Last night, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh ended a run celebrating his 76th birthday with another fantastic show featuring his “The Q” lineup at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. Lesh and his quintet delivered a powerful performance packed with songs from the group’s repertoire that goes beyond just Grateful Dead classics. Phil also announced he’ll open up the new Terrapin Crossroads outdoor play space, The Backyard with a new and very interesting version of Phil Lesh & Friends as part of an all-day event on April 17.
Let’s start with Friday night’s show. There’s a chemistry that formed quickly between Phil Lesh, guitarists Warren Haynes and Jimmy Herring, drummer John Molo and keyboardist Rob Barraco when they first started playing together in the Fall of 2000. Lesh felt that chemistry and decided to mothball his idea of changing lineups for every tour to give this band which fans dubbed “The Q” a chance to grow. The ensemble developed a stellar repertoire that included a bevy of classic rock covers, plenty of Dead songs and even a smattering of originals that led to the 2002 release of Lesh’s There & Back Again featuring “The Q.” Last night, that chemistry and wide-ranging repertoire was on full display at The Cap.
The band opened with “Dark Star” after a frantic blues jam. Each member of the group showed off their skills as “The Q” toyed with the “Dark Star” progression before eventually transitioning into There & Back Again’s “Again & Again.” While the beginning of the show was strong, it wasn’t until Phil Lesh & Friends lit into “New Speedway Boogie” that the capacity crowd involved themselves in the action. Fans sang along with the lyrics to the delight of the musicians and roared their approval when “The Q” kicked into a cover of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love.” The quintet used “Sunshine Of Your Love” as a launching pad for deep improvisation that went so far out, one couldn’t help but be surprised (“oh right, this is still ‘Sunshine Of Your Love'”) when the band returned to the ending of the song. Jimmy and Warren may not be as young as they used to be, but both starred on Friday night.
“Sunshine Of Your Love” was followed by another song that was a staple of “The Q’s” 2000 – 2002 hey day: Robbie Robertson’s “Broken Arrow.” Whether you love Phil’s vocals or hate ’em, it’s hard to knock the passion he puts in to his delivery of “Broken Arrow.” Next up was the Phil Lesh Quintet debut cover of The Allman Brothers Band’s “End Of The Line.” Phil had played the cover in March of ’15 with a similar band, but watching former ABB guitarists Haynes and Herring go to town on the song was one of the evening’s many highlights. Eventually “End Of The Line” gave way to the second verse of “Dark Star” ahead of a stellar transition to the “I Know You Rider” set closer.
The second set began with Lesh leading the group through one of his signature songs, “Unbroken Chain.” Herring shined with rapid-fire licks a plenty during a solo towards the end of the tune. More bliss followed with a transition into “The Wheel.” It seemed all night long the band hinted at “Cumberland Blues” and the crowd went wild when the Phil Lesh Quintet finally started the song in earnest. “The Q’s” chemistry was particularly notable during the frenzied “Cumberland.” A singalong “Uncle John’s Band” came next and led into the Haynes-sung There & Back Again original “No More Do I.” As the clock struck midnight, the quintet launched into a cover of Traffic’s “Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys” which featured standout solos from both Warren and Jimmy. A euphoric “Franklin’s Tower” closed out the second set before the band said farewell with Warren’s “Patchwork Quilt” as the encore.
In other Phil Lesh news, Terrapin Crossroads’ new outdoor play space will open on Sunday, April 17. Attendees at the all-day concert will be treated to two sets from Phil Lesh & Friends as well as performances from Soulive and Scott Law & Ross James’ Cosmic Twang. The Phil Lesh & Friends lineup for the event will feature Lesh joined by guitarist Eric Krasno, drummer Alan Evans, keyboardist Neal Evans, multi-instrumentalist Jason Crosby and The Terrapin Horns. Tickets are available via the venue’s website.
Full Show Audio (Taped by Jon Pasternak)
Videos (Captured by Scott Gibson)
[End Of The Line > Dark Star Reprise]
[I Know You Rider]
Set One: Jam > Darkstar(v1) > Again & Again, New Speedway Boogie, Sunshine Of Your Love > Broken Arrow, End Of The Line > Dark Star (v2) > I Know You Rider
Set Two: Unbroken Chain > The Wheel > Cumberland Blues > Uncle John’s Band, No More Do I > Low Spark of High Heeled Boys > Franklin’s Tower
Encore: Patchwork Quilt