The sonic legacy of the San Francisco Bay area casts its still-potent spell over the famous stage of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Friday night, sound-tracked by as dead-on a recreation of the Grateful Dead as you’ll find anywhere between Raceway Park and the Pyramids.
Back for another edition of what’s become a Halloween-season staple at the Basie, the entity known as Dead On Live is spearheaded and skippered as always by Marc Muller — master multi-instrumentalist, sought-after session ace, adjunct professor at Monmouth University and ringmaster of a tie-dyed traveling circus that’s “deadicated” itself to detail-intensive tributes to the Grateful Dead’s body of officially released recordings.
Actually, “detail intensive” doesn’t begin to describe the methods of Muller and his Rolodex of talented friends, a social circle that’s included Shore-based headliner Nicole Atkins. In the hands of the professor and his flexibly floating lineup, the project involves comprehensive transcription, meticulous reproduction and a level of commitment that obsesses over “every Phil Lesh note, every drum, banjo or mandolin part… even the mistakes.”
It’s an approach that’s earned Muller and company considerable cred among Deadhead types. And, like the Dark Star Orchestra, the well-traveled ensemble that dedicates each of its gigs to a specific re-creation of a particular set from the Dead’s historical soundboard canon, Dead On Live personifies a mild psychosis of which the bandleader says, “I don’t know if ANYONE has done this to the extent that I have.”
For Saturday’s show, Dead On Live comes full-circle back to the music with which it made its Basie-based world premiere in October, 2010: a celebration of the 1970 album American Beauty. Like its predecessor Workingman’s Dead, it was a record that shifted the Dead’s focus away from psychedelia and toward an expansive American music that fused rock, bluegrass, blues, folk and (especially) country into an organic sound that would secure it a worldwide fanbase of unparalleled devotion. It also yielded at least five songs (“Truckin,” “Ripple,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Box of Rain”) that are regularly short-listed among the band’s most cherished signatures.
The 8 p.m. program also promises “plenty of good old Grateful jams, as well as music from some of the other artists that contributed greatly to this important American release” — with double drummers, special guests and epic jams. Take it here to reserve tix, priced at a quite reasonable $20 – $39.