Review and photos by Ellen Eldridge.
Full gallery after the jump.
The scene out in front of the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre held a magical nostalgia with too-young-to-be-hippies camped out with babies and dogs waving fingers in the air to signal the need for a free ticket in. To a casual observer, it would appear a documentary on the late ’60s or mid-’70s, but these fans held the same spirit of those in protesting war and following the Dead on tour. It made me wonder what the boys in the band really thought about the devoted fans; beyond appreciation there could just be a sort of sadness for those refusing to accept the moments of the present. Looking through the posted set lists from the recent (and all) shows, lets fans know that by following the band you really do get a new show each and every night. The Dead was a band that blossomed live and most of the recorded music came from those live shows.
Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and the Furthur band took the stage gracefully; Bob bowed with his Gibson and immediately started into “Not Fade Away.” Phil smirked like he held a secret or remembered a funny scene from when Jerry was still around. The simple fact that the closing east coast show for Furthur Fest 2011 started and ended with “Not Fade Away” spoke to the generations of fans adoring the music of the Grateful Dead. Bob Weir kept a look in his eyes that saw the reflection of all the people with whom he has played with and performed for. He grimaced like a wolf and opened his jaw wide to unleash the introduction, “I’m gunna tell you how it’s a-gunna be” and he pointed at the crowd as he released, “You’re gunna give a-your love to me” as they agreed in cheer.
To those who never followed or understood the defining music of the ’60s, or who passed it off as over-rated, hippie crap, just taking a look through the crowds at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Sunday night should prove something more cosmic than a group of musicians playing in a band existed on stage. Beyond the two original members of The Grateful Dead, the rest of the Furthur band included Jeff Chimenti (Ratdog, The Other Ones) on piano, John Kadlecik (Dark Star Orchestra, John K Band) on guitar and vocals, Joe Russo hidden in the back on drums, and both Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson on backing vocals.
The first set contained two covers, Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and Ryan Adams’ “Magnolia Mountain.” The Beatles’ ”Maxwell Silver Hammer” was included in the second set.
At the return for the second set, Russo really got to show off his soloing ability during “Samson and Delilah,” which sounded like a tribal dance or a drum interpretation of the original. Favorites and more recognized works during the second set included “Bird Song” and “China Cat Sunflower -> I know You Rider.” Before playing the encore, Bob announced that someone named Cody had saved his life by saying something about “if something ever happens to me” (difficult to make out all of what he said from the stage as fans cheered), but Bob asked the crowd to turn to someone they each loved and ask the same, to make them feel good. “U.S. Blues” made sense for an encore with its lyrics speaking to the end of summer. The Alpharetta show closed the east xoast tour; the guys will be back for a west coast tour August 9. The reprise of “Not Fade Away” reminded Atlantans and Dead Heads everywhere that the music created and shared will continue on.