Keepers of the flame and the faithful sought refuge from the bitter New England cold in the Cabot Theatre on Saturday night as temperatures dipped well below freezing in Beverly, Massachusetts. The beautifully renovated and majestic venue just 25 miles north of Boston seemed an ideal space for Melvin Seals and the Jerry Garcia Band to preach the gospel of Jerry on the fifth stop of their 2017 spring tour. Although somewhat smaller, The Cabot Theatre is reminiscent of so many of the historic theaters that Jerry Garcia played with Melvin Seals from 1980 until his death in 1995, such as the Landmark Theater in Syracuse CA, the Springfield Symphony Hall in Springfield, MA and the Lunt-Fontanne in New York City.
As is often the case with Melvin Seals and the JGB, the intensity of the performance builds over time, starting out slowly with a simmering grace that eventually reaches a full on joyous exuberance. Saturday night was no exception. “Second That Emotion” and Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” started things off nicely before a rollicking version of the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” Robert Hunter’s “Promontory Rider,” clocking it at almost 10 minutes, was stately, with an extended and beautiful saxophone solo. “Russian Lullaby” brought the energy down again to a simmer. The band really took flight and things heated up with Seals taking lead vocals and exchanging smiles with band members as they took solos on “That’s What Love Will Make You Do.” Everyone in the Cabot was up on their feet and the temperature in the room started to rise. ‘That’s alright Mama” followed, and you could tell people were just starting to feel the spirit when the band broke for the end of set one.
Set two picked up right where set one left off with the fun Norton Buffalo song “Ain’t No Bread in the Breadbox.” The crowd was right back on their feet and dancing. “Money Honey” led into a soulful rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Senior,” and you could hear the crowd’s shouts of approval during the opening notes of the Jerry Garcia favorite “Catfish John.” “Waiting for a Miracle,” “Sisters and Brothers,” and the final “Lonesome and a Long Way From Home” all seemed to fit perfectly into the mood of the evening, a joyous and sincere rendering of some of Jerry Garcia’s most beloved material.
Seals and JGB are deceptively adept at playing this music, making it sound effortless and easy to capture the sound of Jerry Garcia in his prime. With every JGB show you get a tasty dose of fat organ from Seals, but the real secret weapon on this night was Ron Holloway, whose smooth saxophone sound and dexterity added extra texture, soul and a jazzier touch to some of Garcia’s familiar material. Vermont guitarist Zach Nugent of Dead Set and Cats Under The Stars filled in competently on guitar and vocals for Dave Heber, who is taking some time off from touring. Outside it may have been a cold and inhospitable night, but inside the Cabot Theatre, the music was warm and inviting and you could feel the spirit of Jerry moving through Melvin Seals and the JGB.
Photos and article by JD Cohen
Set 1: I Second That Emotion, Crazy Love, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Promontory Rider, Russian Lullaby, That’s What Love Will Make You Do, That’s Alright Mama
Set 2: Breadbox , Money Honey, Senior, Catfish John, Waiting For A Miracle, Sisters And Brothers, Lonesome And A Long Way From Home
Melvin Seals and JGB Spring Tour Dates:
3/08/17 – Syracuse, NY – The Westcott Theater
3/09/17 – Ardmore, PA – Ardmore Music Hall
3/10/17 – Jim Thorpe, PA – Penn’s Peak
3/11/17 – Saratoga Springs, NY – Putnam Den
3/12/17 – Woodstock, NY – Bearsville Theater
3/14/17 – Charlottesville, VA – Jefferson Theater
3/15/17 – Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theatre
3/16/17 – Myrtle Beach, SC – The Boathouse
3/17/17 – Asheville, NC – New Mountain
3/19/17 – State College, PA – The State Theatre