former band far better than anyone else. It’s like seeing The Wailers with Family Man on bass. There’s no Bob Marley singing, but with that authentic rolling low end that the legend used to harmonize over, it sounds right in a way that can’t be mimicked.

In Furthur’s case, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh have surrounded themselves with talent. Despite seven people in their photos, it’s really a five-piece band. The backup singers are a bit of an afterthought. John Kadlecik is an absolutely perfect addition, nailing Jerry’s tone and trading original licks with Weir, without either stepping on each other’s toes. The guitarist may mimic Jerry, but he never copies him. And Jeff Chimenti’s touch on the keys blended perfectly.

Unfortunately, one drummer can’t fill the space we’re accustomed to hearing with Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart sharing percussion duties. Joe Russo would be the obvious choice to do so – he’s half of the Benevento/Russo Duo, a pair with a big enough sound not to warrant additional players. If anyone could find enough embellishments and rhythmic surprises on top of a steady beat to handle Dead duties alone, it’d be Russo. And maybe it was a matter of sound and mics in the Coliseum, but despite trying several sonic vantage points around the room, I never got the body shaking backbeat I was craving. Some will disagree – that’s just me.

So here’s an idea: Offer the olive leaf to Kreutzmann and Hart. Get them on stage with Kadlecik.. The man made a living covering the Dead’s music with Dark Star Orchestra. Without half the living members on stage, Furthur’s still got an air of ‘covering.’
Kadlecik would certainly enjoy feeling the legendary drum pair behind him. Then, we’d really be going further.

Disclaimer: A wedding and a fire truck kept the reviewer from the show, arriving just in time for “New Potato Caboose” in the second set. Please don’t consider this a complete review or take the opinions offered here too seriously.

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