Joe Russo’s Almost Dead kicked off their three night run at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ last Thursday to a packed house on a warm fall evening. This run was rescheduled from just over a year ago as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. Despite an injury to Tom Hamilton, the band delivered their unique take on the Grateful Dead without a hitch and made many new fans in the process.
The Wellmont Theater was first built by theater manager H.H. Wellenbrick, and opened in 1922. The name was created by combining Wellenbrick with Montclair. The theater originally hosted vaudeville and stage plays, though ultimately served as a movie house. In the 1980’s, the venue was converted into a movie triplex, and continued as a movie theater until 2006 when it was renovated into the largest live music venue in the area. The historic venue changed hands again in 2013, and continues to host music, arts and live events.
This talented band was excited to bring their jazzy Grateful Dead covers to the storied Wellmont Theater, despite an injury to guitarist Tom Hamilton. He broke his clavicle prior to the run, and was notably sitting for parts of the evening. His dedication to their loyal fans was unparalleled, as he was certainly playing through some pain this evening.
The smoking hot first set kicked off with two tasty jam sandwiches, the first being “Comic Charlie” > “Mississippi Half Step” > “Queen Jane Approximately,” with “Queen Jane” being the first in a pair of Bob Dylan covers this evening. The energy gradually increased throughout this sequence, as the band warmed up. The second kept the energy in high gear with “The Wheel” > “Til the Morning Comes” > “My Brother Esau.” There was a notable “Hell in a Bucket” tease during the jam out of “The Wheel,” and showed how this band loves to keep the fans guessing. After this intense series, the band took a much needed break.
Set two picked up right where set one left off, and included another groups of songs segued into one another, starting with “They Love Each Other” > “Chinacat Sunflower” > “Gonesville” > “Shakedown Street.” A Bob Weir cover was nestled into the mix with “Gonesville.” The notable jam of the mix was the funky “Shakedown Street,” where bassist Dave Dreiwitz and drummer Joe Russo delivered a delicious groove that had the entire audience on their feet and grooving. “Viola Lee Blues” was up next, followed by the second Bob Dylan cover of the evening, “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” This song was often played by the Grateful Dead. This incredible set wrapped up with a rocking “US Blues.” The band left the stage for a brief moment, and returned to play the Grateful Dead’s most successful single, “Touch of Grey.”
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead unfurled a fantastic set list full of jams for their first night at the Wellmont Theater three night run in Montclair, NJ. They made many new fans this evening and certainly pleased the long timers with their creative and exploratory jams. The band has a couple of dates remaining on the ledger for 2021, including Hulaween in Live Oak, Florida. Visit their website for more details about upcoming shows this year and in 2022.
Cosmic Charlie > MIssissippi Half Step > Queen Jane Approximately1, The Wheel > Til the Morning Comes > My Brother Esau
They Love Each Other > Chinacat Sunflower > Gonesville2 > Shakedown Street, Viola Lee Blues, When I Paint My Masterpiece1, US Blues
Touch of Grey
1. Bob Dylan cover
2. Bob Weir cover