Phil Lesh & Friends 2.16.12
Words & Photos By J-man
The return of Phil Lesh & Friends to Colorado created a frenzy among Deadheads that translated into a cross-country pilgrimage for many and three beautiful nights of music. The three night opener took place on Thursday at the notorious 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, CO. Crawling with cops and security, the Deadheads were forced into a position of caution for this party. One of the tiniest lot scenes that I have ever witnessed occupied the parking area with unauthorized vending and shakedown galore. Inside The 1st Bank Center, the energy was heating up as anticipation grew in the Phil Zone.
Phil's rotating cast of musicians brought guitarists Warren Haynes and John Scofield, as well as Jackie Greene on guitar and keys, Jeff Chimenti on keys and Joe Russo on drums, to Colorado. With each member intimately familiar with the music of the Dead, the compositions and jams were sure to contain depth. Around 8:30 pm Phil Lesh & Friends took the stage to an extremely undersold Colorado crowd...
Phil Lesh and Friends Live at 1st Bank Center on February 16, 2012.
Set One: Intro, Jam>Shakedown Street, Dire Wolf, Tennessee Jed, Pride of Cucamonga, Doin' That Rag, The Wheel>Standing On The Moon, Just A Little Light
Set Two: Intro, Scarlet Begonias>Fire On The Mountain, Rollin' & Tumblin', Cryptical Envelopment>Magic Bus>The Other One>Wharf Rat>Help On The Way>Slipknot>Franklin's Tower, Crowd
Encore: Donor Rap, Not Fade Away
The show began with a short jam that segued right into "Shakedown Street" launching the crowd into dance mode with the opening progression. The band sounded clean and energetic, with Warren fielding the lead vocals and Jackie covering the background. Scofield's touch of jazz was palatable within the first ten minutes of the show. "Dire Wolf" followed with another chorus triggering folks to sing collectively with Jackie. "Tennessee Jed" came next with another eruption from the crowd with the initial few notes. The instrumentation and harmonies sounded fantastic as the song brought back a feeling of nostalgia for me and memories of my time on the road in the south.
The first set slowed down with the coming of "Pride of Cucamonga." Phil took over on vocals as the music chugged along. A slow "Doin' That Rag" came next keeping the musical flow at a crawling pace. There was increase in energy for "The Wheel>Standing on The Moon," as well as a great airy instrumental section in the middle of "The Wheel." I began to yawn frequently during "Standing on The Moon" causing a couple of other folks around me to yawn as well. The music picked back up with "Just a Little Light" featuring some impressive Warren and Scofield exchanges to close the first set.
Setbreak brought the usual hustle and bustle, with a heavy dose of added security sneaking up on unsuspecting folks as they smoked and mingled. We made our way to the area behind the soundboard to meet up with some friends. There must have been twenty tapers set up that night, capturing the magic. As we met up with familiar faces, we discussed the first set. The general consensus was that it was too slow and that they needed to pick it up. Though, no one had anything overly negative to say, as it was more about song selection than the quality of music.
Following an extended set break, Phil Lesh & Friends returned to the stage to give the Colorado crowd what they came for! The second set began with "Scarlet Begonias" right out of the gate marking the third significant outcry from the crowd that evening. The instrumentation was captivating and the guitars sounded out in unison and Jeff tickled the keys. The music then transitioned into "Fire on The Mountain," the obvious next piece to the equation. Warren's vocals resonated throughout the large stadium style venue, with the sweet harmonies of the chorus entering the picture to sooth our souls. The combination of "Scarlet>Fire" was easily one of the highlights of the evening.
The show continued on with a rock heavy/gritty "Rollin' & Tumblin'." Once again I found myself lost in the gutar work of Warren Haynes and John Scofield, though it was impossible to overlook Joe Russo on drums. Joe was the driving force behind the train that rolled into the station on time with every attempted execution. The sweet sounds of "Cryptical Envelopement" followed as the band transitioned into a vocally guided melody from Phil, before charging into the blues heavy "Magic Bus." There was no shortage of energy or holding back from the band as they progressed through some really interesting arrangements. "The Other One" hit triggering motion in the audience and several flashes of the lights.
"This was the kind of material that we had come for," I thought as the second set unfolded with excitement and power. the band sounded extremely tight, unlike a few of the "post-Dead" projects that have been outputting music recently. Phil & friends brought a freshness to the music of the Grateful Dead and an unpredictability that many of the other Dead projects have failed to achieve. The music opened up completely in the middle of "The Other One" and spaciness ensued before resolving to the main riff of the song, back into another obscure groove. I was impressed and stimulated by the music as it spiraled towards the signature melody.
"The Other One" went into a perfectly timed "Wharf Rat." Looking around I could see people hugging, smiling and feeling good. Phil & Friends did a fantastic job of creating a musical journey for those in attendance, with the peaks and valleys of their jams. Prior to the show, I stated that it would be great to hear a "Help>Slipknot>Franklin's" and indeed that's what the excited crowd got to close the second set. However, I was not in attendance, as Carly and I had left just prior to assist a client and cover a second show that night in Denver. Listening back on the recording, it sounds like we may have missed another of the evening's highlights. The guitar jams on "Slipknot" were intense and Phil dropped bass bombs for the adoring fans! Closing the set with "Franklin's Tower" was just about perfect, leaving the fans craving more from the mixed group of musical powerhouses.
The 1st Bank Center erupted in appreciation as the band exited the stage. Phil returned for a word with the crowd thanking them before seguing into the "Donor Rap." The band gave the crowd one final offering in the form of "Not Fade Away." As the evening came to a close, the band slowly got quieter until they completely stopped playing. At that moment, the final magic of the evening was made with the crowd taking over with organized clapping and communal singing.
"You know our love will not fade away... You know our love will not fade away..."
What a beautiful end to a beautiful evening.
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