Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Review: Dead Offshoot Cosmic-Rocks Cary Street Café

From Style Weekly:

Review: Dead Offshoot Cosmic-Rocks Cary Street Café

Launching into the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” to start their Cary Street Café show Dec. 12, the New Riders of the Purple Sage took 100 or so lucky fans for a journey through the ’70s. Originally a Grateful Dead offshoot of sorts, with Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart and Phil Lesh each involved for a time, the NRPS is still associated with the music and spirit of the Dead. Cary Street Café’s Robin Chandler is friends with original lead guitarist David Nelson and early member pedal-steel legend Buddy Cage. That connection made this intimate show happen after the Canal Club did not inspire confidence in the musicians, Nelson says.

The crowd consisted of all forms of Deadhead: the young, old, clean-cut and shaggy. The $20 tickets sold out well in advance for a chance to catch this band, which once played New York’s Central Park to 50,000 fans.

With Nelson and Cage anchoring things, backed by a solid but not remarkable bass, drums and second guitar, the trademark cosmic cowboy sound of the NRPS was present in abundance. Cage’s steel guitar sounded alternately country western and otherworldly, and Nelson’s precise guitar licks meshed perfectly. Nelson’s voice, soft and creaky in an endearing way like Garcia’s, was well-preserved.

Sound levels, at first a challenge, were eventually worked out. Most frustrating was not hearing Cage; it was like watching an artist painting but not being able to see the canvas. The country-flavored harmonies of the NRPS were also frequently lost in the mix. The adherence to the groove, however, was very much intact and led to several second-set highlights.

Chief among these were long jams on NRPS originals “Dirty Business” and “Death and Destruction,” with Nelson and second guitarist Michael Falzarano trading inspired solos and Cage providing a range of sinister and beautiful sounds. Coming out of these jams proved a bit clunky, however, like braking abruptly on a road full of potholes. A faithful version of the Dead’s “Ripple” closed out the night, providing a soft and sweet landing. — Andy Garrigue


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