Jerry Garcia Tribute feat. Warren Haynes & the Colorado Symphony 7.30.13

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Morrison, CO

Words & Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot Photography)

When something as unique as the Colorado Symphony playing the music of the late Grateful Dead lead-singer Jerry Garcia rolls into town, the hairs on my back tend to stick straight up. Yes, I do know that we are spoiled here in Colorado with our amazing music scene, abundant amount of not-to-miss venues, and overall with how beautiful our state is, but as some have pointed out before Colorado does get skipped by some of the “bigger” touring acts or special musical events. Fortunately, The Jerry Garcia Tribute featuring Warren Haynes playing the music of one of his musical heroes was not one of them. Having played Red Rocks with the Allman Brothers Band, Government Mule, and Phil Lesh and Friends Mr. Haynes was no stranger to the large-scale capacity of the greatest outdoor music venue the world has ever seen and it was quite evident how comfortable he was from the very beginning of “Dark Star." Playing Garcia’s famed “Wolf” guitar built by Luthier Doug Irwin, which Garcia played from 1973-1979 Warren was able to capture the true essence and tone of the late Dead lead singer and truly transform the night into a very special occasion.

Joining Mr. Haynes for this musical journey were Jeff Sipe (ARU, Leftover Salmon, Jimmy Herring Band) on drums, Lincoln Schleifer (Warren Haynes Band) on bass, and Alecia Chakour and Jasmine Muhammad on back-up vocals. Being a huge Jeff Sipe fan myself, I was extremely pumped to hear what he had to add to the symphonic Dead collaborations that I knew aging Deadheads would be dying to experience. The night began with a haunting and almost creepy version of “Dark Star” which led right into a perfectly placed “Bird Song” which got the Colorado crowd in the sing-along mood. Using Garcia’s famed tone and overall way of “Flowing” over the fret-board, Warren was able to almost perfectly mimic what Garcia became famous for. Yes, Haynes has a much more distinct and rock-ish way of playing the guitar, but when playing the “Wolf” you must respect the sound and history it has grown through.

One of my all-time favorite Jerry songs “Crazy Fingers” came next and this version was an absolute delight to hear. Flawlessly flowing up and down the neck of the guitar, Warren brought us Deadheads back to the 70’s with quick tone changes and unique chord progressions. “Standing on the Moon” was next and the calm lyrics brought an almost eerie/sleepy feeling over the crowd, until the first notes of the Deadhead favorite “Scarlet Begonias” came roaring through the Red Rocks speaker system. Haynes used the “Wolf” to hit every note of Scarlet to the enjoyment of much of the crowd and Chakour and Muhammad on back-up vocals were absolutely stunning during this arrangement. Next came the party-starting, bass-thumping “Shakedown Street” (which without Phil Lesh on bass just doesn’t sound the same,) and then the beautiful combination of “China Cat Sunflower” > “Morning Dew” to end the first set on a very subtle, but high note. Sipe set the tone with his delicious drum beats and seemed to be right at home with the large Colorado Symphony playing behind him.

Set One: Dark Star -> Bird Song, Crazy Fingers, Standing on the Moon, Scarlet Begonias, Shakedown Street, China Cat Sunflower, Morning Dew

Set Two: Mission in the Rain intro, High Time, Russian Lullaby, Uncle John’s Band, West LA Fadeaway, If I Had the World to Give, Terrapin Station -> Slipknot! -> Terrapin Station

Encore: Patchwork Quilt, China Doll

Starting the second set with the Garcia classic “Mission in the Rain”, Haynes and his musical friends flowed their way through the first couple songs with a very calm and relaxed feeling. “High Time” and “Russian Lullaby” two songs, which many Deadheads were not expecting to hear on this night on the Rocks, received thunderous ovations when started and increased the amount of people singing-along tenfold. Having been first played back in the early 20s by some of the “Big Bands” of that era, “Russian Lullaby” has taken many different forms over the years, but this version with Warren singing lead vocals was simply stellar. After setting the mood, conductor Scott O’Neill jumped up on his pedestal and got the crowd moving with the Dead classics “Uncle John’s Band” and “West LA Fadeaway." These two songs are well known to the average Deadhead and the versions we were lucky enough to hear on this night did not disappoint. Chakour and Muhammad took the lead on “West LA” and used their sultry/powerful vocals to pump up the Red Rocks crowd and bounce their voices off the tops of the beautiful surroundings. After a brief, but still beautiful “If I Had the World to Give” the real highlight of the night came into fruition with “Terrapin Station" > "Slipknot!" > "Terrapin Station” closing out the second set with a thunderous musical force.

“Terrapin Station” is one of the most popular and sought after songs in a Deadhead’s repertoire and having Haynes belt the lyrics throughout the Colorado night was just perfection. Not a note was missed, and the symphony seemed to really come into their being with intense violin combos and some incredible harmonic sounds coming from the entire string section. This is what the crowd was waiting for, just pure musical bliss with Warren Haynes absolutely flowing his way across every inch of the “Wolf." After waiting on stage and soaking in the standing ovation, Warren returned to sing his own dedication to Jerry Garcia with “Patchwork Quilt”, a song written by Haynes reflecting on Garcia’s untimely death. “China Doll” wrapped up the night and nothing but smiles could be seen across the parking lots of the great Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

For those in attendance, we know how special what we saw truly was. And for those unfortunate enough not to make it, please keep your ears open for this tour to possibly come back in the future. I promise, seeing Warren on the “Wolf” is something not to miss no matter what the circumstance is. Also, do not hesitate to catch the Colorado Symphony any time they have a performance. No matter what music they are playing, it always seems to be jaw dropping and absolutely amazing. Make sure to support all live music, and see you next time on the Rocks!

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