Glasses of wine clinked all around, and people buzzed and hummed in their cramped positions. Then the bowling lanes, the bar and the whole crowd fell silent as all turned to face the stage. One hundred crashing downbeats then permeated the expectant air, and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead was off to commence their 100th show as one of the greatest tribute acts of our time.
With a “Beat It On Down The Line,” ratcheted up fast and heavy in their (by now) classic way, JRAD launched night one of six at their home away from home, Brooklyn Bowl, to a proper start. Set one alighted quickly, with the band dropping some far-reaching exploration right away. “Slipknot,” coming out of “Help,” burrowed down the rabbit-hole for a lengthy space-out, subtly highlighted by Dreiwitz throwing in some really funky bass lines. As they began to crank it up, the band did a “Throwing Stones” fake-out jam, and swerved instead into “New Minglewood,” a cool choice for ending this segment.
To end their 100th first set, JRAD debuted their first ever original piece of music, an uplifting, rocking number co-written by Russo and Hamilton called “Keeping It Simple.”
“The Music Never Stopped,” always a heater for these guys, sandwiched an awesome jam on Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From The Sun,” making for a big start to the second set. Hamilton fronted “Row Jimmy” with a big and grandiose tease on “Wharf Rat,” to the tickled admiration of both band members and the crowd.
While all members were in the zone, Marco noticeably reached his element by this point in the show. He first put the golden touches onto a beautifully extended intro to “Crazy Fingers,” and then later on in the journey towards into “Estimated Prophet,” turned for some dueling soloing with Hamilton.
But his true moment was clear to all those that witnessed the “Jack Straw” of this night. After the beloved composed section of this tune, he began to dance around the keys for a bit, and when it was clear he had the runway to take off, he flew. Several minutes of hyperactive yet flawless piano soloing lead the band on a blistering Straw jam propelled beyond the horizon of sanity.
An extra somber “Morning Dew,” colored with dark tones and near-whisper vocals, and also infused with these whacky repeating minor chords from Hamilton on guitar, eventually lifted up for a strong finish to a terrific night one, and a more than grateful 100th performance.
Night 2 (3/10/2017)
In true commitment to their abilities, JRAD worked off of the sparkling remnants of a great first night to fonzy their jukebox of magnificent Dead jams and get the Brooklyn Bowl dancing and celebrating all over again.
This first set of night two, after kicking off playfully with “Don’t Ease Me In,” was exalted by a great “China Cat” -> “Feel Like a Stranger,” with some early, crisp funk linking the two in an impressive transition that is something to find and hear again for sure.
Vying consistently also to be the reigning kings of teases, JRAD’s Saturday night show was chock full of them, with tunes splattered here and there with bits and and hints and chunks of music from all over the dial. A couple JRAD members followed one another in throwing in pieces of “Terrapin Station,” “Reuben and Cherise,” and “Eleanor Rigby” onto the very groovy exit treatment of “Lost Sailor,” just before heading into “Saint of Circumstance.”
“Greatest Story Ever Told,” opened set two with a hot blues-oriented funk outro jam, and topped itself with a true cherry-on-top: a brief, full-band jaunt on Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick.”
The band served up “He’s Gone” properly as ever, by inviting some beautiful, room-wide vocal participation on its closing measures. They then immediately rivaled their earlier segue with a sudden and heady transformation of jam into “The Wheel.” On these numbers, the band even managed to surreal things up with teases from both Stranger Things and The Simpsons.
This was followed up by one of the finest Garcia-Hunter tunes out there, “So Many Roads,” and a fine version it was, with Hamilton crooning it out and soloing splendidly.
JRAD gave double encore to their beloved, grateful crowd this time, with “Ripple” and a “U.S. Blues” to follow, the latter tune being a bust out after 100 shows.