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.
An 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
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.