Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Review: Dark Star Orchestra as the Grateful Dead

The saying used to go, "there is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert," but if that is true, what do you make of Dark Star Orchestra concerts?

You can't say they are nothing like a Grateful Dead concert. The reason people go is because they are a lot like Grateful Dead concerts. Last night at the State Theater, they recreated the Grateful Dead show at Barton Hall from May 8, 1977, and sold the place out.

The DSO sound like the GD, and a couple of the guys ("Garcia" and "Weir") even look like them, and seem to be mimicking their mannerisms.

The show felt the way I remember Grateful Dead shows feeling. People arrived in groups. It was crowded, hot, and noisy, but everyone was smiling, pretty much, or on the verge of it.

The music went on for a long time. People danced together. They danced alone. Quiet guys stood with arms folded, listening. Shirtless big guys swayed and howled. It was fun, harmless fun, and everyone was nice to everybody else, and it felt like the place to be.

What is missing from the show - besides the original guys, obviously - is spontaneity. That was the artistic premium of any Grateful Dead show. It was like a ballgame, in that no matter what you thought would happen, you didn't really know what would happen, and you would invariably be surprised. The band themselves would be surprised.

Now we know everything that happened, and what already happened is all that's going to happen.

But, maybe sometimes that's good enough. It was good enough last night. Dark Star Orchestra and the State Theater did a great job in presenting a piece of Ithaca history, making it live again - if not for real, at least real loud, and fun.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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