Furthur took the stage at Red Rocks Thursday night before an enthused crowd of twenty to seventy-something-year-old Deadheads and casual fans alike. The contagious pre-show energy had most concert-goers brimming ear-to-ear in anticipation for the kickoff of a four night stand at the esteemed natural amphitheater.
DISCLAIMER: Meeting up with a friend whose ticket was in my possession proved more difficult than foreseen, and as such a punctual entry into the concert was sadly not our fortune. As such, the open jam which began the show and led into the dreamy ballad Crazy Fingers, followed by the rump rocking I need a Miracle, were not witnessed by your humble author, and therefore he cannot speak to their merits.
Here Comes Sunshine, perhaps a nod to the recent biblical floods in Colorado, was a welcomed treat that featured a strong jam, displaying Furthur’s ability to bring even cheery and melodic songs up to dance on high, psychedelic peaks. Here Comes Sunshine bloomed flawlessly into Cassidy where the band really began to showcase how well they can play together after four years on the road (not to mention Phil Lesh and Bob Weir’s forty years together!).
Next up Furthur explored the slow, sad tune of Lost Sailor. Though a very powerful tune when Bob Weir sings it with vigor, this version was slightly tame and not much to write home about. The song segued, as it is oft-to do, into Saints of Circumstance. The band was disjointed during parts of the song and that aforementioned chemistry became elusive, but they eventually locked in and regained their stride, bringing an end to the first set.
Sitting through the long set break, fans howled at the luminous harvest moon boasting its presence over the Rocky Mountains and the rest of the globe last night.
Paying homage to the serenity of the Rocky Mountains, Furthur opened set two with a meticulous version of Mountain Song. Back up vocalists Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson really shined here, as they repeated the lyrics “Gonna let the mountains be my home,” over and over, creating a truly soul-inspiring moment in sound. Mountain Song eventually diffused into The Eleven, presenting some of Phil Lesh and John Kadlecik’s best playing of the night.
Calling attention to the magnificence of the harvest moon, out of The Eleven came Mountains of the Moon. The set lost a lot of wind here, and was unfortunately deflated even further when the opening chords to Lady with a Fan>Terrapin Station were strummed.
Now, this is an iconic Grateful Dead song and should nearly always be welcomed with open arms. But it has to be earned. Terrapin Station should serve as the icing on the cake after a blowout, balls-to-the-wall performance. The proverbial ascent to the top of the mountain, if you will. Such a performance was not one that was delivered last night, and thus the Terrapin Station was lackluster at best. Days Between followed up Terrapin. Yet another slow tune sung by Bob Weir, which marked a few too many for this set, at this point just about dead.
In an attempt to revive the set and the now mostly seated crowd, the bass line for China Cat Sunflower began bouncing off the rocks, along with everyone in the house. Instead of going into I Know You Rider, as is typical, China Cat was followed up by two other crowd favorites, Playing in the Band and Uncle John’s Band, which closed the set. Although these songs were a welcome reprieve from the very slow and largely unimpressive set that preceded them, it was just a little too late in the show for anything truly inspiring to emerge.
They encored with I Know You Rider which was a major highlight of the show, featuring some of the best playing of the night. The crowd joined in jubilation to sing the classic line “I wish I was a headlight on a northbound train…I’d shine my light through the cool Colorado rain!” ending the show on a high note.
This show was overall uninspiring with some strong moments strewn throughout. Always important to keep in mind though, is that if the Grateful Dead’s near 50 year history shows anything, these guys should never be counted out. There are three nights left at Red Rocks, and no telling what they have saved for those shows.
Earlier in the week, Furthur announced they would be taking a hiatus in 2014.