Joe Russo Isn't Quite Dead Yet At Cleveland's Masonic Auditorium
March 17th, 2018
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead ended their tour in Cleveland on Saturday night at the Masonic Auditorium. The outfit was started by Joe Russo, who played drums for Furthur – a band formed by Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.
Since the disbanding of Furthur, "Almost Dead" has gone on to become one of the most successful and loved touring Grateful Dead off-shoot or “cover band," if you will. But I find it hard to label them a cover band because Saturday night’s show displayed that the band isn’t just going out on stage and re-playing the Dead’s music or shows on a note-for-note basis.
The five-piece opened the show with a twenty-one minute “St. Stephen” jam; the quintet made quick work of the jam and filled the perfectly-sized venue with their sound. Quickly, they had the crowd, from floor to rear balcony, on their feet.
The show, as most Dead-related/jam band gigs, was broken into two sets. After the first song, the band ripped off an impressive five-song segue which included a ton of jamming and improv. They closed the first set with an impressive “I Know You Rider."
After a longish forty-five minute intermission, they came back out for another hundred minutes of music, getting right back into things with “Shakedown Street," which had the crowd right back on their feet and dancing along with the great “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider” tease. Set two had the band injecting more teases and little nuggets to keep the die-head Deadheads in attendance happy. “I Need a Miracle” was a high-point of the second set.
The encore opened with a cover of The Band’s “Look Out Cleveland” and they ended the show with “One More Saturday Night," another appropriate tune given that it was, uh, late on a Saturday night. By time they played the last notes it was creeping close to Sunday morning.
Throughout the three hours the band played they hardly missed a beat; they took the songs and they made them their own. You can tell it’s a labor of love for Joe Russo and Almost Dead; it shows and the sold-out crowd loved them for it.
If you’re a fan of the Dead and it’s many, many branch-offs this band is a must see next time they come to town.
Review by Troy Smith