Guitarist Warren Haynes, Boston Pops deliver a Deadhead's dream at Tanglewood

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LENOX >> Too many times, the recalibration of a concept, however well intentioned, loses something in the transition. Just can't be helped.

Fortunately, that was emphatically not the case on Friday night at Tanglewood.

Warren Haynes, Keith Lockhart and their respective musical organizations delivered an elegant reinterpretation of the music of Jerry Garcia. The 14-song, 2½ hour set was a Deadhead's dream, with 13 songs from various points in the band's history, as well as one song, "Comes a Time" from Garcia's solo career.

No question it was tricky going at times. Haynes and his band are jammers, Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra stick tightly to the script. It was, in the end, a matter of mutual respect and understanding. Lockhart and his crew at times just stopped playing to give Haynes, bassist Lincoln Schleifer and drummer Jeff Sipe some room to operate.

Overall, a very fun evening. The show opened with "Dark Star", which segued into "Bird Song." The audience got a sense of where this was going, as Haynes and the Pops string section weaved through that distinctive melody.

But things started popping with a beautiful version of "Shakedown Street," with strings, horns and Haynes performing in synch.

Haynes was playing "the Wolf," the legendary guitar that Garcia customized to create that "wocka-wocka" lead sound that defines the Dead's melody on so many songs.

By the way, when a roadie brought out "the Wolf" before the show, fans flocked to the stage to take pictures of it. It's kind of like seeing a piece of the True Cross for Dead fans.

The bands cruised through stellar versions of "Comes a Time," "Scarlet Begonias" and "China Cat Sunflower" before Haynes and Lockhart (attired artfully in a tie-dyed T-shirt) finished the first set with an anthemic version of "Morning Dew," with the Pops' string section providing a soothing, pleasing accompaniment.

"Uncle John's Band" opened the second set, followed by "Doin' That Rag" and "Touch of Grey." The almost obligatory drum solo was sandwiched between the latter two songs. Sipe is a very good drummer, but we all know Dead drum solos are a two-man operation. The only so-so moment in an otherwise solid show.

The Big Finish was, well, sort of cosmic: "Blues For Allah" into "Terrapin Station" into "Terrapin Station Reprise." This segment was clearly the reason for this collaboration. Lockhart and the Pops were grooving with Haynes and his band. It worked extraordinarily well. It was a collaboration that, in the end, seemed so natural, it was only strange that no one had thought of it before.

The encore was the feel-good "Ripple." Haynes had everybody in the audience singing along, and they did so happily.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251


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