The show I saw had its moments, but it was not on fire, not as "good" as some of the earlier shows on the tour that I had heard the soundboards of.
My take on JK's tone, hearing it live, was it was actually difficult for me to tell when he was using the overdrive. His base tone was semi-overdriven and his overdrive tone wasn't a whole lot different. Jerry's clean tone and his overdrive tone were miles apart, you really knew when he kicked it on. When Jerry went from TLEO to Samson, boy, you could hear the difference. That night (same two tunes), not so much. JK's base tone is a lot squishier.
There is no question he is the closest so far to playing like Jerry -- unabashedly parroting some very signature licks during some of the jams -- but there was still a curious flatness to the jams. My biggest complaint about Warren was that the jams seemed more like Allman Bros. jams -- lots of licks, but no direction. Warren never really got out and drove the bus somewhere new. In this band, Phil is driving the bus and playing very aggressively, but when JK takes it, it's still a mix of licks and ideas, if that makes any sense, instead of "There goes Jerry off on some tangent." It happened a couple of times, but not consistently.
I've always judged these post-Garcia projects by the reaction of the crowd. When I'm up front, I like to look back and see what the house is doing. I looked back in Orlando in 1994, and saw the entire Orlando Arena bopping up and down during Franklin's Tower. An awesome sight. At Radio City, I'd look back and the house was standing, people were sort of swaying gently, but no one was going nuts the way they did at a Dead show. This was during uptempo songs were people should have been going crazy -- especially a NYC crowd -- Shakedown, Samson and Franklins, for example.
I've noticed the same thing at Ratdog and Phil shows, as well. The only time I can recall sheer bedlam was seeing Phil with the quintet at the Orpheum in Boston in October of 2001, during St. Stephen, total bedlam, the place was shaking, balcony was pogoing up 3-4 feet with the people stomping up there. That was like a real Dead show energy wise.
Maybe this was just an off night and the crowd felt it. And, the Days Between was a bit of a buzzkill, it was nicely played, and sung well by Bobby, but a lot of people in the crowd were sitting down and talking, no one was engrossed the way they would be when Garcia did Stella Blue and you could just hear a pin drop in the crowd.
Another thing I definitely noticed was the drums, or lack thereof. One of the things that made certain tunes really engrossing was how Billy and Mickey would just propel the band. At Radio City, they did Let it Grow toward the end of the second set, and you could barely hear the drums, Russo was playing his set, but Jay Lane was just scraping on a guiro and patting a conga or something with his other hand. I wanted those triplet patterns on the cowbell and explosive toms from Mickey, you know? (Yes, it needed More Cowbell.)
At that point, I realized that mostly what you could hear over the PA was guitars and bass, the drums were mixed low and that definitely did not help get the crowd up and going. I was up front but not that far upfront, the mains were in front of us and sharply curved so the lower speakers were pretty much pointed at us. I don't think it was house sound vs. stage sound.
Just random thoughts ...