Joe Russo’s Almost Dead at the Westville Music Bowl: 5/28/21
by Andrea Flohn
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Last night at the Westville Music Bowl in New Haven Connecticut, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead made their first appearance in front of a live audience since February 2020. Their last three-night run was held at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, which has since closed its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fans began filtering into the main parking lot around 5 o’clock and threw open their doors for a little pre-show tailgating. Excited to see each other at last, friends embraced and chatted. A few folks broke out their wares for selling, that is, before the rain began.
The weather forecast had predicted heavy rain for most of the weekend, which drummed up a few ideas on social media about a “Box of Rain” or “Cold Rain and Snow” opener.
At first, the rain was a mere drizzle, which seemed to delight the masses after a week of hot and humid weather in the Northeast. But at around 5:30, the drizzle became a steady downpour, forcing everyone without a rain jacket beneath a poncho or shelter.
Joe Russo, Tom Hamilton, Dave Dreiwitz, and Scott Metzger of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead took the stage just a few minutes after 6. The crowd, which had remained largely around the perimeter of the venue to hide from the rain, suddenly poured into the field and stands of the stadium, cheering for their favorite band.
All eyes were focused on the band as they took their places on the enormous Westville stage, taking any attention away from the thickening rain.
The band’s set one opener was surprisingly not precipitation-related, but one that got the show off to an electrifying beginning. “Not Fade Away,” opened things up, and featured some skillful and energizing playing by Marco Benevento on keys and Tom Hamilton on lead guitar. “Reuben & Cherise” followed along with an incredible “Minglewood Blues,” with some wonderful solo guitar work and vocals by Scott Metzger.
As temperatures dropped into the 50’s and the rain fell even more heavily upon our heads, the band launched into the first “Sugaree” they have performed in almost 80 shows (1/13/18 Capitol Theatre). As Tom Hamilton, donned in his usual scarf and beanie, peered through the rain and stage lights to deliver a personal message to the crowd. As he sang, “Still have to stand out in the pouring rain,” the crowd went insane with cheer and applause, throwing their hands toward the weeping sky.
Joe Russo moved the band seamlessly from “Sugaree” into a deep jam bordering “Space,” which featured a clever addition to Joe’s drum kit: a massive set of keys. “The Wheel” and “Touch of Grey” ended set one, leaving the charged up and ready to face the rest of the night’s deluge.
During set break, everyone took cover beneath the shelter of the Bowl and shared their favorite moments from the show. A few grabbed signed posters or simply took advantage of the heated bathrooms the venue offers to guests. Overall, it was just like any other show that would have taken place prior to the pandemic, even with the inclement weather.
Set two was filled with surprises for all, as it began with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead’s first ever “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” sung by Scott Metzger. This was followed by one of the show’s highlights, “Foolish Heart”. The jam carried the crowd through another chilling downpour, and for a moment we thought we heard thunder as Joe and the band ripped into “Help on The Way>Slipknot!” The crowd erupted with applause and danced more ferociously in the stands and on the squishy AstroTurf field.
“Hell in a Bucket” and “Dancing in the Streets” followed, which were two of my favorite songs from the show and ones the band performed during their last performance in February. JRAD ended their second set with “Ripple,” which was also a special treat for fans. As Tom sang, “If I knew the way, I would take you home,” nearly everyone in the crowd grabbed a friend or loved one nearby and swayed gently. Finally, Joe Russo gave each member of the band their curtain call, and they all left the stage for a moment as the crowd howled and whistled with applause.
The band returned with musical friend, Chris Harford of Band of Changes for a “Fuckin’ Up” encore. The band also performed this same encore with Jimmy Fallon in February in Port Chester however, Chris Harford’s rendition was more well received by the crowd last night. “Fuckin’ Up” ended with some spacy, heavy-metal exchanges between the three guitars and bass, leaving the crowd wondering about a second encore. The show ended at around 10 o’clock, and the crowd raced to their cars for some dry heat, all the while still in disbelief about what they had just experienced.
JRAD will return for two more nights this weekend and we hope to have more reviews for you!
Marco Benevento: keyboards, vocals Dave Dreiwitz: bass, vocals
Tom Hamilton: guitar, vocals Scott Metzger: guitar, vocals
Joe Russo: drums, percussion, vocals
*w/Chris Harford: guitar, vocals
Taped by Fred Nicolois:
Jam (>) Not Fade Away (The Crickets cover) (>)
Rubin and Cherise (>) Minglewood Blues (Cannon’s Jug Stompers cover)
Sugaree (>) The Wheel (>) Touch of Grey
When I Paint My Masterpiece (Bob Dylan cover)
Foolish Heart (>) Slipknot! (with ‘Hey Bulldog’ by The Beatles snippet) (>)
Help on the Way ) (>) Slipknot! (>)
Hey Bulldog Jam (>) Slipknot! (>) Hell in a Bucket
Dancing in the Street (Martha Reeves and the Vandellas cover)
Encore: Fuckin’ Up (Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover)
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