The Spirit of the Grateful Dead is Alive and Well!
A SoundPress.net Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

"So the kids they dance, they shake their bones".

Dark Star Orchestra (DSO) is a Grateful Dead tribute band from Chicago who had fans shaking their bones at the Shea Center for Performing Arts in Wayne, New Jersey on November 27, 2012.

Dark Star Orchestra in New Jersey
Dark Star Orchestra recreated the specs and the spirit of The Dead.

What makes DSO unique is that their shows are usually based on historical setlists as played by the Grateful Dead. DSO performs a complete concert, song by song in order making sure to include all the notes and nuances of the period. DSO also utilizes vintage equipment to ensure that they are emulating the various eras from the Grateful Dead canon.

DSO has plenty of material to choose from as the Grateful Dead played almost 2,500 live shows in their 30 year history of improvisational rock. Various members of the jam band community including Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman have given their stamp of approval to DSO by performing with them.

Since their inception in 1997, DSO has been carrying on the spirit of the Grateful Dead for new and veteran deadheads. The fans were out in force at the Shea Center with some sporting tie-dye tees and others bathed in patchouli - a scent one often associates with a Dead show. The venue was ideal for DSO with its fine acoustics and seats with ample leg room for dancing and standing - which was the order for much of the evening.

Dark Star Orchestra in New Jersey
Rob Eaton and Jeff Mattson are the Bobby and Jerry of DSO.

Dark Star Orchestra took the stage and started tuning their instruments before finding the groove to "Shakedown Street". The song went into an expansive jam touching on all essential Dead elements including dueling drums and distinctive guitar leads. DSO then meandered into bold bass lines and we found ourselves deep in the " Phil Zone " with the track ultimately circling back to the harmonies and the close.

Both the Grateful Dead and DSO's versions of "Mama Cried" by Merle Haggard had a country flavor combined with a lively lilt that kept the rather sad story danceable. The tune flowed into a rousing "Big River". "Ramble On Rose" was extensive and showcased more signature guitar licks from Jeff aptly handling the leads of Jerry Garcia.

With the opening chords to "Hell In A Bucket" we realized we were at an 80's show. Later we were told that it was September 8, 1983 at Red Rocks in Colorado . Songs such as "Hell In A Bucket" from the In The Dark record were performed live years before the 1987 release of what would be The Dead's most commercially successful album.

"Hell In A Bucket" and the classic "Brown-Eyed Women" were filled with improvisational progressions and all the instruments were distinct attesting to how well the sound was mixed at the Shea Center. The reflective "Looks Like Rain" slowed the pace down and allowed the cascading keys to stand out for much of the piece. DSO closed the first set with a dazzling "Deal".

"Scarlet Begonias" was stellar and had fans back on their feet as DSO moved into a simmering "Fire On The Mountain" with yet more impressive and lengthy jams. "Estimated Prophet" at times had a dreamy quality as it meandered through numerous chord changes before heading into a trippy "Terrapin Station".

Dark Star Orchestra in New Jersey

As was the tradition at a Grateful Dead show the "rhythm devils" took center stage for solos that melded percussion with dynamic drum patterns. The rest of the band returned for some "Space" and moved into an animated "Thowin' Stones" with a number of alterations to the hook lines.

DSO sustained their momentum with more jams incorporated into "Black Peter", "Around And Around" and a cover of "Good Lovin' " which has become a signature Dead standard blending old school rock and improvisation. "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" was the evening's encore to close the show with a little Dylan and the Dead.

Dark Star Orchestra delivered a solid performance. DSO clearly has a passion for the music and they played with precision. All were able to capture the unique texture and tones of tunes that are so well known and loved. Their interpretation of Red Rocks '83 was fun and continued to carry on the spirit of The Dead for another grateful day.

SETLIST - RED ROCKS, COLORADO - SEPT. 8, 1983: One: Shakedown Street ; Mama Tried > Big River ; Ramble On Rose ; Hell In A Bucket ; Brown Eyed Women ; Looks Like Rain > Deal / Two: Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain ; Estimated Prophet > Terrapin Station > Drums > Space > Throwing Stones > Black Peter > Around And Around > Good Lovin' / Encore: It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

DSO Band Members:
Rob Barraco- keyboards, vocals
Rob Eaton - rhythm guitar, vocals
Dino English - drums, percussion
Rob Koritz - drums, percussion
Lisa Mackey - vocals
Jeff Mattson - lead guitar, vocals
Kevin Rosen - bass, vocals

Dark Star Orchestra in New Jersey

Related Links: For more information on DARK STAR ORCHESTRA and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Dark Star Orchestra | Shea Center

(Originally Published on November 28, 2012)

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