Joe Russo’s Almost Dead continued their sold out northeast run at the historic Palace Theatre in Albany on Friday night. Many fans traveled to the city from Syracuse after their nonstop Thursday show at the Landmark, and fought through the wind chill to get into the theater, ready to hear some Grateful Dead tunes.
JRAD kicked the night off with an energetic version of the classic tune “Feel Like a Stranger,” setting the mood for the first set. Tom Hamilton took the helm of the song’s jam with a killer solo, and used the ending lick of “Stranger” to help transition into “Help on the Way”, which was met by a roar of cheers from the crowd. There was a notably good jam into the last chorus of “Help” before the band segued into “Slipknot!.” “Slipknot!” started off normally with the arpeggio section that fans are familiar with, but after one go around, Marco Benevento made good use of his grand piano and took a lengthy solo, using that same arpeggio section as a home base in between improvisations. The band jumped back into the song with a strange chromatic jam that turned into one more repetition of the arpeggios, until they segued into “The Wheel.”
After a very emotional peak at the end of “Slipknot!,” “The Wheel”’s upbeat sound had the crowd dancing like there was no tomorrow. The song featured multiple “Bathtub Gin” teases and a jam on the Phish classic, the first of many teases of songs by the jam powerhouse. The band brought the song into a very high energy peak and one last chorus before Hamilton and Metzger led them into “Uncle John’s Band.” The whole theater sang along with the fan-favorite Dead song, and Hamilton took another ripping solo. The jam was disco-esque, and made way into an acapella chorus supported by the crowd keeping the beat with clapping. The group quickly transitioned from “Uncle John’s Band” into “Truckin’,” playing it more quickly than normal. Scott Metzger and Joe Russo really shined during this “Truckin’,” but you could tell that the whole band was having fun with each other as they steamed through the song. Finishing up the last verses and choruses, the band segued into a version of “Music Never Stopped Reprise” that featured a “Born Crosseyed” jam. This first set was filled lots of classic Dead songs and energetic playing, and it left the crowd excited for set 2.
To start off the second set, the band went into an improv jam before breaking into the Jerry Garcia Band’s classic “Reubin & Cherise.” “Rubin” was met with plenty of cheers from the audience and provided a very upbeat start to the set, as well as another Phish tease of “The Divided Sky.” The band worked their way into “Viola Lee Blues,” the highlight jam of the night, using the energy built up during the end of “Reubin & Cherise” to kick the song into high gear. “Viola Lee” featured a jam on Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” that sent the energy in the theater through the roof, before transitioning back into “Viola Lee Blues Reprise” that included a jam on “Foam” by Phish towards the end. The group segued into “Jack Straw” which began with a jam over a jungle-like rhythm that Russo was throwing down. “Jack Straw” featured a psychedelic jam that included a section where the whole band was harmonizing over a lick Tom Hamilton was playing, and every time he played the lick, each member would change the harmony they were playing.
Following a very powerful “Jack Straw”, the band broke into “So Many Roads,” one of the later Hunter/Garcia collaborations, which was a nice cool down after the intensity of “Rubin & Cherise > Viola Lee Blues > Jack Straw.” Marco Benevento took another beautiful grand piano solo that made Joe Russo whip his head around, and gracefully passed the torch to Hamilton who soloed his way into one last verse and chorus. The group broke into “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad” which brought the energy back up following the somber “So Many Roads.” Scott Metzger took a fantastic solo over a bluegrassy section before Benevento squeezed in one last solo, during which the entire band was laughing and playing around with each other. The set closed out with an instrumental version of “We Bid You Goodnight” that was quite beautiful.
The group encored with “Magnificent Sanctuary Band” off of Jerry Garcia’s Cats Under the Stars album, which set a nice, whimsical feel for the end of the show. The whole crowd was getting down and grooving as Hamilton serenaded the theater, and the band was having a ton of fun taking turns soloing at the end of the song. JRAD’s first sold out Palace Theatre show was a giant dance party and featured fantastic jams such as “Viola Lee Blues.”
Recording via Brian Goldstein, Setlist via Peter Costello
Set One: Feel Like A Stranger >Help On The Way -> Slipknot! @ -> The Wheel # -> Uncle John’s Band $ -> Truckin’ % -> Music Never Stopped Reprise -> Born Cross-eyed Jam
Set Two: Jam -> Ruben & Cerise ^ -> Viola Lee Blues -> 9 to 5 Jam -> Viola Lee Blues Reprise + -> Jam & -> Jack Straw * -> So Many Roads -> Going Down The Road Feeling Bad -> We Bid You Goodnight (Instrumental)
Encore: Magnificent Sanctuary Band
@ – With an MB Solo
# – With “Bathtub Gin” (Phish) Teases & Jams
$ – With a “Poison” (Bell Biv DeVoe) Tease (JR) & a “Mama, I’m Coming Home” (Ozzy Osbourne) Tease (TH)
% – With a “Chalkdust Torture” (Phish) Tease (TH)
^ – With a “Divided Sky” (Phish) Tease (TH), a “Let My Love Open the Door” (Pete Townshend) Tease (TH) and a “Paradise City” (Guns N Roses) Tease (Band)
+ – With a Unknown Tease (SM) & a “Cavern” (Phish) Tease (JR)
& – With “Foam” (Phish) Teases & Jams
* – With a “Llama” (Phish) Tease (JR), Ruben & Cerise Teases & GDTRFB Teases (TH)