Monday, October 28, 2013

Move Me Brightly – A Documentary Concert Film Celebrating Jerry Garcia's 70th Birthday

In general I have avoided too much Jerry-ana. I loved Jerry's singing and playing, and found him an endlessly compelling thinker and talker, but I have a problem with the cult of personality that has grown up around him. Many are incapable of seeing the feet of clay on their heroes. Either way, his body of work stands as its own judgment. Move Me Brightly is a heartfelt and musically rewarding tribute to that body of work, and to a lesser extent a nod to the personality as well.

Led by Garcia's loyal sidekick, Bob Weir, Move Me Brightly finds a revolving cast of Garcia contemporaries paired with a tasteful group of younger players immersing themselves in some of Garcia's best songs. Weir, Donna-Jean Godchaux, Phil Lesh and Mike Gordon are joined by Jonathan Wilson, Cass Mccombs, Harper Simon (Paul's son) and members of The Hold Steady, Vampire Weekend, Ryan Adams and The Cardinals, Black Crowes, Yellowbirds and others for a hypnotizing couple of hours of truly great music.

Weir comports himself with dignity and generosity as he lets each guest shine on vocals or their respective instrument. Many times he guides the assembled into an ensemble wall-of-sound utilizing up to five guitarists on stage at the same time. Because of the careful rehearsal that went into this event, along with the beautiful sound achieved, there is almost no stepping on other people's solo, and each instrument is beautifully clear and adding to the whole. And the whole is an emotionally and musically satisfying event. There are many highlights, including Jonathan Wilson's haunting version of “Mission In The Rain,” and Neil Casal's overwhelmingly emotional reading of “Ship Of Fools.” Weir tackles “The Days Between” and “Shakedown Street” with just the right blend of ownership and borrowing, a balance he has increasingly struck with authority.
I kept waiting to be let down, but I never was. The playing was phenomenal throughout, and the taped interviews with four of Jerry's daughters, ex-wife and brother are illuminating as well as humanizing. Other musicians like David Hidalgo, Carlos Santana, both Dead drummers, Perry Farrell, Dave Schools and Mike Campbell all spill their love for Jerry without getting sappy, and the overall feeling one is left with is profound dignity. It is hard to imagine that a movie without an actual appearance by Jerry Garcia could say so much about his music and legacy, but Move Me Brightly does just that. Not to be missed!
- Paul Epstein

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