This is a kind-of dual review/commentary of the last two nights here in New England, so I’ve posted this on both pages.
Greetings folks! The Brothers opened their tour with a bang Friday night. First, for those of you who couldn’t make it to New Hampshire’s beautiful lakes region for the gig, Meadowbrook Farm is a concert-goer’s wonderland. The year-old sound system shames most amphi-shed systems anywhere in the country (it is several orders-of-magnitude better than the Venue-Formerly-Known-as-Great-Woods). Sound comes through crystal clear all the way through the venue, tearing right over row one and soaring out across the lawn. And the view! I’ll put this place up against Red Rocks and the Gorge for scenic beauty anytime.
As for the performance: THE BROTHERS ARE ON FIRE! Gregg is all across the boards this tour and his voice is butter. I knew he still had it in him to lead this wonderful band. Oteil is letting it rip with his own style, really stepping up and dropping Burbridge Bombs. Unlike some other weepy folks who just HAVE to keep mentioning the lack of Dickey in their reviews, I just don’t miss him anymore. The Brothers have opted to move on, away from their recent past and have set their sights completely on the future.
Both venues were packed, but I give my neighbors from New Hampshire the nod for best-behaved and good-natured folks. The Boston-ish Tweeter crowd was rude and lifeless–WAY TOO CHATTY (do these people realize how inconsiderate it is to strike up a conversation, loudly, during a performance). Not only that, but the venue itself is now a disgrace. The lawn has been destroyed in part by the management who took half of it away to put in seats, and in part by rowdy metal-heads who tore up the grass leaving us with filthy wood chips and dirt on which to sit. In every aesthetic way, Meadowbrook is a kinder, gentler venue.
Overall, the Meadowbrook show was the hero of my weekend. Galactic’s set wasn’t marred by the lousy Tweeter Center sound system, so I could groove to their excellent opener without hesitation. Hot ‘Lanta opened with smooth interplay and the stunning sound system made it shine. The show never slowed, not once (except for the intro and outro parts of the beautiful Desdemona). These were pure energy songs. Highlights included the smoking Hot ‘Lanta opener, Who To Believe (where Derek let it rip and nearly set my head on fire), Desdemona (this is the new Liz Reed), a scortching one-for-the-record-books Come and Go Blues (thank you Oteil!!!), Just Before the Bullets Fly (which keeps getting stronger evey time I hear it), and the three closing works of art: Southbound, Liz Reed (my first since Dickey left the gang and which was like butter without him–now on a new level of jamminess), and a smoking One Way Out encore.
Oteil was right when he told Relix “I think the band has found its joy again.”
As we jump to last night, here’s a little perspective: I’ve seen nearly every show the Brothers have played at Great Woods/Tweeter, and the venue is degrading faster every year. They should just bring a wrecking ball and start over again. Compared to Meadowbrook’s new state-of-the-art sound system, Tweeter Center’s sound just can’t sustain the gargantuan size of the venue. Add a bunch of drunken Massachusetts college students chanting “Yankees Suck” during the Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’ opener and you begin to get the picture. The two venues couldn’t be more different. It truly is a portrait of the difference between the three Northern and three Southern New England states.
Enough on the scene: last night’s show at Tweeter took a while to launch. It wasn’t until You Don’t Love Me that the band really came together. The signs of life were there from the start, but after turning up the heat with You Don’t Love Me and then Firing Line, this show smoked. Pretty much everything from Worried Down on through the Mountain Jam encore was the band at their best. I think it should be noted on the setlist (anyone in charge reading this?) that Warren dedicated Mountain Jam to “our friend Mike Houser” (Widespread Panic founding member who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer). This is significant since this Mountain Jam included an interlude of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” which took us into drums, and popped up again during Oteil’s solo. It took me until Dreams to find a spot where the sound wasn’t sullied by chatty a-holes who only cared to hear the bass guitar launch and pre-jam vocal part to Whipping Post (it seemed a lot of the fans on that lawn found the Brothers a bit too challenging most of the time). I’ve always been quite fond of Dreams, and though I seem to miss it quite often (always at the show right before or right after), I’ve been able to hear it grow out of the post-Dickey confusion and rise to the mammoth jam it always used to be. This was the real indicator of the new Brothers’ prowess, and rising to the occasion once again, these guys showed they are neither too old, nor too tired, to blast the roof off a venue or make quite a few asses shake.
The new Brothers have taken the top spot in my musical interests once again. There is simply nothing like them, and despite their 30+ year history, there has simply never been anything like them.
Thanks for all the great music, good vibes, and for the continued exploration and experimentation you bring to the stage night after night!
Thanks for reading,