reCAP :: Joe Russo's Almost Dead :: 2015.05.09
After playing two sold out shows at The Joy Theater during Jazz Fest in New Orleans, the buzz has continued to spread to more Deadheads about Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (JRAD).
With drummer Joe Russo at the helm, he defines the driving, fast paced beat which keeps every show high energy. He is joined by four immensely talented musicians, which you can also tell he has long standing friendships with, which make the stage presence relaxed and fun to watch. Keyboardist Marco Benevento, Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz and guitarists Tom Hamilton and Scott Metzger all keep up with Russo’s beat, and all shine reminiscently like Dead members from the past.
To me, each time I see them I am more impressed. They remind me of early Grateful Dead, the acid tests Dead where they are very improvisational, very quick paced, very spacey but with a plan. It’s like they have a map on where to go, they just decide how to get there without it. Somehow, we end up back on the trail.
Tonight’s show began no differently. Right from the start we began with a rousing Dancing in the Streets, where special guest Nicole Atkins joined in as the female voice, the Donna of JRAD. She even dressed in long flowing dresses in the same fashion. Hamilton and Benevento showed their chops for a 15 minute long jam before we ended Dancing, and Metzger moved to the pedal steel for Dire Wolf! Atkins came back onto the stage for Cassidy, and I am enjoying how she quietly joins and leaves the stage while not upsetting the electricity from the band. This was a quiet jam, but you could feel the anticipation in the air as JRAD took their time to get back onto the path again.
Finally, an explosive jam threw us into St. Stephen. Benevento turned up his keys for a tit for tat against Metzger’s guitar. Russo then turned it into a fun jazz jam, where Russo seemed to be playing on the rims of his drums. We then turned into The Other One over a punk vibe before we ended back to St. Stephen. The set ended with The Stranger sung by Atkins and a steaming Eyes>Not Fade Away before we broke for set break. First set complete with a lot of happy hippies dancing.
The second set started with The Music Never Stopped, which ramped up the crowd to an incredibly hot King Solomon’s Marbles, where the power of Russo is plain to see. The beginning jam was so intense, so quick and so heavy the song didn’t even need to be sung as we knew how hard they were going to nail this one. They slowed it down, without a beat, into I Know You Rider, where you could see the joy on Russo’s face. And the audience’s faces. Everyone knew the words, we all sang, it was a highlight of the show.
Hamilton began to softly twinkle Morning Dew on hjs guitar. He sang the soft, sweet and heartbreaking Morning Dew in same theater where Jerry once played. The coincidence did not escape me. As we ended the second set with the obvious One More Saturday Night, I was reminded that it WAS Saturday Night, as I had felt transported, re-energized and blissfully shining at this great show, this great newest iteration of the Grateful Dead cover bands, while Metzger cut loose on vocals.
Tonight’s encore was Ripple, one of the sweetest Grateful Dead songs, with everyone in harmony. What a wonderful way to end the night.