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Interesting article - David Nelson Band

Cosmic ChrisC

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April 19, 1997

First Appeared in http://www.musicbox-online.com The Music Box, May 1997,

Volume 4, #5

Written by John Metzger

When I first heard that the Jerry Garcia Band would tour under the name JGB, I was skeptical and did not plan to attend. When news of the initial Chicago show was announced, the bill also mentioned that Jefferson Starship would perform an acoustic set. I couldn't resist and ordered my tickets. Then a second show was added with a different opening act -- David Nelson Band.

Finally, about two weeks before the show I received a notice that Jefferson

Starship would not be on the bill for the first show and that the David Nelson Band would replace them. I thought long and hard about returning my tickets for a refund, but decided against it.

I'm quite happy that I went to the show on April 19 -- not because of JGB, but because of the David Nelson Band. Despite the short, 45 minute set, the David Nelson Band put on an amazing performance that was well worth the price of admission.

The band consists of former New Riders of the Purple Sage and Kingfish members. The NRPS representatives are Bill Laymon on bass and Arthur Steinhorn on drums. Barry Sless covers electric and pedal steel guitar while Mookie Siegel plays keyboards and accordion. Both are from Kingfish. Of course, David Nelson, a long-time associate of Jerry Garcia and former NRPS member, leads the group, providing the vocals as well as acoustic and electric rhythm guitar.

Over the course of the 45 minute set, the band performed only five songs. They took the stage with a textbook Panama Red that featured Sless's fine pedal steel guitar work. However, this didn't shed a glimmer of light on what would come during the remaining four songs. Each was well-executed, showing off the amazing talent of this band. As I closed my eyes to block out the talkative crowd and slip into the music, I felt a musical power that I haven't experienced since July 9, 1995 -- the night of the last Grateful Dead concert. There have been many times since then that I have been transported by the music I've heard at concerts, but nothing has quite reached that Grateful Dead peak -- until now.

It was beautiful, and it was certainly eerie. At times Laymon's bass came through just as Phil Lesh's had so many times before. And the dual guitar pairing of David Nelson and Barry Sless sounded incredibly similar to Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia. You may have to check this out for yourself to believe it, but the music that surrounded me at this show was truly inspirational and magical, bringing back some very familiar emotions.

As the group wound through a new song called Wizard's Son, they embarked on an all-out jam that carried with it shades of the Truckin'/Other One pairings from 1972 Grateful Dead shows as well as the spacey Dark Star jam from Live Dead. I just could not believe what I was hearing and kept turning to my wife to make sure that I wasn't alone in this magical world. As if that wasn't enough, we got a brief space jam that returned Sless to his pedal steel as Nelson led the band through The Wheel complete with Laymon doing Bobby's hand gestures and rock star antics. I felt as if somehow we had crawled through the cracks of time, and somehow, somewhere the spirit of Garcia was shining down on us. Hopefully, the David Nelson Band will find its way back to the Chicago area sometime soon.

JGB, on the other hand, was rather disappointing. I'm not sure who many of the band members are, and it was difficult to see from our location in the venue. Of course, Melvin Seals covered the keyboards and provided most of the inspiration. Jackie LaBranch and Gloria Jones played their customary backing vocal/percussion roles, and Elgin Seals did his best to fill the very big shoes left by John Kahn. As for the rest of the band, I am really at a loss.

There are three people who are desperately trying to fill in for Jerry Garcia, and what probably started out as a loving tribute has fallen fairly far from the mark. Two of the three musicians filling in for Jerry are guitarists (Steve Bachall and Peter Harris) who performed adequately, but didn't come close to the Nelson/Sless combination from the opening act. The third is a singer and saxophone player (Armin Winter) who really hurt the efforts put forth by this group. He tried to imitate Jerry's vocals and sounded horrendous. He butchered Forever Young, Evangeline, and Simple Twist of Fate. In addition, his saxophone playing was rather grating and rarely pleasurable. Overall I found the best moments were when he wandered to the back of the stage and did nothing. Sad, but true.

From a set list point of view, this was an excellent show. Highlights from the 75 minute first set included a solid version of Knockin' on Heaven's Door and a totally jammed out Don't Let Go with some great guitar fills. Seals really added a lot to each song with his fantastic keyboard playing.

The second set, which stretched to a little over an hour, featured a rockin' Cats Under the Stars, a lofty Dear Prudence, and the absolute highlight of the JGB portion of the show, a full-blown Dark Star jam sandwiched inside an average Deal. Throughout this final pairing, images of Jerry were shown on the screen which bothered me a bit as I don't think he would have put his stamp on this tour.

While JGB may reference our departed friend, they failed to come close to the monumental music they performed in the past. Instead, the lesser known David Nelson Band more than stole the show.

Editor's Note: Since the writing of this article, JGB has undergone several changes to their line-up. We saw the band on May 15, http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Club/7487/jgb5-98.html 1998, and they have improved tremendously.

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