Words By: Bill Clifford
Photos by: Marc Millman
reCAP :: Phil Lesh & Friends :: 2014.04.02
Apr 03 / Thursday
Late in 2013, Grateful Dead/Furthur bassist Phil Lesh revealed in a New York Times news article that he was "...done with one nighters," and tired of time wasted sitting on busses and waiting around to move on to the next gig. His solution wasn't so much to retire from touring, but rather, to book a series of intimate residences, where he and his band of "Friends" would perform multiple dates in particular venues. The residences began in earnest on Wednesday night, here at The Capitol Theater. Phil Lesh & Friends opened a two-week residency that sees the band performing eight gigs at the legendary haunt that holds a particular history with Grateful Dead.
There are a number of tribute bands that replicate the sound and style of Grateful Dead, but the players that Lesh chooses to accompany himself are always the creme of the crop in the improv music community. For this week's gigs, his band includes guitarists John Kadlecik and Larry Campbell, vocalist Teresa Williams, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, and drummer Joe Russo; all longtime Lesh bandmates. Also joining the band for this first week was special guest, Boyd Tinsley, the multi-instrumentalist known best as an original member of Dave Matthews Band.
The band strolled on stage and lifted there instruments, and with nothing more than a gracious nod to the audience in appreciation its generous applause, began playing an instrumental soundcheck to find its musical bearings. The jam segued nicely into "Till The Morning Comes", that featured sweet dual vocals from Lesh and Williams. Russo was a monster behind the kit here, pounding the skins with vigor. The Dead have a rich and diverse musical cannon, and "Doin' That Rag" harkened back to some of the bands earliest recordings, and most psychedelic stylings. Sung here by Kadlecik, the song was given a slight bluegrass treatment, with just a hint of twang.
Lesh busted out the first cover of the evening, performing Ryan Adams' "Let It Ride." It's a song he'd have some familiarity with as Adams is a former "Friends" player, it was part of the bands rotation at that time. Tonight, the song was given more of a straight ahead rock delivery sans Adams. Given some time off from the road, Lesh's voice sounded clear and smooth, one might even say spry — for a 73-year-old! Boyd Tinsley joined the band on stage as it segued into "Wadding In The Water," taking a moment to get in tune with the band, then finding a grove on his violin, adding sweet fills whilst Williams' bellowing gospel tinged vocals carried out through the room. An upbeat cover of the Motown classic "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" was upbeat and rich with gospel drenched organ swells from Chimenti. Kadlecik turned in a lovely reading of the Jerry Garcia classic, "Reuben And Cerise," and the set concluded with a rollicking run through "Cumberland Blues," featuring 5-part vocal harmonies and dixieland styled piano accented with Tinsley's violin fills.
The second set opened with a another cover, The Byrds' "Turn, Turn, Turn," and the music never stopped through the whole of the set, which went deep into The Dead's back catalog. "The Wheel" again showcased sweet vocal harmonies amongst the group. Sandwiched between the thunderous rumble of "The Other One" was a old traditional blues song, "Death Don't Have No Mercy," that brought back Tinsley on stage to add hallowed violin fills.
The lighting at The Capitol Theatre is always a spectacular part of any show, and was of particular interest throughout the second set. On the dark and eerie "Cryptical Envelopment," psychedelic splashes of orange, green, and purple amoebas and cells danced along the theaters' rounded walls and ceilings. The Band classic "Wheel's On Fire" was a nod to Williams and Campbell's work with The Levon Helm Band, and showcased what a magnificent and powerful vocalist she is, her vocals bellowing out throughout the theater. "Lady With A Fan" and "Rosemary" brought back the trippy atmospherics and Kadlecik was in fine vocal form on the former in particular. "Terrapin Station" brought the set to a close, here once again showcasing the tight vocal harmonies amongst the group. The band single encore of the night was the rollicking and upbeat dance-a-thon "Don't Ease Me In," which brought sent the crowd out with a rush of high energy.
The day may come when the surviving members of The Dead will tour no more. But as a fan base, we're grateful that for now, they are still doing all they can to furthur the bands' legacy. With the likes of Russo, Kadlecik and Chimenti, a younger generation of musicians so heartily influenced by the band, the music we all know and love so much will hopefully never stop!
Til the Morning Comes
Doin’ that Rag
Let It Ride >
Wading In The Water*
How Sweet It Is
Reuben And Cherise
Turn, Turn, Turn >
The Wheel >
The Other One >
Death Don’t Have No Mercy >*
The Other One v2 > *
Cryptical Envelopment >*
Wheel’s On Fire >
Lady With A Fan >
Encore: Don’t Easy Me In *
The Capitol Theatre's couch tour is coming to you! If you can't make it to Phil Lesh and Friends April performances, you can still enjoy all eight shows from the comfort of your home! The Capitol Theatre will host live webcasts for Phil Lesh and Friends performances on April 2-5 and April 9-12. For more information on how to buy all eight nights or individual webcasts click here...
The Capitol Theatre Photo Gallery
Photos by: Marc Millman
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