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Dancin’ in the streets of LA with Furthur at the Greek

By Pete Mauch //

Further //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
October 5th-6th, 2012 //

Night 1

Furthur took the stage Friday night at the beautiful Greek Theater in Los Angeles and proceeded to play an inspired show full of surprise guests and timeless songs. The Greek Theater is easily my favorite outdoor venue in Los Angeles. It’s nestled right in the mountainside of Griffith Park and gives you the feel of seclusion, which is exactly what I want when I see a Furthur show.

This particular night the sky was a dark shade of purple and had amazing patchy clouds that made me think of the song “Cream Puff War.” One of my favorite parts of attending a Furthur show is the family of deadheads who truly hear the music the way it is supposed to be heard. It had been a year to the day that Furthur graced the stage at the Greek, and I was reeling with anticipation because the shows last year were absolutely wonderful.

Due to my day job and Los Angeles traffic, I walked in late and caught the tail end of what seemed like a blistering “Brown-Eyed Women”. After “Brown-Eyed Women”, I turned to my bug-eyed neighbor and asked him what I missed, and he enthusiastically said “Truckin'” and “Smokestack Lightning.” I immediately gasped as I’ve always loved “Smokestack”, but I didn’t worry because there was still plenty of show left for this young deadhead.

Next came a Bob Weir tune “Money for Gasoline”. I was pleasantly surprised with this version because I can usually do without this song, but Weir pulled it off quite nicely with a lot of help from the backup singers, Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson. Furthur then decided to tackle the George Harrison song “Any Day”. Lead guitarist John Kadlecik took lead vocals on this track. It was my second time hearing this cover, and I will surely welcome it anytime. Bassist Phil Lesh then treated us to a beautiful take on “Peggy-O”. Lesh is usually not very strong with his vocals, but he absolutely nailed “Peggy-O”.

Furthur then invited Jonathon Wilson on stage to play guitar and sing on “Mission in the Rain”. A lot of Deadheads recognized Wilson from the Jerry Garcia tribute show “Move Me Brightly”, put on by Weir back in August. I’m usually not a big fan of special guests, but Wilson did a great job on this Garcia tune, especially with his vocals. As Wilson walked off stage, Lukas Nelson walked on and played a countrified rendition of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”. Nelson is the son of the legendary Willie Nelson, and you can tell that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Nelson then led Furthur into a fiery take of “Althea”, which is one of my all-time favorite Dead songs. So, when Lukas Nelson took lead vocals, I was at first put off. But by the end of the song, he had the band and the crowd completely hanging onto every note. Drummer Joe Russo was obviously moved because he was bouncing behind his kit like I’ve never seen before. I haven’t seen that much energy on a Furthur stage in a long time.

After a lengthy set break, Furthur started things off with the famous segue of “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider”, known simply by Deadheads as “China Rider”. “China Cat Sunflower” is one of those songs that just makes you smile. There is something about this song that puts you into your happy place, and this version definitely did that for me. Furthur transitioned beautifully into “I Know You Rider”, which had everyone in attendance singing along.

Furthur wasn’t ready to take a breather just yet, so they segued right into a rather lengthy and psychedelic version of “Cassidy”, which had some serious legs to it and clocked in around 15 minutes. Kadlecik and Jeff Chimenti on keys were feeding off each other while Lesh and Russo stayed locked into the rhythm. “Cassidy” is rarely a highlight of a Further set, but tonight it was just that.

Another highlight of the show was the classic combo of “Scarlet Begonias” into “Fire on the Mountain”. It was 20 minutes of pure bliss for these ears. “Scarlet” was fired up from the get-go, and it had all the players in the band locked in. They transitioned flawlessly into a raging “Fire on the Mountain”, and Furthur must of known the crowd needed a break because next came an angelic take on “Standing on the Moon”. It is impossible to compare Weir’s take on this song to Garcia’s, but I will say that Weir did one hell of a job on this version. His vocal phrasing was on point, as was his guitar playing. My hat goes off to Weir for even trying to sing that song.

Next came a very unexpected, second-set “Shakedown Street” that brought the disco funk to the Greek Theatre. My friends and I always joke that “Shakedown” will be the opener of the show, but we very rarely expect it late in the second set. It was a very welcomed treat to hear it at this point in the show. It was also really fun to sing “Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart” because everyone thinks that LA is fake and has no real soul. But as an Angelino, I can verify LA and the Greek were full of heart this past weekend.

Furthur invited Wilson and Nelson both back on the stage for a fun singalong of Van Morrison’s “Gloria”. This version had Weir rapping about baseball playoffs in between verses that gave the crowd a good laugh. They ended the night for me in a confusing way as I thought the encore was for sure “Cosmic Charlie”, but after the intro, they slammed right into “Revolution” by The Beatles. All in all, it was a fantastic night at the Greek Theatre as I looked forward to getting back to the Greek for Night 2.

