Phil Lesh & Friends
Unbroken Chain Benefit
San Rafael, CA
Phil Lesh - bass, vocals
Jackie Greene - guitar, vocals
Tony Leone - drums
Stu Allen - guitar, vocals
Jeff Chimenti - keyboards, vocals
$ with Jason Crosby - fiddle
# with Jason Crosby - keyboards
Jam $ >
Friend of the Devil (PL) $
Loser (SA) $
Next Time You See Me (JG) $
Peggy-o (JG) $
He's Gone (SA) $ >
Mexican Girl (JG) >
Cosmic Charlie (All) #
China Cat (SA) $ >
Let it Ride (PL) $ >
Rollin' and Tumblin' (JG) # >
Uncle John's Band (PL, JG) $
Terrapin Station> (PL)
Crazy Fingers> (JGe, SA)
So Many Roads (JGe)
Phil turns 73 on Friday, but chose yesterday to have his in-house celebration at TC. This was a "one-off" and the only thing predictable about the night was some of the lineup, and that dinner would be served. Phil felt a thanksgiving style buffet would be most appropriate and its easy to see why. Every facet of the spread was as good as home although I missed the desert bar in favor of another Black IPA.
The show was a ping pong of the family band, including sons Grahame and Brian, with Ross James. When I arrived at 7:30 the family band was jamming heavy, and word was that the adults came out earlier at 6p and did more than a sound check, including Stu Allen, Phil, Bob and others I cant verify.
At about 8:30 the Family band handed back the stage. Chimenti and Phil pushed by me sidestage as I was talking with Karan who wasnt even sure if he was going on. "Very unscripted", I think were his words. Well shortly thereafter he followed on stage and the group was Chimenti, Greene, Weir, Phil, Karan with Russo ostensibly on drums behind the amps. When I peeked around the amps, there was a drummer in a hoody, and indeed, it was Russo. Previous nights this weekend the drummer was Tony Leone and I was glad to see Russo, or part of him. The stage was in a corner of the restaurant yet there was definite thought to the sound setup which was remarkably good. Lighting was unadorned and was simply the can lights of the restaurant with no direction or mobility.
The guys opened with Uncle Johns Band, and I cant tell you a set list. It was clear however that this was epic. The dynamic is always the story, and to me the headline was Weir is back, and Phil is a legend, albeit appearing more and more frail. Again the joy of the music dominates and the contributions are infinite. Greene is absolutely the real deal. Beyond his singing, he can absolutely play guitar but most significantly the creativity this guy possesses is superstar. Each lead is confidently laid out with phrasing that is presented with predictable repetition that diverges in many forms and coelesces to perfection. This occurs every time. After a few tunes, Mark Karan stepped off and Stu Allen replaced his position. Stu provided the other lead, and with this much power on stage, somethings got to give. Sadly, Stu was overrun by Jackie's creativity, and when things could have transitioned to the Jerry-toned jams I love about Stu, I was left with mediocre, short-lived soloing that was not particularly artful or lengthy. Despite the tone clone, Stu didnt deliver at the highest levels for me. That said, there was enough cream so that everything was acceptable. Chimenti was, naturally, a solid soloist with a very real connection with Jackie in both youth and craftsmanship. I never tire of him.
The headline, as mentioned, was Bob. I cant recall seeing his performance having more commitment and quality. His voice issues, which have haunted me since Ratdog in San Diego years ago, have appeared to resolve. Although not the 1973 tenor, he now sings as if he was formerly a virtuoso, with some age. And its really very good. So too I enjoyed his stage presence. It was as if he was celebrating Phil by taking the band by the horns and corralling a great rhythm for Phil's bass, while allowing the younger band mates to lay it down. Bob is back. Other songs were Playin, GDTRFB, Mason's Children, and Magnolia which had a great re-arrangement flair clearly rehearsed as I took note of the tightness.
Phil, while absolutely loving the scene has me a bit concerned. He appears frail and couldnt be 140 lbs. I was bold enough to wish him a happy birthday, and got a firm handshake in return, along with a squinty grin of acceptance. That was encouraging, but he putters around and appears unsteady in his gait, maybe too much birthday. His playing didnt suffer and his singing remains emotive, if not comical, as he sang "sometimes the songs that we hear are songs of our own." His humor remains strong. After each song there was a clear spontaneity of "what should we play next", and although there was some mindlessness, greatness arises unplanned which it did. There was no earpiece communication among the band, and conversation on stage was open and interactive. Jason Crosby came out toward the end played violin which suffered from technical sound issues. In my mind this was good, going back to my firepower theory of too much noise doesnt allow individual appreciation. It was a minor distraction actually.
Phil et al left after about 90 min, and on returned the kids who again really impressed me. Great selection, arrangements and playing, especially when Stu joined them and really let it go. THIS was Stu on leads, and they were formidable for another hour. The headliners returned and played about 20 min before knocking off most unexpectedly. After an hour break, my expectation was another hour or so of celebration, but at 73 years old, 11P is late, and they did start at 6P. Off they straggled and we high tailed out of TC.
Good review! I also thought the food was excellent: quinoa pilaf, a very tasty mixed greens salad, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, turkey, stuffing, and later came a very rich chocolate cake. Very enjoyable, a great time hanging out in the restaurant hearing the band, chowing down with friends, and so on.
Thank you [Mike] for the excellent review - it was almost like being there!
Enjoyed watching Weir Here last evening and seeing the boys on stage - and on 'the couch' - , even though at Bobby's place (not Phil's).
Every show - in fact every new day - is a blessing and we all celebrate in the music.