Photos by Jim Mimna
The Scene: If you’ve ever been to a Grateful Dead or Grateful Dead related show, you know about what the scene inside The Ogden was like last Thursday night when the Mickey Hart Band brought their hard driving rhythms to Denver. While Hart isn’t the most followed of the Dead members, and the half-full Ogden proved that, there were still fans of all ages in attendance. From the 60+ year old gray hairs who are still braving the Denver club scene on week nights to catch their favorites, to the young 20 somethings that caught on to the scene long after Jerry had passed away, it was a mishmash of Jam and Drum loving fans, and everyone got what they came for.
Mickey Hart Band: Hart and his band walked out at about 8:45, launched into the Grateful Dead classic “Samson and Delilah,” and did their best to “tear the whole building down” with thundering drums and monster bass bombs (courtesy of Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools). As the band raged behind her, Crystal Monee Hall stood front and center and amazed the crowd with a powerfully soulful voice that fit the song perfectly. In all honesty, this opening tune was the highlight of the night for me.
From the familiarity of “Samson and Delilah,” the band turned toward the depths of space with a couple of tunes from Hart’s recent release Mysterium Tremendum. The first, “Slow Joe Rain,” started slow and featured Talking Drum guru Sikiru Adepoju communicating with Hart in a way only two master drummer can. As the song built, multi-instrumentalist Tim Hockenberry joined in on Trombone and vocals and the song developed a new age rock edge to it.
Having walked into the show completely unfamiliar with Mysterium Tremendum, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the new tunes. Nearly over saturated with percussion courtesy of the three drummers on stage, “Cut The Deck” conjured up images of Peter Gabriel and my buddy suggested the band should cover “Red Rain.” How right he was!!! While over the course of the two sets and encore they never did drop into that, or any other Gabriel tune, the thread wove through the night as Hart and company ran through eight tunes from the new album and the same number of Dead favorites.
In the past when I’ve seen Hart perform with his own bands, I have been impressed with the way he approaches the music of The Grateful Dead and puts his own distinct stamp on it. A Mickey Hart Band show is so much more than a cover band. This is a man that has surrounded himself with world class musicians who all believe in musical exploration and they feel free to use the familiar canvas of songs like “Fire On The Mountain” and “The Other One” to experiment. While we didn’t get the Rap version of “Fire” that Hart is famous for, judging by the reaction from the crowd in The Ogden, his fans loved it just the same.
Overall this show delivered much more than I expected. From the opening notes of “Samson and Delilah,” to the closing strains of “We Bid You Goodnight,” the band was on fire and loving every minute of playing together. When I got home after the show the words Hart said at the end of the first set stuck in my head: “I told you it was going to be good, now you gotta go tell your friends what they missed!”
Set 1: Samson and Delilah, Slow Joe Rain, Starlight Starbright, West L.A. Fadeaway, This One Hour, Cut the Deck > I Know You Rider
Set 2: Let There Be Light > HeartBeat Of The Sun > Fire On The Mountain > Supersonic Vision > Other One > Jam > Time Never Ends > Not Fade Away
Encore: Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > We Bid You Good Night
Stage Presence: B+
Set / Light show: A-