Friday, August 6, 2010

Concert Review: Dark Star Orchestra, 8/5/10, Bottle & Cork, Dewey Beach, DE

So when it comes to concerts, there's one band I've seen more than any other, and that is the Dark Star Orchestra. A college friend originally convinced me to go check 'em out while I was going to school in Pittsburgh, and they just blew me away.

They are a Grateful Dead tribute band, but they operate very differently from other tribute bands. At each concert, they will take a random setlist from the original Dead's 30 years of touring, and "recreate" the set, using the same instruments and equipment as much as possible.

Through my travels in the journalism industry, I've also had a chance to interview drummer Rob Koritz, keyboard player Rob Baracco and soundman Cameron Blietz, who are all very cool, down-to-earth guys.

Last night, at the Bottle & Cork, in Dewey Beach, they played a June 1976 show that was originally done at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, Pa. The set was very, very close to my dream Dead show:

Set I:
The Music Never Stopped
Mama Tried
Row Jimmy
High Time (Whaaaaat? YES!)
Looks Like Rain
Brown Eyed Women
Lazy Lightning >
Supplication Blues
Friend of the Devil
The Promised Land

Set II:
Samson & Delilah
Might as Well
Let It Grow > Drums > Let It Grow
Cosmic Charlie (Sheeeeeeeeeit!)
St. Stephen >
Not Fade Away >
St. Stephen >
Dancing in the Streets >
The Wheel
Johnny B. Goode

Encores (not part of original show):
You Ain't Woman Enough
Midnight Moonlight

I was initially a little concerned about this show, because longtime DSO lead guitarist and erstwhile "Jerry," John Kadlecik, recently left the band to form Further with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh (which I would REALLY like to hear!). Kadlecik's replacement is Jeff Mattson, who along with DSO keyboardist Rob Baracco, formed the backbone of the Zen Tricksters.

I am concerned no longer.

Despite the sound mix at the Bottle & Cork not always being the best (the lead guitarist has a tendency to get lost in the mix), Mattson is a well-worthy replacement. Several times during his solos, he got quite a reaction from the always-appreciative B&C crowd, and he even had rhythm guitarist Rob Eaton staring gape-mouthed a few times.

It doesn't seem that Mattson has found that "sweet spot" yet, where he can settle right into the groove and get that "group-mind" thing going with the other musicians, but they'll get there, no question. If I'm still here in Delaware some late September, we'll probably make the trek up to Wilmington to catch their show at The Grand.

So once again, thanks DSO, for a fantastic night.

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