Written by Bill Whiting
Photos by Scott Preston
Dark Star Orchestra’s annual midwinter stop at Covington, Kentucky’s Madison Theater on February 8 found the band in high spirits, unleashing an original setlist in front of a capacity crowd. Beginning with the one-two punch of “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider,” the nucleus of Rob Eaton on rhythm guitar, Jeff Mattson on lead guitar, Rob Barraco on keyboards, Kevin Rosen on bass, Lisa Mackey on vocals with Rob Koritz and Dino English on drums pounded away as the entire audience danced furiously along to the bouncing
beats. ”Beat It On Down the Line” was a natural choice to follow, and a distinctive, festive vibe floated about the facility as Mardi Gras was celebrated on the streets of Covington, and inside the venerable, former movie theater. Mattson sang and played with vigor as DSO coalesced around a gripping version of “When Push Comes to Shove.” Then, it was Dylan time as the ensemble stretched out on a particularly tasty cover of the gem, “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again.” And, Eaton ripped it up on a dazzling whirlwind run through of ”Hell in a Bucket.” DSO had the denizens on the floor jumping, twirling, and throwing their hands in the air, as they shouted out the lyrics to “Cats Under the Stars,” and the set closer, “Box of Rain.” Set two started off with a bang as the jam sandwich of “Help on the Way-Slipknot!- Franklins Tower” produced a show stopping funk and groove laced pacing that DSO continued to play off of to great effect for the rest of the night. “Man Smart (Woman Smarter)” proved to be an endearing highlight, and the Dead classic had the multi generational throng in ecstasy and perfect harmony, grinning from ear to ear. ”Unbroken Chain” focused in on Barraco’s exquisite improvisations, and the double drum attack of Koritz and English rattled and shook the Madison Theater with a vibrant urgency. Eaton’s razor sharp guitar lines colored the call and response marvel, “I Need a Miracle,” and DSO rocked out heavily on the Beatles’ masterpiece, “Hey Jude.” A high energy romp and roll take on “Casey Jones” closed out the set, and the group walked off to a standing ovation from the tri state faithful. Returning to encore with the fan favorites, “Mister Charlie” and the moving “Brokedown Palace,” Dark Star Orchestra at the Madison Theater in Covington, Kentucky on February 8 was a blissful, majestic evening that celebrated the magical joy and grandeur of the music of the Grateful Dead.
Set One: China Cat Sunflower> I Know You Rider, Beat It On Down the Line, When Push Comes to Shove, Never Trust a Woman, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, Who Was John?, Hell in a Bucket, Cats Under the Stars, Box of Rain
Set Two: Help On the Way> Slipknot!> Franklins Tower, Man Smart (Woman Smarter), Unbroken Chain> Drums> Space> So Many Roads> I Need a Miracle> Hey Jude> Casey Jones
Encore: Mister Charlie, Brokedown Palace