Friday, November 2, 2007

Phil Lesh & Friends: Nokia Theater, 11/1/07

What a long (not so strange) trip it's been...literally. Just two days ago, I returned from a mini-European vacation ( "Rusty!" ), visiting Paris and Barcelona. Both cities were incredible and I'll share some of my observations/memoirs for a later post. For now, back to the review:

So, this was the first Phil show I've seen since S.O.B.'s earlier this year. Because those shows were nothing more than a gag jam session (not including Warren's rendition of "Ship of Fools" which was Jerry-esqe), I wasn't all that optimistic before last night's show. In fact, I started having flashbacks of Phil re-starting "Terrapin" (which should NEVER happen) along with two nights of forgotten lyrics, "pitchy" vocals, and untuned guitars. Naturally, I was fearful of another trainwreck, but this time in front of 2100 people, not 400. In any event, I had already read the Halloween set list and wasn't all that impressed, especially after a collegue and long-time "Head" gave it a lukewarm review. So I decided to just go with the flow and hope for the best.

The lineup:

Phil: this man needs no introduction; however, at the last few shows I saw, Phil was tense and understandably aggravated with the band's sloppy performances. Last night however was different -- Phil was all smiles and he really seemed to enjoy the band's vibe. What a relief!

Jackie Greene: admittedly, I know very little about this guy. At first glance, he comes off as quietly arrogant (as did Ryan Adams) and I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but his stage presence remotely resembled that of a young Bob Dylan (circa 1965). That being said, I thought he did an overall fine job. His vocals were melodic, his guitar work was steady and he seemed to know the material quite well (except for parts of Help/Slipknot! where he flat out just stopped playing). My one criticism was the lack of "soul" in his delivery, but then again, he has some tough footsteps to follow...

Molo: Perfect as always.

Steve Molitz: When I first saw him at S.O.B.'s, he was far more energetic and was given much more freedom to experiment with his trippy, high-tech style of playing. This time around, there wasn't as much improvisation and he kept it much simpler -- maybe he's been consulting with Rob Barraco... So, unless you're a big fan of ecstasy and Particle, this was a good thing...

Larry Campbell: It looks like Larry has without a doubt become Phil's "right-hand man." Although I have no complaints regarding Larry's technique and interpretation of the songs (and much respect for his work on the mandolin and other instruments), it would be nice to see Warren back w/ Phil...even if for a few that too much to ask??

My overall thoughts:

I have a hard time admitting this but, I was rather bored during the first set. There was definately a lack of energy and I thought the song choice was average at best. On the other hand, the second set was a drastic improvement. The crowd finally got goin', the band was much tighter and the songs were great. In fact, I thought their rendition of "Don't Let Me Down" was one of the best I've ever heard and in my mind, the highlight of the evening. (Help/Slip/Franklin's was a close second).

The rumor last night was that Bobby would show up as Ratdog had just finished a two-night run in Westbury, NY (about 45 min. away). I'm not sure what the deal is between Phil and Bobby, but there have been several opportunities over the past few years for them to sit-in at eachother shows, yet it hasn't happened. Looks like the hopes of a "Dead Reunion" are growing slimmer and slimmer. In any event, I'm heading back to Nokia tommorow and on 11/6 for 2 more shows and I'll keep everyone updated. Until then...

Phil Lesh & Friends
Nokia Theater, New York, NY

First set: Friend of the Devil, Another day has come and gone?, Deep Elem Blues, Like a Ball and Chain, Deal> Jam> Tell Me Mama> Jam> Alabama Getaway
Second set: Jam> China Cat Sunflower> Jam> Althea*, Jam> Dance with the Devil?> Jam> Cumberland Blues> Jam (Larry on mandolin)> Wheel tease)> Uncle John's Band> Jam>
Don't Let Me Down, Help on the Way > Slipknot!> Franklin's Tower E: Ripple

*Jackie on organ

(photo courtesy of

1 comment:

WeightStaff said...

G'day. Nice review. Looking forward to hearing about your trip to Europe.