Home Live For Live Music Dark Star Orchestra Recreates Classic 1988 Grateful Dead Show In LA

Dark Star Orchestra Recreates Classic 1988 Grateful Dead Show In LA


Though Beverly Hills offers a stark contrast to the types of venues typically associated with the Grateful Dead, a car parked with the license plate “RY❤UKND” was a certain indicator that we were right at home. The Saban Theatre was the perfect venue for Dark Star Orchestra‘s return to Los Angeles. Its towering ceiling, ornate walls, great views from every seat, and excellent sound set the tone for what would be a spectacular night.

As the band prepared to play, fans traded suppositions before the stage as to what era Dark Star would honor. “Late ’60s,” said one. “1973, another.” No one really had a clue, but it didn’t matter. Guessing made for a great game.

Dark Star opened with “Iko Iko,” which seemed like a good way to ease in while slowly getting the crowd bouncing. Next came “Walkin’ Blues.” A minimalist little tune that built anticipation for the next song, the effervescent “Candyman.” After a downbeat “Queen Jane Approximately,” the band set out on a massive tear. The crowd reacted enthusiastically to the first few notes of “Althea,” and the band did not disappoint. DSO continued things with a solid “Blow Away,” which paved the way for the best run of the night. “Cassidy” and “Deal,” with guitarist Jeff Mattson absolutely shredding the Deal solo to leave everyone grasping for air at the intermission.

The band wasted no time when they came back after a short set break. “China Cat Sunflower” got things going, and “Crazy Fingers” was handled with complete confidence. “I Know You Rider” > “Playing in the Band” was a highlight back in 1988, and it lived up to its reputation this evening. The band was rolling at 110%, hitting all the right notes and delivering sonic crowd-pleasing goodness. “Drums and Space” were a congruous and worthy experience. “The Wheel” gave way to a fun “Gimme’ Some Lovin’,” an homage to the Spencer Davis Group. “Believe it or Not,” a late Hunter-Garcia tune, seemed as new to this crowd in 2017 as it did when it first came out. Perhaps this is because the band only performed it about a half dozen times. Dark Star concluded the second set with a “Sugar Magnolia.” Not a single person in the theater could be seen sitting by the end of this ditty. It got the white glove treatment. Finally, Dark Star capped with a solemn “Black Muddy River.”

Highlights of the night were Deal, Rider, and Playin’.

The Summer of 1988 is often hailed as one of the best touring periods in the late Grateful Dead era. Dark Star Orchestra paid homage to this show — the first of a three day run at Laguna Seca on July 29, 1988 — by not only playing tightly, but by having fun. The band looked like it was thoroughly enjoying itself. Keyboardist Rob Barraco, in particular, looked like he was having the time of his life. When Dark Star plays with this level of excitement, everyone wins!

Check out the full setlist and a gallery below, courtesy of Brandon Weil, as well as full video highlights from blisstanger on YouTube.

Setlist: Dark Star Orchestra | Saban Theatre | Los Angeles, CA | 2/24/17 (Originally 7/29/88)

Set 1: Iko Iko, Walkin’ Blues, Candyman, Queen Jane Approximately, Althea, Blow Away, Cassidy > Deal

Set 2: China Cat Sunflower > Crazy Fingers > I Know You Rider > Playin’ In The Band > Drums > Space > The Wheel > Gimme Some Lovin’ > Believe It Or Not > Sugar Magnolia

Encore: Black Muddy River


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