RECAP: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead March 10, 2017 at Brooklyn Bowl New York

Posted on Tuesday March 14th in

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Photo courtesy of @hirshi

One hundred and one shows in — 102 perhaps by the time you read this — and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead has conditioned us to understand that they will faithfully carry the torch of Grateful Dead orthodoxy and subvert it at the same time, bending, contorting and manipulating this music in interesting and sometimes unnatural ways. And what we’re seeing, nearly four years after JRAD debuted as what was supposed to be a one-off in this very same room, is both familiarity and adventure. You’re in for a real treat with Joe, Marco, Tommy, Scott and Dave. It’s going to be jammy, it’s going to be gooey, it’s going to be fiery, it’s going to be a thunderclap, it’s going to be the most nourishing live Grateful Dead music experience you can find.

Chroniclers of the jam scene, including your correspondent, have spilt enough ink over JRAD at this point that you pretty much get it, or don’t. The boyos don’t so much play Grateful Dead music (with occasional asides) as they get up to musical mischief that happens to use the Dead canon as paint, easel and canvas. You’d like to think you can anticipate their moves, but, hey, who would have called this Friday March 10 show’s second set opening suite, which crushed “Greatest Story Ever Told,” motored into Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” reprised the previous night’s reprise of “Music Never Stopped” and then finished “Greatest” in cinematic fashion?

As in any strong JRAD outing, each member had a chance to shine, and this night might have belonged to Russo himself, not least for a nearly minute-long drumroll build during “The Wheel” that was one of the night’s most talked-about moments. But the point of JRAD — one of them anyway — is that its five members can navigate this terrain as a group thinking beast, as when they played around with tempos and dynamics in an invigorating “Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo,” and went tease-crazy during the classic “Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance” pairing that closed Set 1.

Along with Russo, Hamilton in particular had an exceptional night, bringing tender grace to “So Many Roads,” “Candyman” and a majestic “Stella Blue” jam that yielded “He’s Gone.” Proving like Thursday night they had some cool surprises in the offing, the band turned up “Ripple” and “U.S. Blues” for its encore, the latter of which hadn’t been played since its very first show on January 26, 2013. A lot’s happened since that show, but the JRAD love’s only gotten stronger, one hundred of ’em later.

Words by Chad Berndtson

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