8-20-99 The Greek Theatre Berkeley, CA
Phil Lesh & Friends

(click here to see two-day-in-review reviews)

Phil and Phriends -- Charlie, 22:13:35 08/14/99 Sat

It is going to be so nice to be sitting (dancin') in the Taper's Section at The Greek once again. It has been 12 years since there were Red rocks shows and Greek shows in the same year! We're back! CM

8/20/99 Greek Theatre -- Howlin' Bob, 14:46:21 08/25/99 Wed

Two Views of a Secret, Part I: Phil Lesh and Friends, 8/20/99, Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley 
                                                       Phil Lesh bass, vox
                                                      Steve Kimock guitars
                                                  Warren Haynes guitar, vox
                                           Kyle Hollingsworth keyboards, vox
                                                        John Molo, drums
                                          *Michael Kang, violin, electric mandolin 

Saint Stephen->Eleven Jam->*Mountains of the Moon->*All Along the Watchtower (Haynes); Tons of Steel (Haynes); *Unbroken Chain; *Kissing the Boo Boo;
Cold Rain and Snow
encore: organ donation rap; In the Midnight Hour 

With all the Grateful Dead history associated with the Greek Theatre, I had a premonition that these shows would be special...I didn’t know how much they would demand (essentially all I had) or how strong and deep the recompense would be., or how kindly I would be guided through the shows. Walking into the venue after a long, tiring, rushed public-transit dash from San Francisco, we were immediately swept up, almost as if we’d been beamed up to the mothership from some dark country road. Literally thirty feet in from the gate, I found the person who’d given us our tickets, which was little short of miraculous given the massive crowding in the public areas in and outside the venue, and we were thus ushered to about the kindest spot in the whole hall...two or three risers up from the floor, over a bit to the left, and surrounded by friendly faces, some I knew and some friends I’d yet to meet. 

Simply being at the Greek again after all those years was an extremely powerful experience...as I sat listening to Galactic play (we arrived late and, sadly, completely missed out Gov’t. Mule) I had a sudden Proust moment, seeing in my mind a jumble of all the memorable moments I’d had there during the 1980s, cut up and pasted together like a 1960s avant-garde film clip. Apparently it was a powerful experience for others as well...a person sitting near us had a digital camera, and showed us a shot he’d taken earlier that day of Phil coming through the stage entrance, and the look on his face spoke volumes; the delighted zeal of an excited five-year-old, the astonished "oh my God, I’m here again" look of someone returning to a power spot, and the sorrowful realization of how long ago and far away it had all been, and how much had been gained and lost since...all at once. The smallest, oddest things set off little shivers of recognition...the way the light crew tests the follow spotlights by focussing them on the end walls at the sides of the stage...the feeling of lounging on the risers like ancient Romans...the smell of salt air, ganga, and oranges...so many feelings I thought I’d never experience again. 

Phil and Friends took the stage at 8:45, as the night descended and the last bits of sunlight faded over the horizon. As they finished the customary five minutes of  tuning, twiddling, and testing, the crowd rose as one, letting out one of those spine-tingling warm roars that say "before you even play a note, we’re so glad you’re here"...which was answered by the two-note opening of the introduction to "Saint Stephen." 

From the outset, it was clear that the night’s agenda would be to stretch out and play with the songs...the jam over the intro (and before the first verse) must have stretched two minutes, and every verse was answered with an extended solo, to the point where I wondered if they’d just play "Saint Stephen" for the whole show. This "Saint" was to a typical version roughly what the version of "So What" Miles Davis played with the Shorter/Hancock/ Williams group was to the "Kind of Blue" original, extended, warped, and expounded upon...like an extraterrestrial deconstructing the original and toying with the bits. 

After the sung bridge (and before the next verse), Warren began soloing, riffling through his book of blues-rock ideas in search of abstractions, and the band brought it down low, cracked the groove open sideways, and let the night air in...from here on, it was what Phish fans call "total Hose." Every time I thought they’d played out the possible variations of the structure, they went back, re-jiggered them, and took us Out There again, making us wait until the very last solo (after the "...answer man" coda) for the 3/4 jam which typically comes after the "one man gathers..." verse before slipping into an instrumental "The Eleven."  Kimock romped all over the first part of the jam, much more comfortable and assured than on the Other Ones tour, chewing away at the chord progression like a jazz puppy with a new toy. The band got so quiet before the key change that it seemed they’d do the vocals, and it was a bit disappointing when they handed the solo chair off to Warren instead. Toward the end of the jam, Michael Kang joined the band, briefly playing the electric mandolin, then switching to violin as the band moved into "Mountains of the Moon." 

