By Andy J. Gordon
Deadheads young and old came out to the El Rey Theatre to see one of the original members of the Grateful Dead revive some cherished music. On March 2, 2012, The Mickey Hart Band performed in front of a packed house and delivered a night of inspired Dead classics, as well as several intriguing percussion heavy tunes.
Legendary percussionist and world music lover Mickey Hart (http://mickeyhart.net/home/) is a founding member of The Grateful Dead who’s been expanding the musical horizons of fans for years with his global percussion explorations. Hart has put together an extremely talented touring band. Crystal Monee Hall, a veteran of Broadway musicals, has a strong voice and dynamic stage presence. Tim Hockenberry (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) is a solid vocalist, pianist and multi-instrumentalist who has performed with Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray and Steve Miller. Gawain Mathews is an excellent guitarist and experienced producer. He has worked in the studio with Hockenberry in addition to his work with the Mickey Hart Band. Dave Schools is the long time bassist with Widespread Panic. Sikiru Adepoju is a Nigerian talking drum master that has worked with Hart in a variety of groups for over fifteen years. Ian “Inkx” Herman is a South African drummer with diverse musical experience. Ben Yonus plays a variety of keyboards and was the producer of the new Mickey Hart Band album Mysterium Tremendum (Latin for overwhelming mystery) due out April 10, 2012.
The show opened with a rousing “Not Fade Away” that got the crowd of hemp wearing wookies gyrating on the floor of the El Rey. A Hart penned “Time Never Ends” followed and that led into an African sounding percussion excursion called “Slow Jo.” A guest singer from Tibet came onstage for a new Robert Hunter song called “Djinn Djinn.” It featured her beautiful vocal chanting over a haunting percussion array of rhythms. The set closed with an excellent “Fire on the Mountain.”
After a short break, Hart opened the second set with “Heartbeat,” a trippy song that included him playing what looked like keyboards with a violin bow and Hockenberry playing trombone that sounded like a crying elephant. Maybe I imagined that since it was impossible to avoid the contact high in the darkened room. “Supersonic Vision,” another Hunter tune, came next and had an infectious afro-beat style. The rest of the show was heavy with old school Dead songs. A solid version of “The Other One” featured some fine guitar soloing by Gawain Mathews. The band went out on a high note with “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad” leading into some sweet harmonies on “We Bid You Goodnight.” The encore included more Dead classics with “Franklin’s Tower” and “Brokedown Palace.”
Mickey Hart has done an amazing job of keeping the old Dead vibe while incorporating new eclectic material into his band’s repertoire. The El Rey show captured some of that Dead aura and introduced fans to interesting new material. The new album should be very entertaining and any Mickey Hart Band shows down the road are sure to be a fun trip.
Photo courtesy of Andy J. Gordon