by Russell S. Glowatz
As a Deadhead with an appreciation for the vast musical influences that the members of the Grateful Dead have drawn from over their storied careers, I would like to think I am as musically open minded as it gets. Yet time and time again I find myself reaching for an old show, or my beat-up vinyl copy of American Beauty, over another artist’s album. They say awareness is the first step to combatting a problem, and I am oh so aware of my inclination to stick to what I know – which makes the ever-expanding Grateful Dead family of artists, in the years since Jerry Garcia passed, such a helpful phenomenon. Over the years, I’ve become versed in the exceptional stylings of Jackie Greene as he’s traversed Deadosphere – and through his work with Phil Lesh, and others in the jam band world, Anders Osborne‘s impeccable reputation precedes himself. Yet while walking into The Space At Westbury this past Friday, my knowledge of these two talent’s original work was still limited.
So when heading through the doors of the recently and immaculately restored Tudor style auditorium, minimal expectations were had other than the hope for good tunes and a desire for a Grateful Dead cover or two. Those paltry expectations were immediately met, and immeasurably exceeded as soon as Anders & Jackie strapped in for what would be a euphonious ninety-minute acoustic escapade. Timing is everything, and while I missed the opening stanza by Cris Jacobs, it seemed as if they were waiting for my party’s arrival, as in only a moment after scurrying to our fifth-row seats, the houselights dimmed and the main event began. And in a fateful turn, Cris Jacobs joined Anders and Jackie on a few tunes, showcasing his commensurate skills on the acoustic guitar and conveying the very reason he was chosen as an opening act for this tour.
From the first notes strummed, it was readily apparent that the show’s billing as “sitting around, singing songs – an acoustic evening” did not mean it would be a mellow evening as these two musical troubadours emerged on stage with an air of vigor and vibrancy – and they hardly sat around, aside from a few turns Jackie took behind the keys. While Anders and Jackie shared the stage for a number of unplugged shows earlier this year, the chemistry exhibited between these two poetic players was palpable on an otherworldly level. An attendee remarked at show’s end that he has “heard both artists solo – nothing compares to the chemistry that they put forward together.” Kindred spirits bound through musical mastery, the camaraderie displayed onstage is seldom present even in players that have toured together for years, yet these two embodied that quality with ease.
Through their set, Anders and Jackie took turns taking lead on their own original tunes. From Anders’ laying his soul to bare on the contemplative “Burning Up Slowly,” or the heart tugging ballad “I Need You,” to the boys (including Cris Jacobs) trading licks on the feel-good anthem “Lafayette,” Anders’ tunes ran the gamut and evoked emotional responses from the audience all across the spectrum. And Jackie’s soulful songs did much the same – from the down to earth “I Don’t Live In A Dream,” to the folksy “Tupelo,” Jackie showcased his versatile skills, from impeccable songwriter, to full-throated vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist. His substantive take on the gospel of Blind Willie Johnson with “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” transformed the venue to another time, another place, and left audience members to ponder their own personal plight towards the metaphorical fork in the road between salvation and damnation. In the end, we finally got our Grateful Dead tribute to boot. As Cris Jacobs traversed the stage once more, the trio busted out a raucous version of “New Speedway Boogie,” and mid-verse, in the midst of an audience singalong, Jackie proclaimed, “fuckin’ Deadheads everywhere!” Well ain’t that the truth.
As with the Grateful Dead, these two Princes of Americana channel the very best of the American musical landscape into their own special blend of awesomeness. With a respect towards tradition, and an aim towards innovation and originality, there’s nothing like catching these guys in the flesh. If Jackie is the soul of this ensemble, then Anders is the heartbeat, as each brought their singularly extraordinary talents into play, and manifested an unparalleled symbiotic scene. With jokes and quick witticisms in between songs, they materialized an atmosphere of lightheartedness and levity making for a night of seamless serenity and sonic sorcery. These songsmiths continue onwards with ‘Tourgether 2017’ and have several more dates on the horizon. Enjoy the below videos – yet they are only an amuse-bouche – you’ll have to catch the show for the main course.
“Lafayette” – Anders Osborne (video by bklynwmn)
“I Don’t Live In A Dream” – Jackie Greene
“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” – Blind Willie Johnson Cover
“New Speedway Boogie” – Grateful Dead Cover
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