Concert: Furthur in Wallingford, CT
Furthur's Easter Eve performance at Wallingford, CT's Oakdale Theater dispensed a lot of tasty treats for the three-plus generations of Deadheads and followers in attendance. Unfortunately, the only things missing were the figurative giant chocolate bunnies that so many Furthur fans hoped to enjoy in the form of lengthy jams.
Depending on the night, or the mood of the band, those extensive medleys could conceivably start during the opening number and weave through two, four or even a half-dozen songs, tying as much as an entire set together in a single cohesive stream of music.
While those extensive jams were lacking in the April 7 show, Furthur, led by Grateful Dead alumni Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, seemed to still push a lot of positive buttons with back-to-back renditions from their catalog that on occasion shared some thematic similarities.
Before the show even began, fans in the Oakdale lobby were chatting about an Easter tradition -- looking for the band to open the show with "Greatest Story Ever Told." And sure enough, with Phil counting them in, the pumping rocker with its shout-out passages was first out of the gate.
Furthur followed up with a couple of songs inspired by a pair of special ladies, an equally hard-driving "Bertha," and the more subtly orchestrated "Althea," a slow funky shuffle that downshifted the whirling dancers churning throughout the Oakdale's aisles and lobby.
Then it was time for a double shot of rootsy rockers as "Mama Tried" turned the spotlight on keyboardist extraordinaire Jeff Chimenti, who administered a blistering honky-tonk piano solo, before"Big River" gave guitarist John Kadlecik a chance to offer up a blistering solo of his own that crescendoed into a trade-off between the two of them.
The only number of the first set that yielded any magical jamming was " Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo," where Lesh took the lead, guiding the band through a trippy zone of syncopated scales and riffs, before easing into "Bird Song." The first set wrapped with the Jerry Garcia standard "Deal," leaving the crowd on a high note to sustain them through the 40-minute intermission.
Weir took the lead as Furthur opened the second set with a couple of double-shots. His classic "Lost Sailor/Saint Circumstance" gave way to "China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider," which finally got the crowd ramped up again. The "Terrapin Station Suite" took the audience to an even greater heights with drummer Joe Russo effortlessly banging out spectacular runs that would have challenged any two drummers -- including Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzmann.
Weir practically crashed the bus at that point with a lackluster take on one of Garcia's most endearing ballads, "Standing on the Moon," but he was rescued by the re-energizing double-shot of a frantically-paced "Eyes of the World" and the always welcome "Sugar Magnolia."
As much as the show's opener was anticipated, there was little doubt that "One More Saturday Night," would wrap things up, which explains the mass exodus to the parking lots before the song even got started.
While this stop on Furthur's long-strange trip wasn't the best they've turned in at the Oakdale, it wasn't the worst, either. And it should be mentioned that while most configurations of Dead-spawned bands typically feature great light shows, Furthur's current set-up is terrifically simple but ultimately effective.
Utilizing a bank of mechanized spots on each side of the stage, with a similar bank arching over the band, the projected patterns can wash the crowd, or zoom down to almost laser-like beams that dance and strobe through the smokey haze.
At the same time, another set of computerized spots throw limitless patterns on the plain backdrop, with alternating hard and soft-edged designs that add great visual accompaniment to the songs -- and at times are reminiscent of the old-school liquid light show also popularized by the Allman Brothers.
In other words, this Easter Eve show provided something of a treat to the ears, as well as the eyes.