"Mountains..." seems to expand every time Phil and Friends play it, and this version featured long, long solos over the B-minor sections between verses, particularly featuring Kang’s quite lovely sing-song violin lines as Kyle shaded the arrangement with a delicate tracery of piano. At one point in the second solo, the band got very quiet and Molo played some beautiful painterly cymbal textures worthy of Philly Joe Jones. The raspy, strained quality which characterized much of Phil’s singing during these shows first became apparent here, but the beauty of the performance remained unaffected. An outro jam stretched this "Mountains..." to ten minutes’ length, until the band morphed into a sort of sideways-ska groove which turned out to be the most interesting arrangement of "All Along the Watchtower" I’d heard in a long time...I’ve really tired of the straight-ahead rock-ist versions purveyed by everyone from the Dead to U2, and it was a real pleasure to hear a new take on the old warhorse. 

Warren took his first lead vocal of the night here, his sometimes startlingly Brent Mydland-like voice bluesy and insinuating, and once again the solos hunted for unexplored territory, finding terra incognito after the second verse...Kimock, who’d switched from his favorite Strat-with-Danelectro-pickups to the Cripe guitar,  took up his slide and started doing something I’d also seen him do at the Phil/Phish shows, picking on either side of the slide to create a multiphonic effect which sounds like he’s running the guitar through a ring modulator...the keyboard sound which opens Pink Floyd’s "Echoes" is an example of a ring-modulated signal, and that sound seemed to push the button marked "1972 English space-rock" in the rest of the band, as they abandoned the song structure and tonality for a soundscape reminiscent of nothing so much as Hawkwind somehow suddenly possessed of delicacy and grace. 

Somehow they made it back to the shore of the song structure, having also run through some blisteringly funky organ soloing and Kang’s alternating between the mandolin and violin, and finally touched down at 10:03, after what I described as "an hour and ten minutes of solid stuff." At times, the ability of the lead instrumentalists to echo each other was almost eerie, as if one person were playing through a digital delay line...and whenever things threatened to bog down, the musicians got quieter, listened harder, and made it work. As the crowd roared, Phil gave a big “thumbs up" to Molo, and then walked over to Kimock and gave him a huge hug. 

Next up, and a total surprise, was Warren’s take on Brent’s "Tons of Steel"...the band struck gold here with a huge, rumbling groove, based on the later GD arrangement with the extended guitar solo after the final vocal reprise, but rolling straight through the ends of the choruses rather than doing the stops that Brent used to do. Warren rephrased the "I want to go down slow" bit, and the background "oooohs" were conspicuous by their absence. Warren and Kyle both shone in the solo spots, with Warren alternating slide and fingered notes. 

The intro to "Unbroken Chain" took me by surprise, and Kang’s neo-classical violin in the inter-verse segments was a highlight...but about two-thirds of the way through the solo, things started to wobble. As Warren took the second pass, Phil dropped back to simply play the riff...it seemed as though he was trying to keep Warren, or the band, from losing the 11/8 time signature, and the solo segment lost momentum there which it never recovered. Phil seemed to yank the band out of Kimock’s closing solo before it had built to a logical conclusion, and when they went into the coda, only two or three of the six people onstage seemed to know what the chords were, and they stumbled toward the "lilac rain..." vocal, with Kyle recovering to color the arrangement with a beautiful baroque piano line...they pulled out of their collective nose dive at the last, with Phil and the audience singing the "la-la-la" closing vocal together, and Kang again supplying the romantic violin.

The shakiness continued with Kimock’s "Kissing the Boo Boo," which chord/time change sequence the band needed to play through two or three times before they got comfortable, Kimock actually turning around and directing the band through the transitions between the 5/4 and 6/4 sections, chopping out chords on the bass strings. After some initial discomfort, the band found its feet again, and warmed the structure to a rosy glow, with nice soloing all around...but there was a general  sense of relief when this one rolled to a close. 

By now it was getting close to the 11:00 Greek curfew, and the closer was "Cold Rain and Snow." The introduction sounded strange without Garcia’s bass-strings riff, but they punched out the chords with gusto, Phil’s voice sounding extra-impassioned in its raspiness but scrambling the beginning/ending of verses 2 and 3. Kyle drew the band into the ensemble passage the Dead played before the solo in their rendition, following with more passionate organ soloing, and after the last verse they went round and round on the outro riff, with Phil pounding out huge three-note bass chords that made the hair on my legs ripple in the sound waves as they crunched through the last few rounds and left the stage. 

Phil returned alone, as is customary, and talked to the audience about the need for organ donors (which was received with quiet respect, as compared to reports from other shows) before the band returned with the singer from Galactic and crunched into the intro to "In the Midnight Hour," Warren sharing vocals with the Galactic guy for the first verse, then letting him go...this version was well-played enough, but wasn’t a patch on the version they closed with at Mountain Aire, and the singer was a bit stiff both in his attempts at the soul-improv-solo vocal bits where Pigpen (or Wilson Pickett, for that matter) would have raved...but it was charming to see his rather stiff dancing (as also seen during Galactic’s set) loosen up as the band jammed. Once again, the solo section seemed to end before it was fully cooked, but this version was joyously received nonetheless as we bade the Friends good night and the lights came up. And so, after a round of hugs, we stumbled down the hill to the BART station and crawled into bed, to try and get ready for the next night... 


