Joe Russo’s Almost Dead Welcomes Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson In New Haven

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead kicked off a two-night run at Westville Music Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut on Friday. The Grateful Dead tribute act welcomed Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats and Bonny Light Horseman to close out the second set as well as on the encore.

JRAD got the show underway by easing into “Friend Of The Devil” laced with some retro keyboard work from Marco Benevento. Marco then moved down to the piano for some jazzy chords before the rest of the band — drummer Joe Russo, guitarists Tom Hamilton and Scott Metzger and bassist Dave Dreiwitz — built up the jam and headed into “FOTD’s” descending riff. Hamilton then led the band through the first verses and choruses ahead of a twang-tinged solo from Metzger before the bridge and followed by runs from Tom and Marco.

JRAD then found their way into “Jack A Roe” via a funky, countrified jam. Hamilton took lead vocal duties once again followed by some spirited interplay between the guitarists. The quintet continued with the Bob Weir/John Perry Barlow number “Black-Throated Wind” and segued their way through “Jack Straw” and “Wharf Rat” before tackling the tricky Blues For Allah instrumental “King Solomon’s Marbles” to close out the first set.

Benevento would deliver a piano vamp intro to the Bob Dylan and The Band collaboration “Yazoo Street Scandal” to kick off the second set. Russo then dropped the group into a funky shuffle before Marco handled lead vocals. Metzger delivered the first solo, wailing away on his Fender Telecaster. Both Tom and Scott would play off each other once again before the band headed into the early Dead anthem “Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” which saw some wild playing from Russo and some killer organ work from his longtime partner Marco Benevento.

Next up, “Althea” kicked off a three-song segment that concluded with the classic pairing of “Lost Sailor” and “Saint Of Circumstance.” JRAD then welcomed Johnson on acoustic guitar who stepped into the spotlight to sing the poignant “China Doll.” The From The Mars Hotel trak was made just its second JRAD appearance after the band debuted it on October 13, 2017 at the Brooklyn Bowl, as per Almost Johnson also led the way on Phil Lesh and Robert Hunter’s stellar song “Box of Rain” to close out the second set.

JRAD and Johnson retook the stage for a two-song encore of non-Dead songs beginning with the Three Dog Night classic “Never Been To Spain” sung by Hamiton and featuring a tasty organ run from Benevento. Eric then led the band through Fruit Bats’ “When You Love Somebody” — last time played by JRAD at Eric’s previous sit-in with the the group on August 16, 2019 in L.A — to bring the evening to a close.

Check out audience shot clips of Johnson’s entire sit-in from Moni Hampton along with pro-shot video of the first and second set openers as well as full show audio from Fred Nicolois below:

China Doll > Box Of Rain

Never Been To Spain

When U Love Somebody

FOTD > Jack A Roe

Yazoo Street Scandal > Golden Road

Setlist (via Almost

Set One: Friend of the Devil -> Jack A Roe, Black Throated Wind -> Jack Straw > Wharf Rat -> King Solomon’s Marbles

Set Two: Yazoo Street Scandal > Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion), Althea -> Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance, China Doll[1], Box of Rain[1]

Encore: Never Been to Spain[1], When U Love Somebody[1]


[1] w/Eric D. Johnson

JamBase recently had a chance to chat with Joe Russo and Eric D. Johnson. Check out the Russo interview here and find the Johnson interview here.

JRAD returns to Westville Music Bowl tonight.