Old and young Deadheads alike joined together at Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee last Thursday night, April 23rd, to see Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. The tribute band, featuring Joe Russo, Marco Benevento, Tom Hamilton, Scott Metzger, and Dave Dreiwitz, put on an amazing show, featuring great renditions of so many Grateful Dead classics.
Of course, the buzz amongst the crowd was the upcoming “Fare Thee Well” Grateful Dead reunion shows in Chicago, bringing an energy that Joe Russo & co capitalized on in a major way. Everyone couldn’t help but talk about the live musicianship displayed for the night, as Almost Dead delivered in the most superlative way.
The first set was very enjoyable. Even a standard Dead song like “Me & My Uncle” is anything but standard when performed by Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. With a very short but distinct jam to open up the show, the notes segued into the tale about the adventure of a boy and his uncle. It is truly remarkable how the Grateful Dead’s most performed song can sound refreshing and exhilarating, and Almost Dead managed to go way beyond.
The highlight of the first set was the “Eyes of the World” that was beautifully formed from the “Estimated Prophet” before it. The Eyes reached levels that made the original such a fan favorite.
The second set didn’t surrender a beat. After “Golden Road,” “Jack Straw” was met with a huge roar of crowd appreciation and was played flawlessly. “Reuben and Cherise” served as a more rare tune, harkening more to the Jerry Garcia Band than the Grateful Dead. “Not Fade Away” featured some great collaborative singing between band and crowd. The chorus of the song really echoed throughout the old dance hall as everyone sang together.
The musical peak of the show came in the transition from “The Wheel” into “Mighty Quinn,” as guitarist Tommy Hamilton and drummer Joe Russo led the band from one of the slower, more ambient Dead tunes into one of the faster, more rocking numbers in the catalog. It was hard to exude more energy after the “The Mighty Quinn,” but somehow Almost Dead went beyond succeeding when performing the encore “Sugar Magnolia.” This was a great encore choice that really put an exclamation point on the entire night.
The Grateful Dead spirit is still very much alive and thriving, and part of that can be attributed to bands like Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, who not only do justice to the original tunes but take them to another level. These gentlemen are bringing this music to the next generation. They are extremely worthy at what they do and one can only hope they begin to tour with a little more frequency. This Milwaukee crowd and all Deadheads would surely enjoy it.
Pictures and setlist can be seen below:
Setlist: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead ~ 4/23/15 ~ Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee, WI
Set I: Me & My Uncle, Brown Eyed Women, Uncle John’s Band, Estimated Prophet -> Eyes of the World, Saint of Circumstance
Set II: Golden Road, Jack Straw, Reuben and Cherise, Not Fade Away, Easy Wind, The Wheel -> Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)
E: Sugar Magnolia