Joe Russo’s Almost Dead 4.28.17

The Ogden Theatre
Denver, CO

Words & photos by Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot Photography)

A cover band is a musical group who usually masters every aspect of another group’s musical arrangements, special tendencies, and even sometimes the mistakes an artist would make on stage from time to time. I tend not to spend money on seeing cover bands, wasting time listening to, or sometimes even recognizing their existence (mostly to piss off my friends). But every once in awhile a band comes along that has mastered another group’s material so well, and to a level of such musical genius, that I can’t help but to get insanely excited every time I get the chance to see them live. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead or JRAD could be the most entertaining, musically gifted/talented, and overall fucking awesome cover band that I have ever seen. And for some reason, every time they come to Colorado the shows are extra hot.

Starting off with “Jackstraw” it was 150% obvious JRAD was looking to rip the roof off the Ogden Theatre from the get-go. I cannot begin to explain the crowd energy which increased with each and every musical peak directed by the absolute monster Joe Russo on the drums. Russo is a master of everything drums/cymbals/percussion, and his skill is brought out in a multitude of ways with his JRAD project. A close to 18-minute “Truckin” got the Colorado fans singing along with Scott Metzger on “Bobby’s” side and JRAD was off and running on their 2-day Colorado adventure. Metzger led the boys through their first rendition of the Bob Dylan classic “Tell Me, Momma,” and what a beautiful ode to Dylan it was with Scott’s semi-raspy voice impersonating Bob very well. Another highlight in the first set for me was the Tom Hamilton led Bruce Springsteen cover “Atlantic City” which was sang by Hamilton in a deep, almost bluesy manner getting the crowd roaring right into the Grateful Dead staple “I Know You Rider." This version of “Rider” had numerous momentum peaks and I could barely contain myself jumping up and down on the stage-right stairs of the famous Denver venue.

Two lesser known (at least to me) Dead songs opened up the second set “Lost Sailor” and “Saint of Circumstance” with Marco Benevento, master of all things piano-like taking a lead throughout each song. It’s always fun for me to watch the interplay between Benevento and Russo behind the kit, as they continually smile/joke/giggle with each other on-stage no matter what project I am lucky enough to see them both in. One of my favorite Dead songs “Scarlet Begonias” came next with Hamilton once again taking the lead shredding up and down on his guitar and seeming to gain hand speed with each stroke of the guitar strings. JRAD original “Keeping It Simple” came next, which I have to admit I had no idea existed. I love that a cover-act is coming out with original material because it shows their true commitment to music as a whole. Which in this day in age can sometimes be hard to find when things are copied so easily and shared so quickly via the internet.

What came next was an onslaught of Grateful Dead classics, with an out of control Medeski, Martin, and Wood (openers for the 1st Bank show) cover sandwiched in between. “Fire on the Mountain” was bass heavy with Dave Drewitz thumping along to Russo’s outrageous drumming. Hamilton began “Dancing In The Streets” with no hesitation and the magic of JRAD came to center stage with saxophone player Stuart Boogie joining the chaos. To only make things more interesting Russo started slowing the tempo down dramatically, bouncing right into the MMW song “Bubblehouse” with Benevento quickly following suit and joyously smiling along with every slam of the snare drum. I cannot tell you how amazing this sequence of music was, and the crowd at the Ogden was screaming as loud as I have ever heard it in there. To end the set, a fantastic “Franklin’s Tower” was followed by a standard/fun encore of “US Blues” to bring night one to a raucous closing.

This band is on a whole different level of music genius right now and night one of this Colorado run is a true testament to JRAD being one of the hottest commodities on the “Jam-band” scene. To recommend seeing them is an absolute understatement and I have to thank them for taking the high road with the weather fiasco and rescheduling their Red Rocks date for later this year. I look forward to seeing them with Oteil Burbridge on bass right before Phish Dick’s… and who knows who could show up to sit-in and have some fun?

Kevin's Photo Gallery

Set One: Jackstraw > Truckin'@, Viola Lee Blues# ->Here Comes Sunshine Jam$ -> Viola Lee Blues Reprise -> Tell Me, Momma% (SM) > China Cat Sunflower > Atlantic City -> I Know You Rider

Set Two: Lost Sailor -> Saint Of Circumstance & Scarlet Begonias -> Keeping It Simple -> Fire On The Mountain, Dancing In The Streets*+ -> Franklins Tower*

Encore: US Blues$$

@ - With an Other One Tease (Band) & a “Reveille” (Traditional) Tease (SM)
# - With a “Duo Jam”
$ - First Time Played By Almost Dead
% - Bob Dylan Cover, First Time Played By Almost Dead
^ - With Teases / Jams of “You Don’t Love Me” (Willie Cobb / Allman Brothers Band) and China Cat Sunflower (Band)
& - With a “Sowing the Seeds of Love” (Tears for Fears) Jam (I THINK)
* - With Stuart Bogie on Sax
+ - With a "Bubblehouse" Jam (Medeski Martin & Wood), and a DD Bass Solo
$$ - With Stuart Bogie on Clarinet


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