Joe Russo’s Almost Dead Keep the Music Alive on Friday Night at Brooklyn Bowl

Posted on Monday October 5th in

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead :: 2015.10.02 – Brooklyn Bowl

The arc of a Joe Russo’s Almost Dead show goes something like this:
You’re most likely aware of the lust and praise that follows this band everywhere they go, and you wonder — especially if you’ve seen them before — if it’s hyperbolic. Is it just that you wanted them to be that good? Is there really much left to invest in yet another Grateful Dead cover band that might be not much more than a bunch of world-class musicians woodshedding on a beloved canon of music?

And then you hit that moment in the show — usually at some point in the first hour of the three-plus that await you — where your face spreads into a knowing “Oh, hell yes” grin. During the first night of the Fall Ball, a sold-out three-night run at Brooklyn Bowl, it happened during the transition from “Standing On the Moon” into “The Wheel,” a fluorescent-hued blanket of a jam that built from way underneath and was suddenly all over you. There’d be many more such wow moments to come, none so dramatic as the “I Know You Rider” jam, in the middle of the second set, with the crowd going as bat-shit crazy as any I’ve ever seen at the Bowl. And it was yet another memorable night with the best Grateful Dead live experience money can buy right now.

What makes JRAD so potent is, yes, the primal intensity they bring to each and every selection from this endlessly tread catalog. But it’s more than that. They go for it: Joe Russo, Tom Hamilton, Dave DreiwitzMarco Benevento and Scott Metzger are in attack mode from beginning to end, and if that means some songs render sloppily and some transitions just don’t take, the ones that do are just plain dynamite, master classes in tension and release when it comes to Dead-style jamming. Consider that “Wheel” again, which sprawled every which way, glass-eyed and gooey, such that you didn’t quite feel the tension beneath until Russo and Dreiwitz began to rumble and rat-tat-tat, and the singers crescendoed, and everyone arrived at the “Bound to cover just a little more ground” drop, and boom, it hit. So money, as the kids say.

I like that they take chances with the catalog. They’re faithful to preconceived notions of how Dead sets could and should be constructed, but only just so. Why shouldn’t an unctuous “Terrapin Station” close the first set, and why wouldn’t the “Lost Sailor” > “Saint of Circumstance” pairing be an oddly placed but “yeah, OK” coda after so much closure and resolution following “Atlantic City” > “I Know You Rider” and a red-tender “Brokedown Palace”? You walk away from a show like this with a glow — that glow that live-music lovers know all too well. You want to take the JRAD ticket to ride again, and the sooner the better.
—Chad Berndtson | @cberndtson




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