I don't think anyone can say that furthur isnt a great band, they fuckin rock.
That said I totally understand and see how some people are having problems getting into them. I've seen some incredible furthur shows but for some reason most of em I see I can't get into. They're just like the GD in that respect, you go to all these shows to catch those magical nights that are truly magical.
I've seen all post GD iterations of the dead. The original '96 furthur fest they didn't even really have a lead guitarist! I remember walking out of the Hartford show with an old head who said "how the fuck can they have a grateful dead show without a lead guitarist", which is so true. Right after jerry died they didn't even want to try to replace him.
Then came furthur fest '98, first version of "the other ones" and first time bobby & Phil played together. I did most of that tour and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The tour was awesome and the music kicked ass, that was some truly original music they were playing. I thought it was funny that they brought in two guitarists to fill Jerry's role. Hartford '98 was an incredible show, truly magical night. That band was the first time they even touched the level of the real GD, I'm sure jerry was looking down proud.
99 other ones without Phil kind of sucked, not the same.
Basically they went through all these different versions of the band which were all great in their own way but there was always something missing.
I did almost the whole tour of the last version of "the dead" and it was an incredible experience, some of the most fun I've ever had. The LA show was simply incredible, they really channelled the spirit of the grateful dead that night and I literally felt like I was at a grateful dead show, as close as it gets. IMO the shoreline shows after it sucked. The dead with warren was great but once again it was missing something.
So it was literally 14 years that Bobby n Phil were afraid to try to replace jerry. Then they flew out JK and were very secretive about the rehearsals. They still felt weird about having an actual jerry player, but it obviously worked.
Having someone that actually plays and sings in the same voice of jerry is exactly what the boys needed. Bobby needs to be bobby and Phil needs to be Phil. They couldn't do that with warren on guitar. Getting JK was the best move they ever made. They are killing it right now. Phil and bobby are totally on top of their game right now.
They brought in someone who plays in the same style/voice of jerry so they could finally be themselves again. They also went back to the original arrangements, the way Jerry wrote them and they're meant to be played. Hearing the dead with warren he would miss this key riffs that make the music what it is. JK nails those parts and lets the band be what it's meant to be.
They're playing is super tight and they are breaking out songs that never would've been played again if jerry was still alive. They are an awesome band, they're song list can not be beat. And they jam the fuck out of it too, bobby n Phil are old and they're still schooling every other band out there.
I honestly don't think for a second they're doing it just for the money, these guys got money. Furthur is about the love of the music and respect for the fans. I think they feel like they're doing it one more time to let the younger people get a taste of what it was like back in the day. They obviously aren't as good as even 95 GD, but musically they're way tighter and jam way harder. It is as close to what it was like to seeing the real GD as it gets.
I wouldn't call them the best GD cover band ever, they are NOT a cover band.
I'm sure they're doing exactly what jerry would've wanted them to do, they're carrying the torch and continuing the musical experiment that he started and doing it in an extremely skilled and tasteful way.
I have some problems getting into furthur sometimes, JK is not Jerry. His tones isn't the same and he doesn't have that feel jerry did, but Jerry was also the greatest guitarist ever IMO, no one has the feel jerry did.
If your going expecting to hear jerry you'll be sorely dissapointed. But if you go with an open mind expecting to hear a continuation of the experiment then you'll be stoked.
Furthur is a great band, these guys rock. They aren't the GD but they are clearly a continuation of the experiment. Jerry would be proud. These guys could just be sitting back at home but they're not, they're throwing down some sick music and givin the younger generation a chance to truly experience what goin to a GD show was like.
I NEVER listen to tapes of furthur, I rarely even listen to 80's or 90's dead, I listen to the 70's almost exclusively.
But going to a show, no band out there even comes close to what furthur is doing.
Bottom line: furthur kicks ass!