A Brief Look at the First Ten Days
In Phil We Trust. By now there have been so many intriguing lineups of Phil Lesh & Friends through the years, it’s nearly impossible to predict what turn he’ll take next. From Phil and Phish, to the lineup with Steve Kimock, to the one with the Little Feat boys, the classic PLQ with Warren and Jimmy, the band with Ryan Adams, and a zillion others in between (don’t forget Robben Ford, John Scofield, David Nelson, Barry Sless, et al), it’s been an amazing ride. I’m sure everyone has his/her own favorites, but coursing through every incarnation is a fundamental integrity and a devotion to uncovering new ways of looking at the Grateful Dead repertoire and the dozens of other marvelous tunes his groups have covered, from jazz chestnuts to classic rock. Kudos to Phil for continually mixing it up, keeping us off guard and challenging us every step of the way!
Guest Mark Karan and Phil at the Greek, 9/23/07.
Photo: Bob Minkin/minkindesign.com © 2007
Phil’s latest band has been on the road since the last week of September, playing a fantastic selection of venues as they wend their way across the country on their way to a 10-show marathon at the new Nokia Theater in New York’s Times Square beginning at the end of October. The current quintet—Phil, Jackie Greene on guitar and many lead vocals, Larry Campbell on guitar, Steve Molitz on keys and the incredible John Molo on drums—is a little different than most of his previous bands in that in general they’re a little more song-oriented rather than jam-oriented, perhaps a bit more tuned into the rockin’ side than the space side, and also very comfortable with the country shadings in the Dead’s music. (That was true of the Sless-Campbell lineup, as well.) And of course there is the addition of a number of Jackie Greene’s songs, which so far have fit very comfortably in the mix of Dead and other tunes for the most part. Songs such as “Gone Wanderin’” “Supersede,” “Walkin’ Away,” “Mexican Girl” and “Cold Black Devil” are all excellent tunes, completely different from each other, and stretching the band in some interesting ways. Jackie’s own taste in Dead tunes so far has leaned toward the classic early ’70s repertoire, and has included both Garcia and Weir tunes — his “Sugar Magnolia” at the Greek was a real powerhouse, for instance. For his part, Phil seems to be really enjoying this high-energy outfit and the new twists to the repertoire, which has also seen the addition of a slew of new cover tunes, including The Allmans’ “Midnight Rider” (dynamite at Red Rocks), Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” The Beatles’ “Mean Mr. Mustard,” the Stones’ “Brown Sugar,” The Band’s “This Wheel’s On Fire” and “The Weight,” and a couple of great Dylan choices: “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” (Hey Jackie, how about a little “Idiot Wind” sometime?!)
The epic Red Rocks show on September 29 marked the first time the group played a mini-acoustic segment in the middle of a show, with Phil on stand-up bass no less, and Larry playing spry fiddle on “Friend of the Devil” and mandolin on another song. The second electric set answered the question of whether this band could hit the deep spaces, as they drifted and charged through “That’s It for the Other One,” “Dark Star” and “Mountains of the Moon” on their way to a “China Cat > Rider” closer.
Jackie Greene gets down at the Greek. Photos: Bob Minkin/minkindesign.com © 2007
Here are the set lists from the first week-plus of the tour:
9/22/07 Santa Barbara Bowl
The Golden Road, Loose Lucy, So Hard to Find My Way, Bird Song, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Walkin’ Away, Sugaree, I’m So Gone
Cold Rain and Snow, Gotta Serve Somebody, Prayer for Spanish Harlem, New Speedway Boogie, The Other One > Cryptical Envlopment, Casey Jones, Brown Sugar, Franklin’s Tower/Brokedown Palace
9/23/07 Greek Theater (Berkeley)
Good Mornin’ Little Schoolgirl, Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? > Deal, The Weight*, Gone Wanderin’*, Cumberland Blues*, Supersede*
Jam > Playing in the Band > Mexican Girl, Candyman, Fire on the Mountain, St. Stephen, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, The Wheel, Eyes of the World > Sugar Magnolia/Goin’ Down the Road+
* with Barry Sless on pedal steel guitar
+ with Mark Karan on lead guitar and vocals
9/28/07 The Fillmore (Denver)
Jam > Friend of the Devil, Let It Ride, This Wheel’s On Fire, New Speedway Boogie, I’m So Gone > Mean Mr. Mustard > Cosmic Charlie
Scarlet Begonias > Fire On the Mountain, Bird Song, Spots of Time, The Golden Road, Viola Lee Blues > Loose Lucy > Viola > Alabama Getaway > Viola/Box of Rain
9/29/07 Red Rocks (Morrison, CO)
Bertha, Big River, Midnight Rider, Candyman, Cold Black Devil, Deal
(Acoustic) Friend of the Devil, Sweet Somewhere Bound, Deep Elem Blues, Brokedown Palace, Tell Me Mama, Ripple
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One > Dark Star > Mountains of the Moon > Dark Star > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider /Not Fade Away
9/30/07 Paolo Saleri Amphitheatre (Santa Fe)
Good Lovin’, You Don’t Know How It Feels, The Wheel, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Mississippi Half-Step, So Hard to Find My Way, Casey Jones
Cold Rain and Snow, Mexican Girl, Cumberland Blues, Gone Wanderin’, Eyes of the World > Sugaree > Help on the Way > Slipknot > Franklin’s Tower /The Weight
10/2/07 the Pageant (St. Louis)
Good Mornin’ Little Schoolgirl, Deal, Tell Me Mama, Deep Elem Blues, Loose Lucy, I’m So Gone, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Cosmic Charlie
Playing in the Band > Bird Song > Spots of Time, Althea, Loan Me a Dime > The Other One > Fire on the Mountain > Not Fade Away > Playing reprise/ Box of Rain
There’s been lots of good stuff, and from all reports the band is getting more comfortable with each passing show. As usual, though, there’s been plenty of spirited debate about the relative merits of the new lineup; ’twas ever thus, from Stan Franks to Chris Robinson to Jackie Greene. Want to make up your own mind? You can! As usual, some excellent audience recordings from the tour have surfaced on archive.org, so you can hear full shows. By all means, check these out and TURN IT UP!
Greek Theater (9/23) (Taped by Steve Schneider): http://www.archive.org/details/Phil2007-09-23.flac
The Fillmore (9/28) (Taped by Chuck Miller): http://www.archive.org/details/PAF2007-09-28.AKG480
Red Rocks (9/29) (Taped by Bob Fager): http://www.archive.org/details/paf2007-09-29..c42-sto2.flac16
As always, you can find photos and set lists at phillesh.net, as well as ticket info for the remainder of the shows. We’ll have more on the tour as it progresses….