On Friday night, founding drummer of the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzmann, brought keyboardist Aaron Magner (The Disco Biscuits), guitarist / vocalist Tom Hamilton (American Babies), bassist Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green), and special guest Robert Randolph to perform two sets of Grateful Dead music at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. The night's theme honored the Grateful Dead's repertoire from their Europe '72 tour, adding a modern touch.
Below, watch both sets that the band performed and read our review.
Billy & The Kids at Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY on Mar 27, 2015 Full Pro-Shot Video
Coming out of the gate with an energized "Cumberland Blues," the foursome wasted no time getting fans shaking their hips. Halfway into the song, it was clear that the band wasn't about to recreate the songs note-for-note, instead opting to incorporate electronics and psychedelic sound effects into their jams. Aaron Magner's keyboard playing weaved these electronic sounds together, bringing new life into the music.
Besides being an extraordinary guitar player, Tom Hamilton led the vocals for "Tennessee Jed," which sounded warm and comfortable. During his keyboard solo, Aaron teased a snippet of the theme song from the Kit-Kat commercials, adding a playful element to his playing.
Reed Mathis stepped up to the mic for a relaxed "Brown Eyed Women," and the echoed sound effect applied to his vocals was another example of this modern "2.0" sound. "China Cat Sunflower" was an upbeat number with Reed Mathis' heady basslines keeping the song's energy elevated, and segueing into an exploratory jam that effortlessly led into a spacey "Cassidy."
Bill Kreutzmann and "The Kids" kept the momentum flowing with an "I Know You Rider," one of the night's many highlights that had fans shouting along with unbridled energy.
Special guest Robert Randolph was brought to the stage to contribute his hypnotizing pedal steel talents for a lengthy instrumental "Not Fade Away." Closing the first set, the band left us on a high note with their take on Huey "Piano" Smith & The Clowns' "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu," a song popularized by Johnny Rivers in 1972, featuring Randolph on vocals.
A curious buzz filled the air in the Capitol Theatre as people wondered what was in store for the second set. It's been a particularly weary winter season in New York, but smiles crept on fans' faces when the band opened their second set with "Cold Rain and Snow."
Afterwards, Robert Randolph returned to the stage to contribute to "Dire Wolf," as both he and Hamilton dazzled the crowd with their electrifying speed during "Sittin' on Top of the World." Randolph's shining moments, though, came during a "Hey Bo Diddley" into "Who Do You Love," as he sizzled on his instrument while commanding on vocals.
"Ramble On Rose" brought the atmosphere back to a relaxed vibe before shifting back into high gear for a stellar "Bertha." Another highlight of the night included a "Loser > Deal > Loser" sandwich that was glued together seamlessly and pushed the boundaries of the band's creative force. A buoyant "Casey Jones" closed out the second set, and an emotional "Brokedown Palace" sent the crowd into the night with nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.
While the night didn't include a flashy drum solo, the 68-year-old Kreutzmann was in top form throughout. He served as the backbone of the songs performed, and his drumming held the steady calmness that shaped the Grateful Dead's sound for decades. The musicians Billy's assembled are skillful in their own right, and each adds a unique style to the Grateful Dead catalog. They're an entertaining band to watch and hear play, and hopefully we'll be enjoying more shows from them in the future.
Bill Kreutzmann first put Billy & The Kids together for a performance at Warren Haynes' Christmas Jam in Asheville, North Carolina last December. You can read our review and listen to the complete SoundCloud audio recording of the gig here on Zumic.
For Billy & The Kids latest music, news, and tour dates, check out their Zumic artist page.