Furthur * Barton Hall (Cornell University) * Concert Review and Set-List

16 Feb

I was among the many who witnessed the live ageing of  65-year-old Roger Daltrey and 64-year-old Pete Townshend on the main stage of this past Superbowl halftime show. It was depressing seeing two men who had once galloped youthfully around the stage with fervor attempt to recapture this fire. Yes, I do understand that they are in their mid-60’s but, still, there was something odd about the spiritless performance. I saw Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, both members of the English rock band The Who who have lost their bassist John Entwistle and Keith Moon to death in 2002 and 1978 respectively, a few years ago. The concert was strong and entertaining, but, somewhere in the years since it, they have lost a little something. On the television screen I was more worried that Townshend was going to break his arm doing his famous windmill than I was excited to see The Who play.

Yet, there are two performers who are in a similar position to The Who (with band members lost through the years) that have continued truckin’ and playing sold-out, creative shows for the most interesting crowds. (Those who know the two members of Furthur…Do you like what I did with the last sentence?) Bob Weir, 62, and Phil Lesh who is five years older than Pete Townshend, both former members of the most famous eccentric jam band of all time, The Grateful Dead,  are still together and playing stronger than ever. On Sunday, Valentine’s Day, Furthur (which also features Dark Star Orchestra guitarist John Kadlecik and RatDog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti) played a tremendous show in famous airplane hangar/current Cornell campus field house Barton Hall. Barton Hall, which most deadheads, the most loyal fans of the Grateful Dead, will tell you was the sight of one of the greatest Dead concerts of all time in May of 1977.

 

“Concert Photography by David Oppenheimer”

The concert really began for me while I drove through Cornell campus after grabbing dinner with my girlfriend and brother. Lining the street leading up to Barton Hall were a line of long-haired old and young hippies, rusty yellow school buses used for transit from concert to concert, and various vendors selling unknown goods for flexible prices. I felt like I was sent back to the 60’s (which I never really experienced), but, the only difference was that it was insanely cold and windy walking to the hall. Quite a reversal from the sunny days of California.

Inside, we leisurely walked our away towards the front of the stage and ended up around 10-20 feet away. One thing great about Grateful Dead, or any combination of their members, shows is that there is always a nice amount of space between people. Unlike most standing concerts people are not packed together like a crowded elevator. Proper room is given for hippie dancing (the best type of dancing) which involves swaying and, according to a guy next to me for the second half of the concert some sort of hyper-sexualized praying.

Yeah, Kind of Like This (To a bit of a lesser scale)

The people who crowd the arenas that Bob Weir and Phil Lesh perform in are a diverse and mellow group. Most interestingly, a variety of people (from hippies to hicks to students, sorry to label everyone) love the band and, for each night they perform, they all unite and collectively sing each song in a stoned choir. It is beautiful and Weir and Lesh cannot help but smile at the crowds they create. Oh yeah, I am forgetting the best part of the concert. The music.

The night began with a cover of Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” which was done to absolute precision. It was a solid cover with some great soloing and after the concert I realized how perfect of a choice it was to open the concert (the concert almost ran until midnight). Furthur then exploded into some Dead Winterland 73′ material. I apologize for getting deadhead on you all but, “They Love Each Other,” (which also was played at the original Barton Hall concert in 1977) “Beat It On Down The Line,” and the fantastic “Tennessee Jed” sing-along were played at the famous Grateful Dead concerts at Winterland in 1973. The crowd loved “Tennessee Jed,” helping Weir sing the hook “Tennessee, Tennessee, There ain’t no place I’d rather be, Baby won’t you carry me, Back to Tennessee .”

A product of the 60’s folk movement “Fennario” was played next followed by “Looks Like Rain,” which has become a Bob Weir staple at his shows with RatDog. “Sugaree” was next in line and Furthur rocked the hall with its awesome tune. The soloing was done with such awesome intensity that I was surprised they were actually performing it. A cover of The Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin” closed the first set excellently and left the crowd longing after its finish.

After intermission Furthur came out and just played “Uncle John’s Band” (no big deal or anything) in easily the best performance of the night. I am a little biased because it is my favorite Dead song but the performance was excellent. “Peaceful Valley,” “Ashes and Glass,” “Unbroken Chain” and “Morning Dew” (which was played at the original Barton Hall concert as well) were played next and prepared the crowd for the three songs that closed the concert (before the loud encore of Samson and Delilah, otherwise known as the Dead song that repeats “If I had my way”) Included in this list of songs was “The Other One,” “Standing on the Moon” and, of course, “China Cat Sunflower.” The close of the concert was, simply put, a diapason of sound that echoed throughout the hangar into a sweet symphony.

