7 Walkers – The Fox Theater – Boulder, CO – 6/5/10
Boulder’s original hippie generation came out in full force Saturday night to see 7 Walkers, the latest of Grateful Dead spawns to emerge into our musical scene. This time, it’s drummer Bill Kreutzmann giving the band its fuel for publicity, while Louisiana bluesman Papa Mali takes the reigns on stage. Unlike many of the other Dead spinoffs and reincarnations, who rely heavily on the vast catalog they already have, 7 Walkers takes it a step further. They have teamed up with legendary songwriter Robert Hunter on a slew of new songs for their upcoming album, to be released later this year.
When 7 Walkers took the stage, it was surprising to note that The Fox was not at capacity, especially with the name “Bill Kreutzmann” in huge red letters on the marquis outside. This, however, did not upset anyone, as there was now enough room for everyone to sway and spin to the music. An abbreviated Space that worked its way into a bluesy Sugaree kicked off the evening with a familiar spark. Mali, who was raised playing the blues, brings a southern flavor to the San Francisco vibe, much like Warren Haynes though without the same ferocity. From there it was Death Don’t Have No Mercy and He’s Gone, which the mostly older crowd sang along to happily. Bertha came later with a fiery guitar solo from Mali that settled into the ever-comforting Wharf Rat.
Now that the crowd had settled in, it was time for the quartet to break into a new original Hunter tune, appropriately titled 7 Walkers. This is perhaps the song that will define the band for more reasons than that they share a name. It fits perfectly alongside the Dead repertoire but stands out in that the melody is new, lyrics fresh and meaningful, and has a distinct southern blues feel. Another 7 Walkers original, The New Orleans Crawl, played early in the second set, easily settled in and allowed the crowd to bop along in true Bayou style.
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Though the band did not play many originals this night, we certainly witnessed something new emerge from the old. Other Dead favorites like Deal (which closed the first set), I Know You Rider, Going Down the Road Feeling Bad and Mr. Charlie (the latter of which closed the second set) intermingled with classics like Love Light in a way that most Heads can relate to: transitional ambient jams fueled by a solid rhythm section, as Kreutzmann has always been known to provide.
Aside from a couple moments throughout the show, 7 Walkers put on a solid though not perfect show. Those imperfections can only be attributed, however, to an unfamiliarity with each other’s playing that will surely be fixed with time.