The Westville Music Bowl By Andrea F. Flohn Photos and Video by Evan Franks
On Saturday, July 31, 2021 Joe Russo’s Almost Dead concluded their third run at The Westville Music Bowl in New Haven, CT. The band’s first run at The Bowl was endowed with a promise from Russo to keep the setlist ‘fresh and interesting,’ and the band has certainly made good on that promise so far.
The Bowl was packed with smiling fans on Saturday night who passed off their excitement in the form of shoulder shakes, high-fives and cup-clinking. After passing through the main gates, we peered through the stands at the stage below and noticed that the band’s instruments had been pushed downstage a bit further than the last two runs. It was speculated by some fans that the band would welcome another guest that evening, but it was anyone’s guess as to who and what might show up.
At 6:30 sharp, Joe Russo, Dave Dreiwitz, Scott Metzger, Marco Benevento, and Tom Hamilton Jr. appeared from the bowels of the Bowl wearing radiant smiles. The crowd smiled back, whistled and raised their hands to the sky in preparation to get down with their favorite band. Set I began with a spirited “Stagger Lee” sung by Hamilton, followed by “Stuck Inside of Mobile” sung with great feeling by Scott Metzger.
“West LA Fadeaway” moved the bouncing crowd to a steady, swaying groove and featured some funky interplay between Metzger and Dreiwitz, along with an extensive “Unbroken Chain” jam. Next, the band dropped into “I Need a Miracle” which features a bit of jazz baritone vocal work by Metzger. The crowd joined the band on the high melody “I need a miracle everyday…” while Metzger created a bellowing bassline on top.
The concluding song of Set I and likely one of the greatest moments of the evening was “Bird Song,” which featured a “Stuck Inside of Mobile” reprise, several teases of “Uncle John’s Band” and a Pink Floyd “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” tease. The band’s performance of this song was nearly flawless, highlighting the dream-like lyrics with soft vocals yet progressively deepening the instrumental interaction to match the syllables. As fans swam in the afterglow of “Bird Song,” Joe called the band and promised to be back after a short break.
After a noise ordinance was put into place within city of New Haven, the Westville Music Bowl is required to cease concert activity at 10 PM on the dot. Luckily, Set II began around 8 PM
leaving two hours wide open for the band to reveal a few more surprises. To kick things off, Dave Dreiwitz led the band in “Broken Arrow” which was last performed at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY in February 2020. Friends and loved ones wrapped each other in warm embraces and swayed slowly under the dimming sky.
The jam took a drum-heavy turn into “Throwing Stones” which was sung by Metzger and features a “2001 Space Odyssey ” jam which has been performed by Phish. Suddenly, Hamilton broke from the jam and picked the iconic intro to “Ship of Fools” which was debuted that evening. With that being said the crowd was completely shocked and delighted, singing along with every word they could remember. As I’m sure it was intentional, the band paid great homage to Jerry Garcia with the song as it was reportedly one of his favorite opera.
Following “Ship of Fools” the crowd was taken on a long journey through “Dark Star” which features some weighted portions of “Space” performed by Benevento and Hamilton. In fact, Russo crossed his arms, sat back in his seat and closed his eyes to listen. Metzger and Dreiwitz also paused to spectate, listening closely for their entrance. “Dark Star” also featured a possible Allman Brothers “Dreams” tease, along with some great slide work by Hamilton.
Set II ended with “Terrapin Station” which highlights each member’s skill, but Joe Russo absolutely made himself the showcase by contributing vocals and some of the most profound drumming I’ve seen. The band’s second set blew the crowd away entirely. The final blast of notes rang through the Westville Music Bowl and was devoured by cheer and applause.
The band returned smiling after a momentarily trip off-stage and played one last song for the evening. They rocked the house with “Sugar Magnolia” which is always a crowd-pleaser and was an exceptional ending to an unbelievable evening. After Russo made the last roll over his cymbal, with please exhaustion in his eyes, he thanked the crowd and called the band once more. The crowd roared for the band and sent out farewells in the form of peace signs and waves. Surprises Joe Russo’s Almost Dead promised, and surprises they delivered!
Stagger Lee (>)
Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again
West L.A. Fadeaway (>)
I Need a Miracle (>)
Throwing Stones (>)
Ship Of Fools
Dark Star (>)
Terrapin Part 1
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