Set I:
Truckin’
Smokestack Lightning
Brown Eyed Women
Money For Gasoline
Any Road
Peggy-O
Mission in the Rain (with Jonathan Wilson)
I Shall Be Released (with Lukas Nelson)
Althea (with Lukas Nelson)

Set II:
China Cat Sunflower
I Know You Rider
Cassidy
Passenger
Mountain Song
Scarlet Begonias
Fire on the Mountain
Standing on the Moon
Shakedown Street
Gloria (with Johnathan Wilson and Lukas Nelson)

Encore:
Revolution (with Johnathan Wilson and Lukas Nelson)

Night 2

After walking in late the night before, I made sure my crew was on time and ready to dance to some Grateful Dead music. Furthur once again started just after 7 p.m., and they got right into things with “Golden Road”. I love this song for many reasons, one of them being that this was the first Grateful Dead song I ever heard back as a kid. This is the opening track on Skeletons From the Closet, and its a show opener for a reason because it gets the party started — and that’s exactly what happened when they opened with it on Saturday night. Furthur moved right along with a great version of “Music Never Stopped” to keep the dance party going. Weir took the lead vocals on this one, and he delivered them quite nicely while Kadlicek was on point with his lead-guitar riffs. Furthur then decided to go into the classic cover of “Dancin’ in the Street” that had the Greek going nuts. It was really fun to have these three songs all in row to start the first set. It’s almost like we were treated to three opening songs, and I thought that was pretty special.

At first, it seemed like Furthur was going to transition into “Just a Little Light”, but I must of heard a tease of some sort. Anyway, they went into a Ryan Adams cover called “Let It Ride”. I wasn’t all that surprised by this selection because last year Furthur covered Adams twice in LA. Adams once toured with Phil Lesh back in 2005, so I’m sure Lesh was giving his friend a nice gesture. “Let It Ride”, in my opinion, is a perfect song to place in the middle of Dead songs. It has lyrics that have great imagery of rivers, ferry boats and sailors that many Grateful Dead songs have, too.

Furthur then transitioned beautifully into “The Wheel”, and that had the crowd roaring because this version was smoking. Russo and Lesh were feeding off each other the whole night per usual, but they seemed especially locked in during “The Wheel”. After that scorcher, Furthur then segued right into the fun singalong “Dire Wolf”. This song invokes the feeling of drinking whiskey and sitting around the campfire all night. As they were playing this, I couldn’t help but think about the dire wolf skulls they have on display just a couple miles away at the La Brea tar pits. Furthur then closed the set off with a fun, bouncy version of “Loose Lucy” and a very passionate “Touch of Grey” that had the LA crowd singing the chorus of “I will Get By”. I really enjoyed this first set, especially the opening three songs.

The second set got started with the classic Weir combo of “Lost Sailor” and “Saint of Circumstance”. I personally wasn’t that enthralled with “Lost Sailor” as the second set opener since they played it last year at the Greek, and it just wasn’t very exciting out of the gate. “Saint of Circumstance” was played beautifully, and it brought the energy back to the show before they went into the song of the night, which was “Unbroken Chain”. The Lesh-penned song was raucous from the start, and the band seemed to feed off that energy because this version was amazing from start to finish. I really enjoyed Lesh’s bass lines on this song while Kadlicek complimented him perfectly. I’d highly recommend this version to any Deadhead.

The classic “Uncle John’s Band” came next, and it’s always a treat to these ears. It was soon after “Uncle John’s Band” when I heard the bass thumping of “The Other One”. Lesh absolutely destroyed this song on bass as Weir and company belted out the lyrics. After the enormous “The Other One”, Weir led the group in another great rendition of “Let It Grow”. This song has really grown on me over the years, mostly because Furthur absolutely nails it every time. They then brought the high energy down with a beautiful take on “Comes a Time” that was truly needed as I found myself drenched in sweat from dancing.

Furthur brought the house down with the powerful trio of “Help on the Way”, “Slipknot” and “Franklin’s Tower”, better known as “Help, Slip, Frank”. The “Slipknot” was absolutely breathtaking as they weaved perfectly into “Franklin’s” and kept the momentum throughout. It was a great way to end a gigantic set. Lesh did his donor rap to remind everyone to be a donor because it saved his life, and then he went on to sing his signature song “Box of Rain”, which is such a beautiful song and was a perfect way to cap off an already amazing weekend of music. Long live Grateful Dead music.

Set I:
Golden Road
Music Never Stopped
Dancing in the Streets
Let it Ride
The Wheel
Dire Wolf
Loose Lucy
Touch of Grey

Set II:
Lost Sailor
Saint of Circumstance
Unbroken Chain
Uncle John’s Band
Other One
Let It Grow
Comes a Time
Help on the Way
Slipknot
Franklin’s Tower

Encore:
Box of Rain

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