   o Kang’s somewhat disconnected playing style worked much better in the P&F context than it did with String Cheese at the New Year’s show...he would show a different side of himself the following night. 

  o Every time I’ve seen Kimock since my first exposure at the TOO Shoreline shows last summer, he’s gotten better and better...looser, more confident, and more exploratory. 

  o Kyle Hollingsworth’s keyboard playing was a consistent highlight, showing more chops and deeper roots than are readily apparent in his work with String Cheese...his 50s jazz-like organ playing was particularly delicious. 

  o Kimock played the "Dan-o-caster" throughout, except for "Watchtower," during which he played the Cripe guitar until after the third verse, when he switched back to the "Dan-o-caster" for his "jazz solo." 

  o I never noticed before that Molo sets his rack toms up backwards to how most drummers set up their kits, i.e. the lower-pitched/larger tom is next to the snare, and the smaller/higher-pitched one over by the floor toms. 

  o the best parts of this show (which is to say the opening 1:10 medley) was as good or better IMO as anything from Mountain Aire or the Phil/Phish shows. 

  o throughout, the amount of space between the instruments in the arrangements was striking, and strikingly reminiscent of GD circa 1974.

8/20/99 -- JJ, 10:59:52 08/21/99 Sat First time seeing Phil since Chinese New Year 1994. 

There is just no comparison to the PHIL BOMBS anywhere in music!!

I enjoyed the Mule set, the covers were great and well chosen. Galactic was thick and funky, loved the addition of Al and his envelope filter guitar effects -
I don't think I was fully prepared for what was in store after that...

ST STEPHEN opening chords were just so fucking exciting, man. People were dancing like maniacs, The Eleven just kicked ass into a calypso jam, then a well sung MOUNTAINS, and who knew that Warren would step up for WATCHTOWER - spectacular!! Magic moments, for certain. 

The pace only lagged a couple of times, mostly just an impressive clip all the way through. 
Encore was special - the voices complemented each other nicely. 
Oh and the TONS OF STEEL!! Surprise surprise. Hadn't even thought about that tune in ages, really good shit. 

On to tonite!! ;->

8/20/99 -- da Flower Punk (Timothy Lynch), 08/23/99

<excerpt from pauserecord.com article>

It was ten years and one day since the last time the Grateful Dead played the world famous amphitheater when the show began, and DeadHeads felt they were back, "if
not with a vengeance, then emphatically," as one person connected with the Dead organization for decades put it. 

Phil Lesh and Friends was up next, and clearly this was what the crowd had come to see. Lesh's friends this night included Steve Kimock (KVHW, Zero) and Warren Haynes
(Gov't Mule) on guitars, John Molo (Bruce Hornsby, The Other Ones) on drums, Kyle Hollingsworth (SCI) on keyboards. The band started hard, pulling out the big guns
right from the start with "St. Stephen > The Eleven." The first hour of the show seemed to belong to Warren Haynes, as he was on fire with his hard-edged leads.

Steve Kimock seemed to be hanging back just a bit during this portion of the show. String Cheese's Michael Kang came out around this time, to add some violin and
mandolin, but he really contributed little throughout this evening. Perhaps he had a hard time finding a place to fit, as Haynes dominated the upper registers with his non-stop leads. 

Things changed a bit during "All Along The Watchtower". The song started hard and fast, but eventually melted down into sheer confusion and was brought to a complete halt. It started back up with a delicate reggae meets calypso beat. Things were flowing smoothly until it came time for Haynes to take his solo. Delicate is not Warren Haynes' style at all. Soon he was "scrubbing" on the highest notes of his guitar, in ways that Jerry Garcia used to send audiences into frenzy with, but Haynes over-played the technique, using it for too long. This broke any delicacy the jam had developed, and the band brought it back around to the harder edges the song had begun in. Around this time it became clear that while Haynes is an excellent "balls-to-the-wall" kind of player, he is limited to that style. He does not have the ability to either lay back or just comp a rhythm, and this limitation adversely affected the rest of the night. The biggest problem with Haynes' contribution was that his Allman Brothers-esque wall-of-guitar style limited fellow guitarist Steve Kimock's ability to develop his own solos. Kimock is the kind of player who takes some time to develop his ideas. Haynes' insistence on playing dual leads while Kimock was playing one seemed to both limit Kimock's ability to fully develop his ideas, as well as caused him to have to play too hard to try and step out. 

Haynes' vocal skills were used to great effect, however, as he has a vocal range very similar to former Grateful Dead keyboardist Brent Mydland. Haynes' reading of Mydlands, "Tons of Steel" was a highpoint of the evening, even if a few words were flubbed as the song progressed. Other highlights included Steve Kimock's "Kissin' The Boo-boo." An encore of "Midnight Hour" featured Galactic's Theryl DeClouet and closed out the show in grand style.