Concert Conclusion: You cannot judge a musician’s performance by his age. With age some musicians quality of performance may decrease, but, like a fine and aged wine, others may become better. Bob Weir and Phil Lesh are proof.

He was playing this bass. It is obviously cool enough for its own picture and caption

Set-List

Set 1: In The Midnight Hour>
They Love each Other
Beat It On Down The Line
Tennessee Jed,Fennario
Looks Like Rain, Sugaree
Good Lovin’

Set 2: Uncle John’s Band>
Peaceful Valley> Ashes & Glass
Unbroken Chain> Morning Dew>
The Other One> China Cat Sunflower
Standing On The Moon>
I Know You Rider

Encore: Samson & Delilah

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5 Responses to “Furthur * Barton Hall (Cornell University) * Concert Review and Set-List”

  1. 6rbmp3.ae February 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    great!!!!!!!!

  2. Charlie Fogg April 8, 2010 at 8:04 am #

    Mr. Coleman,

    First, you preface your review by making note of the Who’s performance at the Super Bowl. I hardly think that was appropriate. I would not judge any band or performer on the basis of their super bowl half time show. I would suggest you check out any of the videos available on you tube of their recent performance at Royal Albert Hall on 30 March, just a few weeks ago. Of course the Who is one band that you can’t possibly compare what they are now vs. 30 or 40 years ago.
    What I think you’ve attempted to do in your review is make an argument that some bands age better than others. I have not seen Furthur, but have checked out some videos. I’m guessing, unlike yourself, I saw my first Dead show almost 30 years ago. I’m not saying this to brag, and I’m also guessing that you may not have even been old enough to have seen Jerry Garcia in his prime years. I don’t want to take anything away from those who’ve seen Furthur and thought it was just the best night of entertainment you could have had, but lets be fair, they ain’t what they used to be either. For those of us who lived to hear the first notes of Scarlet Begonias from Jerry’s guitar, or the sweet sound of his voice during the quietest passages of Stella Blue, or even his flubbing a lyric, there is no substitute for him. This may seem obvious, but if you’re making comparisons lets be real. We almost lost Phil Lesh 10 years ago to hepatitis C, thank God his virtuoso bass playing is still heard live, and Bob Weir has held up pretty well. However see if Bob Weir can still hit a note as high as he did 30 years ago, and while Phil has never crowed about his vocal abilities, sadly he has often sounded stained trying to sing a verse the last 5 years.
    I was disappointed watching the Who during the super bowl. But after watching I took into account where the performance took place, and cut them some slack. In all fairness do you think the performance of Furthur at Barton Hall was nearly as good as what we’ve heard on tape countless times of their 1977 show? Probably not, but lets cut them some slack there, or rather, I will. That would no more likely to have happened then we’d have expected the Who a few months ago to sound like they did circa Live at Leeds. So I take issue with your comparisons. Next time I suggest you rely more on researching your subjects history and catalog vs. using another band to make comparisons with.

  3. Matt Coleman April 8, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    The purpose of including the remaining members of The Who into this review is to prove a point. Like I said in the review, I saw them 2 years ago. They put on an awesome show. Yet, the Superbowl show was lacking. It was as if they lost some of that fire power that used to define them as performers. It was as if the 2 years did not treat them well. I have watched video of their recent performances and I stand by my opinion. I think they have lost some of this. This is my opinion though and I am happy you and many other think differently.

    As for Furthur, I understand nothing is the same w/o Jerry. I am not old enough to have seen Jerry with the real Dead but I have seen a tremendous amount of concert footage. I believe it was not unwise to compare four musicians from two bands that thrived in the late 1960’s. They are obviously not the same without their former band mates but Furthur, consisting of Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, really still have that wonderful strength of voice and musical sustainability that I believe Pete and Roger have lost over the past few years.

    I have done my research sir. I never go into anything blind. I thank you for your post and your opinion. Understand though, this is just my opinion on the subject. They are all incredibly fine musicians who have made themselves into 60’s music gods. I love the Who and the Dead. But, in 2010, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh display more of their former selves than Pete and Roger do. The halftime show was just one example of this. They were an anachronism on stage and it was quite sad.

  4. Concert Photos Magazine May 31, 2010 at 8:04 pm #

    Lots of photos from Furthur Tour with Phil Lesh & Bob Weir at Concert Photos Magazine – http://www.concertphotosmagazine.com

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