It was supposed to go down at Red Rocks, but 5+ inches of snow the night before put the kibosh on that plan. Luckily, there was a backup – 1stBank Center in Broomfield, CO, with a capacity of about 7,000 people. The arena is slightly smaller than Red Rocks, which holds nearly 9K, and it lends itself to an intimacy that indoor arenas generally lack. Tonight was no exception, and the opener was a most welcome treat. Fusion-jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood took the stage around 6:30 on this fine Saturday evening, and the house lights went completely black. There were some gentle spotlights on the stage, but the floor and most of the stands appeared pitch black to concertgoers coming in out of the blinding snow. Those who came early were in for a treat as John Medeski’s organ work danced over the foundation of Chris Wood on double bass and Billy Martin on drums. The opening set was nearly an hour and a half of fuzzed out jazz instrumentals, a precursor to the psychedelic exploration in the headlining set.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead arrived on stage around 8:45pm, and proceeded into a (very fitting) cover of Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm” in true Dylan & The Dead style. Then came fan (and personal) favorite “Bertha”, an upbeat number with a bouncy rhythm and strong vocals from guitarist Scott Metzger. Another highlight from set 1 was “Slipknot/Help on the Way”, which featured great interplay from Russo on drums and his Duo cohort Marco Benevento on the keys. The first set closed with a spot-on rendition of “Shakedown Street”, the disco-tinged title track from the Dead’s classic 1978 album.
The true peaks came in set 2, though, after starting slowly with a Space/Drums avant-garde jam featuring Medeski and Wood, JRAD segued right back into the crowd-pleasers, with extended compositions “Dark Star” and “Terrapin Suite” drawing the audience into a trance before the 1st encore blow-out combination of “One More Saturday Night” and Buddy Holly original “Not Fade Away”. The band wasn’t done, however, and came back for a 2nd encore of the beautiful ballad “Ripple” before the house lights went up around 1am, and the band ripped through their final song, a lively and quite faithful cover of Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 classic “Born to Run” to the delight of the somehow still energetic crowd. I was still feeling the energy, so went with friends to the after-party at Aloft hotel, where there was a fairly impressive but somewhat anonymous cover band performing in the lobby until 3am. After parting ways with company, I finally made it to bed around 4 o’clock, and was able to get a couple hours of sleep before brunch and puppy playtime on Sunday afternoon.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead at 1stBank Center really made my weekend, I met a ton of great people at the show and was able to meet up with a few old friends, as well. In all, I’d say it’s the most fun I’ve had at a show in 2017 so far, thanks to great friends and good vibes all around.