The Mickey Hart Band

Hard Rock Café on the Strip, March 3

Hart has always been the most innovative of the surviving former members of the Grateful Dead. Even at age 68, the three-time Grammy-winning percussionist continues to push forward, fueled by a never-ending exploration of rhythms and the blending of musical genres. Hart’s eight-piece band, which packed the stage, played two sets of covers and original compositions, including some off his forthcoming album, Mysterium Tremendum. This was the third stop of the tour for Hart, who put his current lineup together last year.

After opening with a marching cover of “Not Fade Away,” the rhythm section of Hart, veteran South African drummer Ian “Inkx” Herman and talking drum master Sikiru Adepoju showcased its expressive interplay on “Time Never Ends” and new song “Slo Jo Rain.” Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools fit in seamlessly, and guitarist Gawain Mathews played his best Garcia licks during back-to-back covers of the Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias” and “Fire on the Mountain.” The most powerful instrument of the night, however, was the voice of singer Crystal Monee Hall. The former Broadway vocalist showed a range and control few singers possess during the sweet blues of “Brokedown Palace” and used dual mics to bounce her voice around the room during “Starlight, Starbright.” The night ended strongly with the country boogie of “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad” and Dead classic “Franklin’s Tower,” which brought every last noodle dancer to the floor. ★★★★☆

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THE POWERS THAT BE: Years ago I was faced with a choice: James Brown and Warren Zevon were playing the same night. I chose James Brown because he was getting on up in years, and I figured Zevon would outlive him. I was wrong. Still, I’ve never regretted seeing the Godfather, and you ought to consider my example and see The Isley Brothers featuring Ronald & Ernie Isley at the LVH on March 2 ($74-$96).

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