Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Phil Lesh & Friends, SOB's 4/10/07 - Show Review

Practice makes perfect...well, almost. Last night's Phil show at SOB's was a MAJOR improvement from Monday's "dress rehearsal."

Gamebreaker: the return of John Molo on drums -- the man DOES NOT MISS A BEAT.

Overall, there was just a different energy level last night that didn't exist on Monday. Rather than write an all-out editorial, I thought I would highlight some of the peaks (many) and valleys (few) of the show:

-First set was stellar; very few holes. The sound was balanced and the song choices were safe;

-"The Weight": Not much can go wrong with this classic. One downside was that Phil cut the song short before the last two verses. There seemed to be some confusion regarding the vocals; I think Phil sensed this and preemptively ended the tune before anything could go wrong;

-"Ship of Fools": One of my all-time favorite Dead tunes, I was surprised to hear this one. Warren handled the lead on this one, and as always, he nailed it. Despite the fact that Warren was visibly sleep-deprived and exhausted (courtesy of Allman Bros.), the song was executed flawlessly;

-Larry McCray was on F-I-R-E! His guitar ability was uncontested. His solos were mind-altering. I actually thought there were times where Larry Campbell felt upstaged by McCray's guitar savvy. His minor fumble during "Candyman" was fully redeemed by his rendition of "Watchtower." It was hands down, the best version of the song I've heard in a long, long time. I'd like to see McCray stick around for future shows -- he might be the dark horse;

-Steve Molitz: Praiseworthy and very talented -- and this time, I could actually hear his keyboards! I never thought I would say this, but some of my favorite moments from the shows were the Particle-style jams. It was apparent he was concerned about the integrity of the songs, as well as Phil's reputation (after all, Phil inherently vouches for everyone on the stage), and as a result, he paid the closest attention to ensure smooth sailing;

-Larry Campbell: I've seen Larry a bunch of times w/ Phil and I stand by my previous comments regarding his role in the band. However, he was noticably off last night. I think the pressure of not messing up got to him -- looked like Phil kept turning to him in frustration when things weren't going right. Could this be the end of the Campbell run?

--Christina Durfee: Understandably, she was plainly out of her league. Rather than force herself into the mix, she seemed to accept her role and was hardly relevant over the course of the two shows. I don't think we'll see her at any future shows;

-The one major disappointment for me was Terrapin. For the first time ever, I was actually hoping they wouldn't play it considering the small margin of error. From the outset, the song was WAY off. It sounded like either Phil or McCray was grossly out of tune, and Molitz in the wrong key. Indeed, Phil stopped the song midway through; everyone re-tuned, a brief discussion transpired, and the song restarted with a vengeance. Phil was very forceful on vocals and the song made a decent recovery.

"I Know You Rider": "I wish I was a headlight, on a North bound train..." What a great way to close the set. Always reliable, always uplifting, I thought it was one of the finest moments of the evening.

I have to say, it was one of the better Phil shows I've seen in a long time -- maybe since 2005. I'd be curious to hear what Phil has to say regarding the shows and even more curious to see how the lineup will change, if at all, for upcoming shows.

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