• 149 WESTCHESTER AVENUE, PORT CHESTER, NY 10573-4549 · (914) 937-4126

  • May 31st, 2016

    reCAP :: Phil Lesh & Friends :: 2016.05.27 + 2016.05.28

    Words by Chad Berndtson
    Photos by Marc Millman

    Phil Lesh & Friends Capitol Theatre (Fri 5 27 16)_May 27, 20160006-Edit-Edit

    What makes the current Phil Lesh & Friends model so interesting — and ripe for pleasant surprise — is that sometimes, the personality of an assembled band isn’t readily apparent. Sure, long-established Phil & Friends lineups, such as the Q, have a set of expectations that accompany any show, informed by history. And if there’s a storied personality in the lineup, the chemistry of the band often strains through that personality — Warren Haynes’ “Warren-ness,” for example, is always going to be a factor regardless of with whom he and Phil are playing.

    These Memorial Day Weekend collections of personalities, however, kept us guessing almost until the ends of the shows. Would the bands feel Warren-lead, in the sense that with Haynes in a lead guitar and vocals role, the band might naturally support his personality? Would it be a little jazzier, or a little fusiony, given, at least on the first night, the presence of John Medeski, and the protean Eric Krasno, both highlight unpredictable in their approaches to Dead music? Would it feel extra-rhythmic, given an amplified drums and percussion corps of Tony Leone and Alex Koford, locking in to Phil? Would it yield to Melvin Seals’ history on Saturday, and bend toward flowing-river, Jerry Garcia Band-style excursions?

    Phil Lesh & Friends Capitol Theatre (Fri 5 27 16)_May 27, 20160408-Edit-Edit

    Friday’s answer was “all of the above,” and if that limited the overall momentum of its two sets to fits and starts, it also drew out some pretty marvelous interplay among the band members, such as the slowly-darkening jam from “Bird Song” into “All Along the Watchtower” and then the Haynes/Krasno push-and-shove guitar battle that followed. Set two was flush with examples of mellow psychedelia transforming into maelstrom rage: “Mason’s Children” melding into “Mountains of the Moon,” which contorted into a number of possibilities before resolving, again and again, back into “Mountains.” This was a show low on consistency and high on curios: a show that opened (!) with “Franklin’s Tower,” included two nods to the Allman Brothers (“Blue Sky,” “End of the Line”), hat-tips to Dylan and The Band, galloping Americana Dead, rock ‘n’ roll Dead, 60s fuzz-edge Dead, and, just as things were getting spacey in the 2nd set, the emergence of the Phil/Warren gem “Spots of Time” to make the show sweet and earthy again.

    Phil Lesh & Friends Capitol Theatre (Sat 5 28 16)_May 28, 20160020-Edit-Edit

    Saturday’s show was in many ways an even more varied collection of curios. The pointed question before lights and curtain was how much Melvin Seals — a first-time Friend of Phil, but someone with a very specific and honored place in the annals of Dead and Jerry Garcia history — would influence the proceedings. As it turned out, Melvin was one more ingredient, dominating the band no more or less than anyone else, offering one more guiding hand in a sea of music that included more 60s fuzz-edge Dead, more nods to the Allman Brothers and The Band — not to mention Ryan Adams, Cream, Traffic and the Beatles — and a sense that things could spin out into space at a moment’s notice before they returned, comfortably and quietly, to solid ground.

    Phil shows like these are tough to put your arms around; there’s too much shifting sand. But that’s probably the point: personalities that are easy to frame can make it easy to expect what’s coming, and Phil, that ever-smiling cerebral trickster, still delights in the guessing of the game.

    Setlist :: 5.27.2016

    1: Jam > Franklin’s Tower, The Weight, Alabama Getaway > Blue Sky, Bird Song > All Along the Watchtower

    2: Mason’s Children > Mountains of the Moon > St. Stephen > Unbroken Chain, Spots of Time > End of the Line, Stella Blue

    E: Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad

    Setlist :: 5.28.2016

    1: Alligator > The Harder They Come, Broken Arrow, Low Spark of High Heeled Boys > Midnight Rider, She Said She Said

    2: Playing in the Band > Let It Ride > Sunshine of Your Love > Cosmic Charlie, Dark Star (v1)> Lady With a Fan > Terrapin Station > Playing in the Band (reprise)

    E: Lazy River Road

    The Capitol Theatre Photo Gallery

    Photos by Marc Millman