Even before Garcia began strumming his acoustic guitar, the format indicated that this would not be a rock-and-roll show. The Argentinian-American musician was flanked by only a guitarist and cellist, all three seated on high chairs. During the first number, Garcia leaned into the microphone and pledged, with just a hint of melodrama, "I got nothing to hide.''
That seemed reasonably accurate, and this openness benefited the material. Zeke Zima's fluid, Spanish-style playing and Danny Bensi's bowing and plucking (and versatile backing vocals) left plenty of room for Garcia's occasionally husky croon. Yet their accompaniment provided a greater dynamic range than on the album, which is genteel to a fault.
If Garcia is now taking his cues from Caetano Veloso rather than the Smiths, he hasn't entirely forgotten rock. One of the evening's highlights was a version of "This Strange Effect,'' a Kinks song so obscure that only a committed fan would know it. Such pleasant surprises, and the trio's deft ensemble playing, suggest that Garcia's new direction is not a dead end street.