Dark Star Orchestra stir it up at Carnegie Music Hall

By By Justin Jacobs

‘ ‘ ‘ It was only appropriate that Dark Star Orchestra played in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music… ‘ ‘ ‘ It was only appropriate that Dark Star Orchestra played in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall and Library on Tuesday night ‘mdash; the band kept things subdued through both sets, making for a cooled down, almost relaxing look at some truly beautiful music. ‘ ‘ ‘ And while actually busting out a book would’ve been a definite faux pas, the gentle tunes that vibrated through the hall worked the crowd into a head groove if not a full body freak out. ‘ ‘ ‘ Dark Star’s light show has always been admirable, and Tuesday’s bright orbs against a soft white backdrop kept the visuals pointed and exciting, a nice companion the show’s slower, undulating music. ‘ ‘ ‘ The band began with ‘Iko Iko’ and moved into ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ and ‘Dire Wolf,’ but the set found its lovely, affecting groove with the trio of ‘Lazy River Road,’ ‘Passenger’ and ‘Mission in the Rain.’ The outer two jams created a sandwich around ‘Passenger,’ two slowly lapping, utterly gorgeous and long performances wrapped around a few minutes of hot energy. ‘ ‘ ‘ It’s worth noting, of course, that the evening was an original set and not a recreated Grateful Dead show. The notion creates an interesting question, though ‘mdash; when DSO doesn’t have a structured set to stick with, do the members choose their favorites or rather songs that go best together? ‘ ‘ ‘ The answer came with the second set, a blockbuster jam of no less than a baker’s dozen of tunes stirred together into one long, shape-shifting groove. And it’s certainly the latter ‘mdash; joining crowd favorites with lesser-played tunes, the second set flowed smoother than a river, finding highlights in ‘Two Souls in Communion’ (sung marvelously by keyboardist Rob Barraco), two touches of ‘Not Fade Away’ and genuinely joyous ‘Touch of Grey.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ By the end of the marathon run, another ‘Not Fade Away’ pulled the crowd back down to earth just as it’d shot them up into the rafters nearly an hour earlier. ‘ ‘ ‘ While the set wasn’t Dark Star’s most exciting, it was nothing if not a solid, steady performance that nicely came full circle. The highs simply weren’t as high as the band can reach, though the lows were lush, rolling moments (see: ‘Comes a Time’ in the second third of the second set). ‘ ‘ ‘ And when it came time to walk out, the audience, though not worn out from an intense musical workout, left knowing they’d seen a full, well thought out show. A complete show.