Dark Star Orchestra at House of Blues: Concert Review


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Dark Star Orchestra at the House of Blues, Feb. 10
  • Dark Star Orchestra at the House of Blues, Feb. 10
The House of Blues, to the best of its ability, transformed into some sort of time machine last night. The tight-knit community that showed up to feel good and listen to music ended up miles and miles and years and years away - in Lakeland, Fla., on a warm May evening in 1977.

Dark Star Orchestra, the preeminent nod to the Grateful Dead legacy, stopped by Cleveland last night to throw down a thrilling two-set show with more than a handful of special elements.

The band rose up in 1997 in the wake of Jerry Garcia's untimely 1995 death. The idea was simple: pick up Dead shows and perform the setlist as it was written. Last night, DSO treated Cleveland to the May 21, 1977, show at the Lakeland Civic Center in Florida (setlist below). It's a bit of an underrated show in the canon of late-70s Dead - and the highlights reveal a band that was, in many ways, experiencing one of several peaks.

The first frame was an adventurous welcome from a band that typically shows Cleveland an amazing time. Heavy on the blues and the uptempo rock that made the Dead a beloved group, the first half of the show culminated in a breathtaking "Scarlet Begonias" into "Fire on the Mountain." It's often a second-set pairing, which made this appearance even more special. The entire room was swaying throughout the jam.

The second set went even deeper, featuring a red-hot "Samson and Delilah" opener. By setbreak, a lot of fans had figured out which show was being called up. The cigarette break exodus carried conversations about what was to come. Smartphones lit up outside: "Check out what we've got in store, man!"

True gems showed up in the slower songs that book-ended the drums segment. "He's Gone" bore an absolutely stunning outro jam with eerie vocal work. The drums bit was fine and segued well into "The Other One," but the rest of the show was well oiled heat: "Comes a Time" (beautiful stuff) into a "St. Stephen" sandwich around a rocking "Not Fade Away"! The crowd ate everything up before the bitchin' closer/encore combo.

As a bonus, the band went off script and threw down a hearty take on "The Weight" as a bit of a second encore. Tributes to Levon Helm are momentous occasions these days, since his death last year. In fact, DSO's performance came just an hour or so after musicians gathered on the stage at the Grammys to do the same tune. Either way, the song was a brilliant nightcap to a wonderful show.

In all, it seems that the Dead's gift to rock 'n' roll touring and musical exploration is alive and well in the hands of DSO (not the mention other jam band luminaries like Phish, Widespread Panic and the Dead-spawned Furthur). It's a hell of a thing to catch a show from one of the titans. Everyone in attendance knew that from the get-go. It's just a matter of getting into the room and having a great time.


Me and My Uncle
They Love Each Other
Jack Straw
Tennessee Jed
New Minglewood Blues
Row Jimmy
Scarlet Begonias >
Fire on the Mountain

Samson and Delilah
Brown-Eyed Women
Estimated Prophet >
He's Gone >
Drums >
The Other One >
Comes A Time >
St. Stephen >
Not Fade Away >
St. Stephen >
One More Saturday Night

U. S. Blues
The Weight


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