Thanks to everyone who's read this and double thanks to those who have posted! It is a good discussion and it is great to hear your thoughts.
FurthurFlower67: Thank you for your kind words. I really appreciate them. To answer your questions:
I dig this whole band! Jeff is spectacular, he does it all: a light sweet touch on the ballads, serious rock and roll when called for, amazing solos (see Eyes) and the good ol' rockin' organ jam! Love him.
John, as I've said in my original post, is, imho, the right man for the job, and that pretty much says it all. Big shoes to fill, not just musically, but spiritually and mentally. He knows how to channel this whole love thing we have for Jerry and Jerry's music without it tripping up his ego, and as I've said, I feel he comes more and more into his own and sounds more and more like himself at every show. Love him.
And Joe, the one you really asked about. Joe ROCKS! I think he is a monster! I jokingly tell my friends at shows, "Joe Russo is the hardest working man in Rock n Roll!" because that's how it seems to me. He is back there just working it for every minute they are onstage, amazing. King Solomon's! Terrapin Flyer! Love him.
Yes, I like the singers being there too. They add beauty.
So how do I feel about Bill and Mickey not being in the band? Well, in a lot of ways I guess I feel it really isn't my business. These guys are family and family goes through good times and bad times and only those in the family can really know what it is all about. We all know from our own lives that you don't spend the same amount of time with some of your friends as you did many years ago. Our lives go in different directions. Do I think they would be better with them? I don't even want to go there. Furthur is great and Joe is their drummer. Bill and Mickey are great, I hope they are loving all the stuff that they are doing.
scar1et_f1re: Thank you for your thoughtful post. I very much agree on the predictability of many of The Dead's setlists. It is kind of a funny irony: because they didn't have a set list and could do anything, they fell into easy ruts. We all remember the whole is it Estimated Eyes tonight? Or Playin Uncle John's? lol Also looking for our shoes during another US Blues encore! But then there was all the back and forth, what is next energy in their jams, as I said in the original post. As many have pointed out in this thread, it is important to remember that it is all good. I love the thing about the veterans on a sports team. They are passing the torch to a younger generation and Furthur will get better and better the longer they play. (Please Goddess, let this last!)
Enough yacking for now. Thanks again everybody! Oh, and you folks going to New Year's, Yay for you! Dance your asses off and have the time of your lives, yet again!