Dark Star Orchestra

Capital Center for the Arts, Concord NH

November 22 2016

Photos by Eric J Simon


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This was my first time to this venue and it is very nice.  Parking was free though not exactly plentiful on the street in front of the theater (after 5 PM!!) The entry was quite easy, the search was minimal, and we made our way up to the Chubb Theater to find seats.  This was the first general admission show I had been to in a long while, so it was a little foreign to be searching for seats.  I saw some familiar faces from festival season among the throngs and it was nice to be feeling at home in a new venue.

I got to attend this show with my brother, who took me to my first Dead show on 9/7/87 and we’ve been to countless shows together so it was real nice to be together for this one.  I had been to many places that DSO has been, but this is the first time that I can remember going to a show by them and seeing it start to finish, on purpose.  I’ve seen them many times at Gratefulfest in Ohio and passing by at various festivals, but this was different, seat, start to finish.

They opened with Jack Straw and my brother and I were already guessing the time frame.  The first set unfolded with what felt like an early 1980s acoustic era post Radio City show, but they weren’t playing acoustic, so hmm..  TN Jed, El Paso and Friend of the Devil all reinforced our thoughts.  The music was unfolding from that era too, laid back but purposeful.  Then came On the Road again and that wrinkles the eyebrows.  Post acoustic era that is a very rare song indeed and really defines the limitations of what show this could be. Hmm…

And now a time frame defining wrinkle, Touch of Grey.   So my mind starts working-  when did that premier?  1985?  1984?  I know that the album came out later in the 80s and that Go to Heaven was like the start of that decade, hmm..  I felt like 1984 was the premier but that 1985 felt more likely.  Also,  I had just seen former DSO guitarist John Kadlecik perform that just the other night and it was nice to relish the differences between those performances.  DSO was of course totally faithful not just to the song but also to the time frame, really a text book representation.  Kadlecik’s was more interpretative, playing slightly with the chord change rhythms, stretching in different ways on the solos and injecting his own interpretation into the song.  Neither was better, each has their place in live performances and gives to what the listener may want to hear.  Variety is the spice of life.  (Check out the John Kadlecik Band Pearl Street Northampton review here.)

Women R Smarter came next and there was a moment of Aiko or Women for me, but I quickly discerned that it was Women because of the Jerry Bobby alternation on vocals.  It was spirited and fun.  Another acousticy sounding song next but played electric of course (the whole night was electric) in Dire Wolf.  A Bobby classic in Lazy Lightning followed and was a fun treat of the more rare.  To close the set Jeff Mattson injected the proper fire into the solo for Deal and the deal was done for that set.  Very nice.


Set break was more hanging with folks, trying to guess the time frame, searching out friends and acquaintances.  I saw some of my Old 78 Farm Fall festival friends out there, and had a nice time hanging with folks.  I checked my recorder pre set two and made my way back to our seats, which were about 15 rows back on Jeff/Jerry side a little bit- easy sight lines and perfect listening.

Set two began with a very spirited Shakedown Street which featured nice vocal interplay in the ending sections.  Samson and Delilah was proficient and also spirited.  The unexpected came next, and another possible hint at a show date- Rob Barraco took the vocals for Good Times Blues (Never Trust a Woman).  He has such a happy presence and the vocals were great.  My brother had called it earlier in the show, and as the opening chords of Terrapin Station unfolded you could feel the excitement growing in the audience.  It was an outstanding version, filled with passion in the delivery.

Check out Beth Parness’ review of the Brooklyn Dark Star show NOV 15 2016 here.

Drums and Space came next and I spent some time dancing in the aisles, getting and giving the occasional elbow jab that is commonplace within the spinner zone..  I had felt a Miracle coming earlier in the show, but that was wrong.  Throwing Stones was up next and caused me to rub my chin a bit-  hmm-  more clues?  The transition into Not Fade Away was excellent and almost seemed like the end of the set.  But Mattson took us on a trip to sample some Morning Dew and it was delectable.  He put everything he had into the climax and it was..  climactic.  He has excellent skills and to see them on full display is a wonder to behold.  Well done, sir.

So my brother figured it out with the help of his cell phone and a massive database so when they announced it, his thoughts were confirmed.  December 28, 1982- Oakland, CA.  Much earlier than we thought-  who knew that T Stones and Grey were out so early?  There were some nice words from guitarist Rob Eaton to the crowd, giving thanks.  Then a double encore:  the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction followed by the Dylan classic It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.  

Much like with the Dead shows I’ve seen, the people were sated, having been fed their musical meal.  And off into the night we go, eagerly awaiting the next show.

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