Photo by Ellis Jones
While his fellow ex-band mates are off pursuing other endeavors, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart is doing what comes natural to him. Creating and playing music. His latest tour is in support of his new cosmic release Mysterium Tremendum. As usual he has assembled a variety of accomplished musicians to share the stage with. The current lineup is no exception and features Dave Schools on bass.
The small club was abuzz in anticipation of sharing an intimate night with Mr. Hart. This being a Sunday night, Mickey stuck with tradition and opened the show with the staple, “Samson and Delilah.” It also gave the rhythm section an early opportunity to flex their muscles. South African drummer, Ian Herman introduced himself quickly from behind his kit along with longtime Hart collaborator, Sikiru Adepoju on the talking drum. As Mickey led the madness from behind his prominent drum display, soulful singer Crystal Hall could not be ignored with her passionate take on this classic. The band sounded outstanding and a thrill rippled throughout the dedicated fans. “Let There Be Light” was the beginning of four new songs in a row, all off the new release. It was refreshing to hear so much new material. The songs were mostly upbeat with vocal duties shared between Crystal and keyboardist, Tim Hockenberry. The material was less spacey yet easier to dance to than previous Mickey’s projects, like Planet Drum. They closed out the first set with a rousing cover of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and a heartfelt “Franklin’s Tower.” The latter of the two gave lead guitarist, Gawain Mathews plenty of space to show off his chops. He was much more calculated and less busy than most guitarists put in his situation. He approached the notes delicately and by the response of the crowd, it was effective.
The second set began in familiar territory with Mickey’s oddity, “Heartbeat.” The melodic number gave the all-star rhythm section room to communicate and explore. This worldly jam had the heads dancing in a tribal fashion. After an inspired “Endless Skies,” we got what we all hoped for when this lineup was released: Dave Schools dropping the famous bass bombs that led into “The Other One.” He did not disappoint as he led the band though a cracking rendition. A spirited Fire on the Mountain closed the second set on a high note, but the best lay ahead.
After receiving a well-deserved applause the band struck a perfect balance with the encore. First up was the fragile Jerry ballad, “Stella Blue” and Chrystal handled the lyrics tastefully, giving it a gospel feel. Then, the band turned the heavy hearts around with a fitting “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad” before ending the night with the coveted “We Bid You Goodnight.”
Mickey Hart manages to combine his two passions with this latest project – a jam band, with aspects of his world music. The result is nothing short of astonishing. Spacing out the Grateful Dead classics amongst new material gives the songs more gravity, therefore packing a more spiritual punch. If you are a Deadhead that’s looking for something different, do yourself a favor and see this band.