Joe Russo’s Almost Dead returned to The Capitol Theatre Friday night as they kicked off a three-night run at the famed concert hall in Port Chester, NY. This show marked their first performance since a benefit for Headcount at the Brooklyn Bowl this past November, a venue which they have no doubt outgrown, fans were eager for the band to take the stage for their first concerts of 2020. One of the special things about these shows is the extended family that has grown amongst their fans, and that sense of community was on full display yesterday as fans dropped off hot chocolate and hand warmers for others waiting all day in the cold for coveted rail spots on the GA floor. The Capitol Theatre, showing why they have become JRAD’s new home court, reciprocated in kind to open the doors of neighboring Garcia’s early to allow fans a respite from the cold as the sun went down.

The house lights went down at 8:15 and the band took the stage in the dark as Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” blared from the PA. Played in its entirety, the stage illuminated to a roar as the band was revealed to be in position and John Bonham’s outro cued a Joe Russo intro with a hard drop into “Shakedown Street”. The crowd got into an early and enthusiastic groove as the band was firing on all cylinders from the get-go, all five of its members on the same page early for a collective effort that was inexplicably far greater than the sum of its parts. Tom Hamilton took the night’s first vocals and guitar solo, a searing effort that drew smiles from neighboring Russo on the drum kit, before handing off to Marco Benevento who delighted the crowd as he moved back and forth from the baby grand to the B3. A tease on an “The Other One” jam before moving into “Truckin’”, Dave Dreiwitz announced early that he, too, would be a force to be reckoned with on this night. Marco tickled a little “Dark Star” tease on the ivories as he soloed the transition into a raucous “Born Cross Eyed”.

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead are such patient musicians, allowing each other the time and space to explore as they listen and react to each other with perfect trust. In this space, the band is often able to build these paradoxically deafening silences, these subtly beautiful intervals lined with latent energy and the anticipation of what’s coming next. From just such a space, one of many on this evening, emerged a gorgeous “Candyman”. A rowdy take on Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around” gave way to “Foolish Heart”, played by Joe Russo’s Almost Dead for only the fifth time ever on this their 213th show. The band closed the set with a cover of Radiohead’s “Killer Cars”, a B-side from the 1996 album High and Dry, and a song played for only the second time ever and first since Suwanee Hulaween 2015. As is their way, Russo announced the band heading into set break as he quipped, “y’all remember that Radiohead B-side, right?!?!”

The band continued the theme of rarely played songs in the second set as they opened with “Cosmic Charlie”, played for just the fourth time ever (3/6/2019). From the psychedelic rubble of this amazing 1969 masterpiece off the Grateful Dead’s Aoxomoxoa, the band found its footing for an explosive “New Speedway Boogie” (10th time ever; 9/27/19) in which the playful antics on stage left between Marco and Tommy led to some memorable moments, especially as Marco raged the B3 and Russo urged the crowd in a singalong.  A Scott Metzger-led “Smokestack Lightning” ensued as the playful on stage antics were now coming from Metzger and Dreiwitz on stage right as Dreiwitz’ vibey bass play led to another hard charging effort for this first time ever cover of a Howlin’ Wolf song often played by the Grateful Dead.

As is often the case, JRAD dangles teases galore before ultimately settling on the next song and the ensuing “He’s Gone” was no exception. There was a full on “Jack Straw” jam and pockets of “Cryptical Envelopment” that left the crowd with “Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.” Perhaps the “Cryptical” teases hinted at “The Other One” which followed, a version that explains in its first five minutes alone why fans fly across the country to see this band. Five members strong, playing at a fever pitch, the enthusiastic crowd desperately trying to keep up. Tommy would toss about a few more teases, including a look back at the “New Speedway” from earlier in the set. Another of those patient pockets emerged, this time with Hamilton basically playing by himself as the other four members held their instruments and watched, and from that solitary quietude materialized the most gorgeous “Stella Blue”, the other four barely playing a note for much of the first two verses. This was Hamilton’s time to shine, and that he did. A heavy-effects jam from Metzger that was reminiscent of Jerry Garcia’s tone during a late 80s “Estimated Prophet” gave way to a “Playin’ In the Band” for the ages that closed the set.

In another one of those moments that makes the band and its loyal crowd alike feel like an extended family, Metzger grabbed the mic at the start of the encore to reminisce about the first time Russo invited Katie Jacoby to join the band on stage with her violin. “She made an impression on me that, quite frankly, I’m still recovering from and now we’re celebrating our engagement to be married.” The folks at The Capitol Theatre shared that love with congratulations on the marquee out front. An appropriate cover of Bob Dylan’s “Lonesome Whistle Blues” saw Katie Jacoby again join the band for this impromptu engagement party.

An absolutely transcendent show, and after not taking the stage together for nearly three months, it’s exciting to think about what nights two and three will bring.

Check some videos from Joe Russo’s Almost Dead at The Capitol Theatre. Scroll down further to see a gallery of photos courtesy of Andrew Blackstein.

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – The Capitol Theatre – 2/21/20

[Video: Relix]

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead –”Foolish Heart” > “Killer Cars” (Radiohead) – 2/21/20

[Video: monihampton]

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead –”Stella Blue” > “Playin’ In The Band” – 2/21/20

[Video: monihampton]

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead –”Lonesome Whistle Blues” (Bob Dylan) – 2/21/20

[Video: monihampton]

Setlist: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead | The Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 2/21/20

Set One: Shakedown Street > Truckin’ > Born Cross Eyed > Candyman, Around & Around, Foolish Heart > Killer Cars (Radiohead)

Set Two: Cosmic Charlie > New Speedway Boogie > Smokestack Lightning [1] > He’s Gone > The Other One > Stella Blue > Playin’ In the Band

Encore: Lonesome Whistle Blues (Bob Dylan)

[1] FTP