It was my first time seeing Dark Star Orchestra at The Egg in Albany on December 5th. They had a high reputation among many of my friends and there was much anticipation built up around the show. The lobby area was packed, mostly with everyone waiting on the beer line and sitting in group circles chatting. As guests made their way into the show room, the aisle escorts did their best to find everyone to their correct seats. Once the first notes of “China Cat Sunflower” started, it was a party. The sold out crowd was thrilled to catch one of the last four shows of Dark Star Orchestra’s tour.
Even better for fans at The Egg was Jeff Chimenti playing keys all night. Jeff is best known for performing in RatDog as well as other post-Grateful Dead bands such as The Dead and Furthur. He was steaming as he pounded the keyboards throughout the night and especially during “New Minglewood Blues.” Lisa Mackey on vocals was mesmerizing as she twirling around the stage, flawlessly joining the boys with great harmony. Rob Eaton was center stage, bringing energy with his every guitar note, especially during “Mexicali Blues”, while Kevin Rosen sent out groovy bass rifts.
“New Speedway Boogie” started the second set and the band was more fired up than ever. Jeff Mattson on lead guitar was more than I could handle. He was rock solid on jams, playing with great concentration and ease. Dino English and Rob Kortiz had an intense drum solo during the beginning of the 2nd set that blew everyone to their seats; lesson learned that two drum sets are always better than one. Everyone seemed quite warped after the drum solo plus from the jam session of “Space.” Each song flowed into the other with the night ending with a good wakeup call from “Casey Jones” and a surprise encore of “Quinn The Eskimo.”
Dark Star Orchestra pays tribute to the Grateful Dead by recreating past shows, song for song, at each of their shows. If you want to hear and experience the closest thing you can get to a Grateful Dead show, you go to a Dark Star Orchestra show and you get exactly what you pay for. To describe DSO simply as a cover band is incorrect. Everything about the Grateful Dead’s music history is legendary and for DSO to perform their music is more than half the battle. To try to replicate note for note, the music of one of the greatest bands in history, I’m sure can be more than overwhelming. Dark Star Orchestra delivered an amazing show, filled with great jams and feelings. Like fellow writer Lenny Stubbe, I was left with a “useless smile.”
For setlists, music and more, go to Dark Star Orchestra’s webpage.
Set One: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, New Minglewood Blues, Tennessee Jed, Mexicali Blues > Jack A Roe, Queen Jane Approximately, Loser, My Brother Esau, Bird Song > Victim Or The Crime > Bird Song
Set Two: New Speedway Boogie > Man Smart (Woman Smarter), Crazy Fingers > Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance > Drums > Space > Foolish Heart > Comes A Time > I Need A Miracle > Casey Jones
Encore: Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)