Last night, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead kicked off their third annual Fall Ball, returning to Brooklyn Bowl in New York and expanding the event to six nights over the next two weeks. Brooklyn Bowl clearly holds a special place in the band’s history—the Brooklyn venue was the site where the group composed of Joe Russo, Marco Benevento, Tom Hamilton, Scott Metzger, and Dave Dreiwitz first convened as a Grateful Dead-inspired tribute group back in January of 2013. Last night, to kick off their triumphant return to Brooklyn Bowl as well as the first date of their fall tour, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead debuted a number of new tunes during their high-energy set, including the Grateful Dead’s “Lazy River Road” as well as debut covers by Tom Petty and Bob Dylan and The Band.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead came out of the gates swinging with their ever-pleasing and upbeat show opener, “Bertha.” From there, the band transitioned into another spirited song, “Man Smart, Woman Smarter,” which housed tastes of “Tennessee Jed” as well as “Iko Iko”, the latter being a cover of The Dixie Cups that the Grateful Dead regularly paired with “Man Smart, Woman Smarter.” By way of “Ruben and Cherise”, the band landed in “Deep Elem Blues”, a tune whose extended jam foreshadowed some of the coming surprises of the night with its teases of “Hey Bulldog” by The Beatles and “Easy Wind” by the Band. After performing a rendition of Bob Weir’s “Gonesville”, a cover off Bob Weir’s latest solo album that Almost Dead debuted in Colorado back in the spring, the group debuted “Lazy River Road”, a Grateful Dead tune that made its debut in 1993 and was played regularly in the final two years before their final performance during the summer of ’95, which similarly housed whisps of The Beatles with its teases of “Blackbird.” Joe Russo’s Almost Dead wrapped up the first set with a punchy “Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad.”
Returning after setbreak, the group opened the second set up with “The Music Never Stopped,” giving the tune the proper attention and eventually segueing into a Benevento/Russo Duo jam before transitioning into the next tune, “Yazoo Street Scandal” sung by Marco Benevento. This marked the first time Almost Dead has performed the Robbie Robertson-written tune off Bob Dylan and The Band’s collaborative 1975 album, The Basement Tapes. Following this debut cover, the band moved into a crowd-pleasing “Mississippi Half-Step”, which was thoroughly extended with a “Born Cross-eyed” jam that eventually transformed into the first verse of “Dark Star” and later referred back to “Mississippi Half-Step” ahead of a short “Let It Grow” jam.
“Music Never Stopped”
Marking the next special cover debut of the evening, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead paid tribute to Tom Petty, the iconic rock star who tragically passed away earlier in the week on Monday, by performing an instrumental jam built around his hit, “Running Down A Dream.” Appropriately, this jam built into a rendition of “Not Fade Away,” with the band more or less directly declaring that the impact that Tom Petty had will not cease just because he’s no longer living as Tom Hamilton continued to work in the melody of “Running Down A Dream” throughout the song. From there, the band finished off the second verse of “Dark Star” before landing in the reprise of “Not Fade Away” and then closing out the set with a heartfelt rendition of “Stella Blue.” To close out the first show of their six-night run at Brooklyn Bowl, the group returned with an encore of “Sugar Magnolia/Sunshine Daydream”, finishing off the night in full with a show-closing jam built around a return to “Stella Blue.”
“Runnin’ Down A Dream” > “Not Fade Away”
Setlist: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead | Brooklyn Bowl | New York, NY | 10/5/2017
Set One: Bertha -> Man Smart, Woman Smarter @ -> Ruben & Cherise > Deep Elem Blues # -> Gonesville > Lazy River Road $ (TH) > GDTRFB
Set Two: Music Never Stopped % > Yazoo Street Scandal ^ (MB) -> Mississippi Half Step -> Born Crosseyed Jam -> Dark Star (Verse One) & -> Running Down A Dream Jam * -> Not Fade Away + -> Dark Star (Verse Two) -> Not Fade Away Reprise ->Stella Blue
Encore: Sugar Magnolia/Sunshine Daydream @@
@ – With a Tennessee Jed Tease (SM) & an “Iko Iko” (The Dixie Cups) Tease (MB)
# – With “Hey Bulldog” (The Beatles) (SM) and Easy Wind Teases (Band)
$ – With a “Blackbird” (The Beatles) Tease (TH), First Time Played By Almost Dead
% – With a “Becky” (Benevento Russo Duo) Tease (DD) and an Unknown Tease (MB)
^ – First Time Played By Almost Dead, Bob Dylan & The Band Cover from The Basement Tapes
& – With a Half Step Tease (TH) & a short Let It Grow Jam
* – Instrumental, incomplete version of a Tom Petty Cover (Only the “Woo Hoo” lyrics were sung), First Time Played By Almost Dead
+ – With TH playing “Running Down A Dream” Lyrical Melody over the NFA changes, a “Fat Mama” (Herbie Hancock) Tease (MB) and a Dark Star Tease (TH)
@@ – With a short Stella Blue Jam to end it.
[Photo: Jeremy Gordon]