This is the exactly wrong way to do this, but the first part of this review won’t make a whole lot of sense to anyone who didn’t see Furthur at the LC Pavilion in Columbus Friday night.
HOLYCRAPDIDYOUSEEHOWTHEYPLAYEDALONGWITHTHEFIREWORKS? KINGSOLOMONANDLETITGROW? ANDTHEMUSICANDTHEFIREWORKSENDINGATTHESAMETIME? DOOOOOOOD….
It’s easy for me to lapse into hippie babble when trying to describe Friday’s second set, which was punctuated by the Columbus Red White and Boom fireworks show going on over our right shoulders. For about 25 minutes — and two songs, King Solomon’s Marbles, a frantic instrumental from Blues for Allah, and Let It Grow, a driving, tumbling section of Wake of the Flood‘s Weather Report Suite — the music and the explosions intertwined, a breathtaking experience that jumped completely outside the normal context of a Grateful Dead show. I don’t think the band could see the fireworks from the stage, but they had to be aware that the show was going on — the lights and sound, which you can hear pretty clearly on the aud recording uploaded a day later, had to be evident even from their vantage point — and I have to think they played to the fireworks while they had the opportunity.
The fireworks were a bonus to what turned out to be a hot show in a jammed little amphitheater. I had done my best to listen to recent Furthur tapes to get a sense of what this band was all about and found something I hadn’t heard for a while. It’s not the steady shuffle of Ratdog; it’s not Phil and Friends looking to head out at every turn. But it is still familiar, something truly evoking the Good Old Days, and the difference has to be John Kadlecik, the former Dark Star Orchestra lead guitarist — the guy who filled the Jerry slot for them since that band began — who was tapped by Bobby and Phil, no less, to fill that slot in their new band last year.
As a founding member of the world’s most thorough Dead cover band, Kadlecik’s knowledge of what GD — and Jerry — sounded like through the years is as solid as anyone’s, and Furthur benefits from that experience. The Garcia-esque licks were all over the setlist — Loser, Shakedown and a stunning Standing on the Moon sung by Weir — but Kadlecik’s not just a Garcia clone. When the band launched Solomon’s at the outset of the fireworks show, John and Phil slid into a slippery jazz-funk jam before hitting that song’s requisite licks; his solo halfway through Let It Grow was a unique take on a bit of music we’ve been listening to for years.
To me, Kadlecik’s role in yet another rebirth of Grateful Dead music is a pretty big deal. For the moment, Phil and Bobby are having a good time playing together, thanks (apparently) to the input from the new guy, and as none of the Surviving Four are getting any younger — Phil turned 70 earlier this year — the opportunities we have to see them playing together — and really having fun together — are probably numbered. Maybe Kadlecik’s presence is the kick in the ass they needed.
That’s good for them. And that’s good for us, too.