Jazz Is Dead Jazz Is Dead guitarist Jeff Pevar cut loose on a solo right out of the box at the Birchmere Tuesday night, unleashing a screaming, diametric opposite to the countrified and noodly streams that were trademark Jerry Garcia. That was kind of the point, though, since this band is all about truckin' through the Grateful Dead catalogue with a fresh mind-set, mostly laying a jazz-fusion tinge on the venerable San Francisco band's legacy.
The show that Jazz Is Dead brought to the Birchmere was " 'Europe '72' Reimagined," meant to be an exploration of that classic live triple LP, and aside from some histrionic guitar from Pevar, the group enlivened the Dead grooves. Alongside Pevar, the group's revolving membership for this tour included drum legend Billy Cobham, keyboardist T. Lavitz (who once unsuccessfully auditioned for the Dead) and Little Feat bassist Kenny Gradney.
Since much of "Europe" is guitar-driven, Pevar acted as leader, defining the grooves to songs like "China Cat Sunflower," and taking solos that were often evocative, occasionally over the top, but always showcases for his phenomenal technique. Lavitz shone on a wonderful, New Orleans-spiced vamp through "He's Gone," while Gradney anchored a skeletal pass at "I Know You Rider." Cobham, behind his massive kit, was a powerful time-keeper and played a wide-open drum solo, long a staple of any Dead show.
The band strayed a bit from the official theme with an encore of "Dark Star," but Jazz Is Dead proved it remains one of the more enjoyable of the passel of Dead-legacy bands.
-- Patrick Foster The Strokes Live rock-and-roll has always been, in good part, a visual medium. From Elvis on, kids have talked about going to see their favorite acts in concert, not going to hear them. Yet the Strokes, the New York-based new-rock avatar, either aren't aware of the importance of energy to a concert setting or, more likely, they choose to ignore its importance. In any case, on Tuesday at Constitution Hall the Strokes displayed all the vim and vigor of your typical pet rock.
Almost all the ingredients needed for a great show were present: a packed house, a hot act, and songs so good they could almost justify the hype thrown the Strokes' way. Yet the mood in the hall for much of the set was sadly sedate, and the blah ambiance could be traced to the energy shortage onstage.
The Strokes' choice of lethargy as a shtick is particularly confounding when you consider how kinetic their recorded product makes the band seem. Much of the set list came from "Is This It," the Strokes debut released in September 2001, such as bouncy radio fodder "Last Nite," "Hard to Explain" and "The Modern Age." Even the new material Tuesday night followed the formula that proved so winning on the band's disc: Guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. deliver quick bursts of downstrokes on their guitars, drummer Fabrizio Moretti taps a military beat on his snare, and bassist Nikolai Fraiture sits out until the song gets warmed up. Then Julian Casablancas starts singing and Fraiture's bass comes in to drive the melody. Head-bobbing, fist-pumping and pogoing should ensue from the orchestra pit to the rafters.
But they didn't. The only signs of life from the stage came late in the show. First Casablancas had a brief scuffle with a heckler, then came to the microphone to rip the crowd's conduct. He invited fans to jump onstage during "Take It or Leave It," but given the apathy he'd shown up to that point, the move came off as a way to get out of doing an encore.
-- Dave McKenna