Phil and Friends, 11/5 and 11/6

All week, I’ve been checking back on PhilLesh.net, hoping for the promised photos from the show, reasoning that you can’t possibly post about Ryan Adams’ birthday party without at least one good shot of Ryan’s green knit pom pom hat. I’ll update if any hat photos ever surface; in the meantime, my own camera-phone shot of Phil seen through my friend Walter‘s white shock of late-era Garcia hair will have to suffice.

The shows? Phenomenal. After Halloween‘s cover extravaganza, Tuesday‘s sets mingled classic rock standards — Dixie Down, Brown Sugar, Revolution — with Grateful Dead warhorses like Deal and Shakedown, and seeing Phil drop Other One bombs from the rail was bone-shatteringly good. I was just beginning to miss the ballads when Death Don’t Have No Mercy, sung by Jackie Greene, provided a rare treat, topped off by a sweet, sweet Brokedown Palace for which I happened to be the audience member closest to Phil. A deeply satisfying concert, as good as anything I’d ever hope to see from anybody who didn’t use to be in my favorite band.

But Monday was the real reason I’ll keep on coming back as long as this music is getting played. After a first set loaded with primal late-sixties Dead grooves enhanced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin on sax, the second set was pure Deadhead heaven. It happened to be Ryan Adams‘ birthday, reason enough for Phil to splurge and extend the show until after 1am for four hours of music filled with some of the best tunes in the Dead catalog, played with vigor, love, and inventiveness.

Phil LeshAn informal poll conducted on the way out confirmed what we already knew: “That was profound” and “Wharf Rat dominated my skull.” Walter, who’d come in from Düsseldorf to see Phil for the first time since 1994, could hardly have picked a better time–if you’re going to take a transatlantic flight to a rock concert, this was the night. Two more shows this weekend top off what by all accounts has been a stellar 11-night run. Thank you, Phil.

Phil Lesh and Friends, Nokia Theater, 11/5/07
Set 1 (with Steve Berlin)
Brown-Eyed Women, The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion), Viola Lee Blues > Operator> Viola Lee Blues> Next Time You See Me> Viola Lee Blues, Chest Fever, Sugaree
Set 2 (with Ryan Adams)
Happy Birthday Ryan, Eyes of the World> Scarlet Begonias> China Cat Sunflower> Bird Song, Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad, Ripple, I Know You Rider> Uncle John’s Band> Dark Star> Franklin’s Tower> Dark Star
Encore: Wharf Rat

Phil Lesh and Friends, Nokia Theater, 11/6/07
Set 1: Bertha> Deal, Big River, Gone Wanderin’, Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Cosmic Charlie
Set 2: Brown Sugar> Shakedown Street> Revolution, Beat It On Down The Line> Cryptical Envelopment> The Other One> Death Don’t Have No Mercy> The Other One> Brokedown Palace
Encore: Not Fade Away

Tunes
For your listening enjoyment, audience recordings of Monday’s skull-dominating Wharf Rat encore, Tuesday’s Revolution, and Death Don’t Have No Mercy. Torrents for the Nokia run are up at etree.org in flac format, but if you’d rather grab mp3s, you can download 10/31 (312 MB), 11/5 (247 MB), and  11/6 (229 MB) while the bandwidth lasts.



YouTube has a pro-shot clip from the 2005 Jammys, when Ryan first came out as a Deadhead, also with Wharf Rat. If you squint, you can spot me in the audience. Carefully, this clip is brutally cut at the ten minute mark — and Ryan’s not wearing any green knit hats, either.

Phil and Friends – Halloween

Reviews on the fan message boards are mixed, but I had a blast at Phil Lesh‘s Halloween party on Wednesday night. Halloween’s a major head holiday, and how could you not have fun getting down to Sympathy for the Devil with a room full of hippie witches, blinking aliens, Imperial stormtroopers and the usual assortment of wookies? Phil’s new line-up features the very talented Jackie Greene along with Particle’s Steve Molitz and regulars Larry Campbell and John Molo, and the show was a little heavier on blues jams than on the usual psychedelic freak-outs.

The Werewolves encore was a safe bet, but I don’t think anybody saw the cover of Phish’s Ghost coming. There was an unusual number of first times played (Don’t Let the Devil Take Your Mind, I Put a Spell on You, Boris the Spider, and Sympathy for the Devil) and the second set achieved lift-off with Caution > Voodoo Chile. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the run, even if my chances of catching any of the rumored sit-ins — there’s talk of Bob, Bob, Ryan, Warren, Levon, and Trey — are pretty slim. I’ll keep adding setlists to this post as we make our way through the Lesh Marathon of 2007.

Phil and Friends, Nokia Theater, NY, NY
Set 1: Shakedown Street> Loose Lucy> Don’t Let the Devil Take Your Mind, Candyman, I Put A Spell on You> Jam> Story of the Ghost> Casey Jones

Set 2: Phil Reads from “The Pit and the Pendulum”, Cryptical Envelopment> Boris the Spider> Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks) > Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)> The Other One> Cryptical Envelopment> New Speedway Boogie> Fire on the Mountain, Sympathy for the Devil> I Know You Rider

E: Werewolves of London

There are no torrents up yet, but here’s the Grateful Dead playing Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London on Halloween ’91, a show that also featured a truly frightening guest appearance by Ken Kesey, reciting e.e. cumming’s “Buffalo Bill is Defunct” mid-Dark Star to commemorate Bill Graham’s death. You can download the entire show from nugs.net. and archive.org.

:Werewolves

Phil Lesh, SOB's

Once upon a time, I was a young grad student with a nascent love for the Grateful Dead and a head full of semiotics; one result was “Fractals of Familiarty and Innovation,” a bit of academic malarkey that was saved from complete embarrassment only by the fact that the great Robert Hunter deemed it worthy of a witty and gracious response. Over a decade later, what stayed with me aren’t the Fischer-Lichte quotes but the basic creative truth at the core of the essay: how do you keep the music playing? By combining just the right amounts of nostalgia and novelty. The tension between  what’s familiar and what isn’t lies at the heart of all narrative, including musical narrative.

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