To call Dark Star Orchestra a cover band almost seems rude after seeing them bring down the house at The Newport Music Hall last Friday night. Their talent, accuracy, and authenticity are unmatched not just when it comes to playing the Grateful Dead but as a tribute band. The show they chose to bring to life was from October 27, 1990 at The Zenith in Paris, France.
When the show started The Newport was shaking with the sound of Hell in a Bucket, and fortunately it could be heard outside by the dozens of people still waiting in line to get in. They transitioned into Sugaree so stylistically true to the way the Grateful Dead would’ve, it was the first confirmation for the crowd that DSO doesn’t mess around.
The Newport was packed with a mix of all ages; there were fans who were barely alive when Jerry died and there were heads who had followed the Dead for years. The band’s ability to bring such a varied crowd together into a groove just goes to show the timelessness of the Grateful Dead, and why DSO continues to find success “raising the Dead”.
Dark Star grooved through the first set, ending with Bird Song into The Promise Land. After an intermission, they came back for more, playing a jam heavy second set. Improvisation is one of the defining features of the Grateful Dead, who pioneered the jam scene making it what it is today. Though covering a jam band leaves a lot open to interpretation, Dark Star doesn’t disappoint. It’s in the improvised transitions and jams that DSO revives the spirit of the Grateful Dead.
Another aspect of the show that didn’t disappoint was new lead guitarist Jeff Mattson. Lead guitarist and founding member John Kadlecik left DSO in 2010 to join Further (Bob Weir and Phil Lesh’s new band, can you blame him?). That left some big shoes to fill, but Mattson is an impressive and experienced addition. The show also included both drummers, Dino English and Rob Koritz, who played together with ease, and rocked out “Drums>Space”. The band showcased their own styles during Space, combining modern electronic elements with the Grateful Dead’s more acoustic sound.
The band ended the show with “Not Fade Away,” walking off stage with the crowd clapping and singing, “love is love and not fade away…” until they returned for an encore. They rounded out the evening with One More Saturday Night, and then were joined on stage by singer Lisa Mackey for a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”.
Set One: Hell In A Bucket>Sugaree; New Minglewood Bloes; Jack-A-Roe; Black Throated Wind; Ramble on Rose; When I Paint My Masterpiece; Bird Song>The Promise Land
Set Two: China Cat Sunflower> I Know You Rider; Saint of Cirsumstance>Crazy Fingers>Playing In The Band>Drums>Space>Playing Reprise>Stella Blue>Throwing Stones>Not Fade Away
Encore: One More Saturday Night
Filler: Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)
If there is anyone who can do the Grateful Dead justice, it’s Dark Star Orchestra. They are currently spreading the love of the Dead, in the midst of a massive nationwide tour. You can also catch the band at Wakarusa, where they will be play a special 3-hour set.
Written by Meghan Bender