Yes, life can go on without Jerry Garcia, even if you’re a member of the Grateful Dead and are interested in perpetuating the band’s unique confluence of American music styles and extended wobbly jam sessions. The Others Ones, with the Dead’s Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Bruce Hornsby at its core, deliver a hearty and faithful ode to the Dead spirit with two guitarists substituting for Jerry’s instrumental voice and bassist Alphonso Johnson packing a new secret weapon.
Core of the two-hour, 45 minute show is still the lengthy jams that include a host of tunes associated with the Grateful Dead. Concert, which was moved last week from the Anaheim Pond and sold out the Universal within a couple of days, opened with a 45-minute improvisation that started with some vague noodling before fading into the end of “Sugar Magnolia” and Weir singing the chorus of Free’s “All Right Now.” Band touched on “Bird Song” and segued to a spirited version of Woody Guthrie’s “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad.” Perf was limber, if a bit cold — not surprising considering that the show was only the second in which Johnson, who preceded Jaco Pastorious as the bassist in the legendary fusion group Weather Report, has appeared.
Through numbers such as “Ramble on Rose” and “Looks Like Rain,” the Other Ones warmed up considerably for the final jam of the night, which ran a good 70 minutes and started with a squishy acoustic version of “Truckin’ ” that gained focus and heft once the drummers and electric guitarists joined in. From there: “Estimated Prophet”; Bruce Hornsby’s “Long Tall Cool One,” the dual drum solo that included some tasteful electronics and metallic gamelan sounds; and “The Other One,” which faded to a hush only to come back up as Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” before closing on a hushed version of “Bird Song.”
Throughout, Hornsby’s piano rocked with inspired jazz licks culled from early 1960s players. Steve Kimock went for the tonal control of classic Garcia, and Mark Karan brought in a new side, a guitar sound that has the hallmarks of Duane Allman and Eric Clapton as well as Garcia.
The three interact well and strike an impressive balance: Band is the best Weir has ever fronted. And with Johnson on bass, they have found a surprising kindred spirit who will stick to supportive and ambitious playing and won’t waste anyone’s time with sound effects solos.
The band’s 23-date tour makes a stop Sept. 10 at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.