Photos by Ben Wilson
The Scene: Railroad Earth pulled into Morrison on Friday night for what was their first headlining gig on the Red Rocks stage and their nearly four-hour show sure hit like a freight train. The elements were aligned for Railroad Earth’s return to Colorado with mystical weather, a vibrant audience and four sets of incredible music that extended late into the night. Under a sky that couldn’t decide between sun and rain sat fans of all ages, with each performance shifting the mood. The parking lot of Red Rocks showed an eclectic group of concert-goers, but the one commonality between all was the true love for music.
Openers: Passions were high as the fans filtered into the amphitheater surrounded by thunderous skies. Despite the elements, two opening bands energetically persisted through the wind and rain for what would be a long night of fun, good lovin’, and great music. Greensky Bluegrass took the stage first, with Galactic following as the sun began to set. Greensky’s upbeat bluegrass was perfect to start the night, easing the early evening into the vigorous dance party that Galactic would host. Both played for an hour and not only highly entertained, but amped and excited the crowd for things to come. Having been served a mix of Bluegrass and Jazz-Funk, we were prepared for the band whose genre is so often described with difficulty. Somewhat Bluegrass, somewhat Jazz-Funk, the Rock-Grass New Age Americana band that is Railroad Earth was truly complimented by both opening bands.
Railroad Earth: Just as Railroad Earth was about to take the stage, the rain cleared, leaving the audience under a cloudy, cool sky that could not have been more comfortable for a mid-July night. Like a breath of fresh air RRE took the stage and opened with “Black Elk Speaks.” They kept consistent throughout the first-set with a number of popular songs moving into “Jupiter & the 119″ and “Happy Song.” “Saddle of the Sun” is an unbelievable song performed live and, as expected, brought such a high and happy energy to crowd. RRE then slowed it down with the spiritual number “Mourning Flies,” but then brought it right back up with “Lonecroft Farewell.” The first set alone brought the band to a remarkable new level; owning the stage as the headliner like they had been doing it for years and years. The end of the first set brought the beautiful and heart-wrenching number “Storms,” followed by “Head,” leaving the audience anxious for the extra-long and especially impressive second set.
The 13-song second set opened with “Potter’s Field” and moved into the slow and solemn “Old Man and the Land.” “Colorado” and “Crossing the Gap” were two fan favorites as the crowd celebrated, for most, their home state. The second set was filled with a number of named (and unnamed) animated jams that took the music into its third hour. Between the jamming came “Warhead Boogie” and “Black Bear.” One of the best moments of the night came during “The Forecast,” and though we had experienced questionable weather all evening, lead singer Todd Sheaffer sang to us: “Forecast says there’s a calm ahead.” At this point any other band would have wrapped up the second set and cut to the encore, but not Railroad Earth. They blessed the audience with four more tireless and remarkable songs that proved RRE to be a strictly headlining band from here on out. When 1:30 in the morning finally arrived, we had heard “Mighty River,” “Peace On Earth” and “Seven Story Mountain,” all obvious fan favorites.
When the band returned for their encore, Todd and violinist Tim Carbone showed the crowd their humble gratitude for having had such a fantastic and successful night at the historic venue. The show ended with “Railroad Earth” which wrapped the night on a literally unforgettable note. Railroad Earth raised the bar tremendously on Friday night, bringing old fans to euphoria and leaving with many new hobos – Railroad Earth Hobos, that is. This train is unlike anything you’ve ever previously experienced, and next time it rolls through your town, it would be an utterly foolish thing to miss.
Set One: Black Elk Speaks, Jupiter & the 119, Happy Song, Saddle of the Sun, Mourning Flies, Lonecroft Farewell, Storms, Head
Set Two: Potter’s Field, Old Man and the Land, Colorado, Crossing the Gap, Untitled #12, Warhead Boogie, Black Bear, Stillwater Getaway, The Forecast, River Jam > Mighty River, Peace on Earth, Seven Story Mountain
Encore: Railroad Earth
Stage Presence: A+
Set/Light Show: B