Furthur kicked off its four-night run at Red Rocks last night, fresh from announcing the news of their upcoming touring hiatus. "Would this be the last time we would see these living legends of the Grateful Dead at Red Rocks?" seemed to be the question on many people's minds. Only time will tell, but there was definitely a level of gratitude just for being there that you could feel from everyone walking in.
The band took the stage just barely after 7:30, with drummer Joe Russo getting things started, followed by bassist Phil Lesh, who guided the rest of the band into a nice opening jam. Guitarist and vocalist John Kadlecik threw out some beautiful guitar trills, and the group went into the quick tempo of "Crazy Fingers." Really clean piano lines from Jeff Chimenti abounded, as guitarist and Grateful Dead alum Bob Weir started hitting chugging chords on his guitar. The band built the sound into a thick engine-like rhythm, and then segued right into "I Need a Miracle."
While Furthur tends to play Grateful Dead songs at a slower pace, veering sometimes into too slow, they can read each other's musical cues better than anyone. As they played "Miracle," Lesh repeated a great, pushing bass riff, and then they took a left and went into "Here Comes Sunshine." Any complaints about them playing too slow were hushed here, as the song bounced along at a trot, causing the audience to finally let loose, as yellow lights washed over the place. It was perfect situational timing for the song after the terrible flooding the state has seen. Weir pushed going back into the chorus just a little too early, but it was otherwise a nice segue, and with just a key change, they were suddenly playing "Cassidy."
Despite the news of the hiatus and conversation about various band member's health, everyone, especially Weir sounded on point tonight. His vocals were solid, particularly when he hit the last line of "Cassidy," with the lines "Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine," where he added an extra "I'm done with mine," making this rendition notably poignant. As thick colored circles of light moved quickly around on the floor, the band had a churning, rocking jam going with Weir screaming on the guitar.
Next came "Just a Little Light," a nod to deceased Dead keyboardist Brent Mydland, who wrote the tune from the late '80s, as projections that looked like tons of white branches were shown on the back of the venue. "Lost Sailor" was next, and Bob Weir made a clockwise movement with his hand to the sound guy a few times while his amp kept producing feedback. They got the kinks worked out, and the song flowed into "Saint of Circumstance," once again seemingly pulled out of nowhere. A great buildup led to hitting the peak perfectly into set break
After fifty minutes, the band hit the stage for set two. Lesh took over vocals and sang "Mountain Song," the jam having echoes of "Cassidy" in the beginning. The act went into "The Eleven," with Russo and Chimenti standing out particularly in a quick duel. Things started getting pretty spacey, and then "Mountains of the Moon" began, with Lesh on vocals again.
At this point in the night, the clouds had finally cleared to a show a huge, bright moon, and yet again Furthur had great situational setlisting singing about the moon. A sloppy transition into "Lady with a Fan" was completely overlooked once they started "Terrapin Station" and the crowd roared in approval. Chimenti really shined here on keys, as did Russo pounding out rhythms on the drums. The song wasn't played completely tonight, and with the accompanying suite being left off, the outfit instead went into "Days Between," one of the Dead's later tunes.
As the guitar melody of "Chinacat Sunflower" started up, the crowd went wild again. The tune once again built up into a chugging jam with Weir at the lead, and then continued on to a slower "Playin' in the Band," before finally cooling off with "Uncle John's Band" to get the dual "band title" punch in. The act finished the night with "I Know You Rider," usually played after "Chinacat," and the crowd really got loud for the "cool Colorado rain" line, as expected
While the show had a couple set list choices that brought the energy a little down, the band made up for it with so many seamless transitions, complex jams and strong song selection in the latter half of set two. With plenty of big hitting songs left on the table, the crowd went out into the night hugging and helping each other down the stairs, ready to do it a few more times.