Cliches are true, that’s why they’re cliches. That being said, the “Never Miss A Sunday Show” rule was in full effect last night as Joe Russo’s Almost Dead put an exclamation point on the weekend with their third show in as many days and 20th all-time at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY. With breakouts and bust-outs galore–and a couple of sit-ins taboot–JRAD indeed bowled a turkey with three strikes in a row (or three perfect shows, if you will).
As has become their tradition, the band curates pre-show music in the attached Garcia’s. These shows are free with admission and always worth coming early for. Last night, long time friend of the band Chris Harford played the opening set with an unannounced full set sit-in by JRAD bassist Dave Dreiwitz. One particular highlight was a cover of Neil Young’s “Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere”, which offered a look back to last year when Harford joined the band for an encore cover of Neil Young, and perhaps an omen of things to come later on in the night.
Picking up right where they left off on Saturday, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead quickly settled into a jam that left fans clueless as to the opener that would follow before the first of four breakouts on the evening with “Catfish John”. This ripping cover of a Bob McDill song–popularized by Jerry Garcia with its inclusion on his 1976 Reflections album–gave the band an early chance to find its mid-show form as both Tom Hamiton and Scott Metzger continued their inspired guitar play while Marco Benevento rocked the B3 organ. A warm and loose Dave Dreiwitz was still ablaze as he obviously found comfort in “Big and Brown,” the Guild Starfire bass he debuted the previous evening. Joe Russo, well, he did his best Joe Russo impression and dazzled from start to finish, as is his way, displaying ferocity and subtly in equal measure as called for by the band’s signature peaks and delicate valleys. A rocking “Bertha” followed as the mass of humanity on the floor gyrated in communal ecstasy and the loge literally swayed as if atop a three-legged washing machine on spin cycle.
Watch the band’s show-opening performances of “Catfish John” and “Bertha” below.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – “Catfish John” > “Bertha” – 2/23/20
A “Dancin’ In the Streets” tease eventually morphed into “ The Music Never Stopped”, and this band beyond description took fans on a Type II ride as Russo went absolutely bonkers behind his drum kit. A bluesy end to “The Music Never Stopped” portended the country blues of “El Paso” which would follow. “I Need a Miracle” was next, with all the requisite ebbs and flows as the crowd both shouted along with the peaks and engaged in the quietude solitude of the valleys of a spacey Hamilton jam in equal measure. A set-ending “Wharf Rat” ensued, as Russo played so emphatically that he was bouncing off his stool as Hamilton delighted fans with next-level vocals and guitar work.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – “El Paso” – 2/23/20
A Tom Petty-inspired playlist kept the crowd’s spirits and energy up during the break before the band would return for the second set with the unlikeliest of breakouts–a cover of Dire Strait’s “Romeo and Juliet”. Dedicated by Russo to a woman in the audience named Lisa who was celebrating a birthday, Hamilton took the vocals on this hair-raising and emotional cover that started in graceful elegance and built to scorching heights before it transitioned mid-peak into “Help On the Way”. Hamilton’s supremacy was on full display as he continually reached unparalleled heights of emotional output in all facets of his musicianship.
“Slipknot” was its typical self, both gnarly and full of questions as to what would follow as no one could have predicted the “Mystery Train” cover that followed, as led by Metzger. An old-school blues standard written by Junior Parker and later played by both Elvis Presley and the Jerry Garcia Band, this rockabilly dance number had the crowd in a fever pitch. Marco rocked the baby grand as a stage left jam from Dave, Scott, and Joe followed. The band took a brief few seconds to recover before playing “So Many Roads” for only the sixth time ever, and first since 3/1/2019. A catcall from the balcony, “We f*cking love you!” was met with loud applause.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – “Mystery Train” – 2/23/20
A soft then chaotic jam led the band into “Let It Grow”, and another delicate jam emerged from the chaos with teases of “Wheel”, “Loser”, and “Playin’ in the Band” for an everything-else-we-played-this-weekend theme before this scorekeeper lost count and a “Let It Grow Reprise” crushed the awestruck crowd. Russo drums brought the audience in-sync for a clap-along intro to “Not Fade Away”, a monster jam and perhaps the most fitting way to end this triumphant run, but not before a few more teases (including “Black-Throated Wind”) as the audience earnestly serenaded the band, “You know our love will not fade away….”
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – “Not Fade Away” – 2/23/30
Several moments later, in what has now become their annual tradition according to Russo, Chris Harford joined the band for a cover of Neil Young’s “Fuckin’ Up”, a song which is also played live semi-regularly by Pearl Jam. What was not expected, nor planned for that matter, was the guest appearance of Jimmy Fallon, who apparently talked his way on stage for the encore.
Fallon, for the most part, ceded the Neil Young vocals to Harford but ad-libbed lyrics that included a full-on, mid-song rocker of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run”, in which Capitol Theatre photographer Dino Perucci was pulled on stage to dance with the comedian before a lyrical take on Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” eventually settled into another full-band jam of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”. While the actual musicians behind him delivered an earnest and crushing rendition of these songs as they improvised along with Fallon’s ad-libs, the late-night show host rolled and writhed along the stage, a la a drunk Jim Morrison, before eventually body slamming his sweatshirt and finishing it with a flying elbow in a move more suited for Wrestlemania than a JRAD show. The band brought it back to “Fuckin’ Up”, in what was perhaps the most innocuously perfect encore of all time.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead w/Jimmy Fallon & Chris Harford – “Fuckin’ Up” > “Born To Run” > “Hey Jude” > “Fuckin’ Up” – 2/23/30
After a throwback weekend consisting of six perfect sets and a run reminiscent of earlier days at The Capitol Theatre’s sister venue, Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl, it’s as good a time as any to honor the love and energy that was tangibly present all weekend. Live music is best defined by the reciprocal exchange of energy running rampant between a band and its fans, in this case, enhanced at all turns by a hospitable venue and welcoming staff. From the incredible conviviality of The Capitol Theatre staff to a band who positively delights in its fans, on behalf of all of those on this side of the rail, thank you!
Scroll down for a full gallery from Sunday’s performance, courtesy of photographer Andrew Blackstein.
Setlist: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead | The Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 2/23/20
Set One: Jam > Catfish John > Bertha, The Music Never Stopped, El Paso (Marty Robbins cover) > I Need A Miracle > Wharf Rat
Set Two: Romeo and Juliet (Dire Straits cover) > Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Mystery Train (Junior Parker cover), So Many Roads, Let It Grow > Loser Jam > Let It Grow > Not Fade Away (The Crickets cover)
Encore: Fuckin’ Up* (Neil Young cover) > Born To Run* (Bruce Springsteen cover) > Hey Jude* (The Beatles cover) > Fuckin’ Up* (Neil Young cover)
*w/ Jimmy Fallon on vocals, Chris Harford on guitar