Monday marked the late Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia’s 74th birthday, and Colorado DeadHeads celebrated in style. Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes joined the Colorado Symphony for an evening of Garcia tunes, and in tow was Garcia’s infamous guitar named “Tiger.” The evening treated the audience to not two, but three full sets of Jerry-inspired music. The first two sets–three hours long–would boast the collaboration of rock star Haynes and the supporting sounds of traditional symphony.
Though many musical events were happening in various cities on Monday to celebrate the rock idol’s birthday, none would live up to the occasion like what we had going on at Red Rocks. Different from your typical Dead or Dead revival show, this show took a completely unique spin on the songs and musical stylings of one of the greatest guitarists of my parents’ generation. And though the Grateful Dead is best known for their lengthy and often psychedelic jam sessions smack dab in the middle of a song, Haynes and the Colorado Symphony performed each tune to its very core, and didn’t save room for any such fluff.
Set one kicked off with an abbreviated version of the epic jam “Dark Star” before moving into a majority of Garcia classics – “China Cat Sunflower,” “Bird Song” and “Scarlet Begonias.” “Crazy Fingers” and the slow-going “Morning Dew” fell into rotation, with the ever-funky “Shakedown Street” sandwiched between the many ballads.
The second set started off strong with “Uncle John’s Band,” “West L.A. Fadeaway,” and “Black Peter.” Arguably the Dead’s most popular song according to pop culture standards, “Touch Of Grey” came next and moved into more of a rare tune, with “Blues For Allah.” Possibly the highlight of the Haynes/Symphonic portion of the evening came with an incredible “Terrapin Station” on either side of a short “Slipknot!” tease. Set two concluded with “Patchwork Quilt” and the beloved Jerry anthem, “Ripple.”
Set three was a surprise that had been announced only earlier in the day, which revealed to fans that they would be treated to another hour of music from Haynes and Jerry Garcia band member, Melvin Seals. This third set would include some excellent versions of Bob Marley’s “Stop That Train” and Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come.” Rich Daniels joined Haynes, Seals and the core band for “Fire On The Mountain” and a classic Garcia soul tune, “That’s What Love Will Make You Do.”
The core band played through “Loser” and Bob Dylan’s “Tough Mama,” when more surprises for the finale were then revealed. As if they night could have been more impressive, Greensky Bluegrass’ Anders Beck and Dave Bruzza jumped in on the fun for “Deal,” and a rendition of “Don’t Let Go” to close out a fantastic evening of celebration.