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Published: 2001/05/21
by Dan Alford

Phil and Friends- Roseland Ballroom, NYC 4/30

Set I: Jam > Soulshine > Jam > Pride, Wharf Rat > Jam
> FOTD > St. Stephen > Golden Road
Set II: Bird Song > Jam > Night of 1000 Stars,
Terrapin > Jam > Help > Slip > 11 > Slip > Franklin's
E: Stella Blue > Box of Rain

The Phil Lesh Quintet, as the band has been dubbed by
many, finished up the Here Comes Sunshine Tour with a
Monday night show at Roseland. As with any sold out
show at Roseland, it was packed and clearly oversold.
While this upset many, for those who frequent GA
venues in Manhattan, it was par for the course and
offered little unexpected discomfort. The band had
reaped the rewards of the road, working some of the
more exacting turns with practiced ease. That being
said, this wasn't the best show I've seen. I simply
wasn't "feelin' it" for most of the first set, despite
the excellent sound quality and abundance of free form
jamming. As Ducky said, sometimes it's just hard to
get up for a Monday night show.

The opening jam was really a triptych. The first
panel was aggressive and intense, with Molo pounding
hard on the skins and Phil climbing a staircase to
nowhere. The pieces eventually fell into place and
started to groove before sliding into a Dark Star
vibe. Warren sliced sideways, stirring the sound with
a hint of Eleanor Rigby. The final panel was a nice
reggae piece that plainly announced Soulshine. Warren
had a nice solo, Rob padding it with the organ. Jimmy
joined for the last bit to create a nice ending that
wound down into a lonely jam, Warren still in the
lead. Delicate drums and focused playing from the
keys gave way to solid work from Phil. The following
jamlet was more playful, as Warren hit short lines
before arriving at Pride of Cucamonga. This was a big
let down for me, since I see this tune as little more
than a novelty- one that gets old fast. But to my
surprise it was actually well done, with quick stops
and a nice blues charge. The whole section was
somewhere near 35 minutes.

The intro to Wharf Rat was very spacey without hiding
the song. Candace had great lights on the ceiling- a
hundred schools of fish. The song had sublime
moments, particularly after the "fly away" verse, when
Warren stretched a massively long solo. It climaxed
by charging headlong into an Other One tease. The
ensuing tunnel jam was decorated with descending lines
that fell into place as a furious Mind Left Body Jam.
Not as silky smooth as a 73, it was greeted warmly by
the masses nonetheless.

FOTD rolled along nicely but the segue jam was where I
first really tapped in. Folds of light and sound
began to unravel and an ecstatic St. Stephen was
uncovered. The band was again playing incredibly
tight, a rhythmic machine. During the down beat
section, Warren took advantage of the opportunity and
led the way into a short Good Times, Bad Times jam.
It was a fun moment, getting a big cheer. Warren sang
a line from the last verse as the band headed back
into Stephen. Closing the set was a neat Golden Road
that left a little more room than usual in the middle. Phil was thumpin' like Jack Cassady, clearly enjoying
himself.

Before the second set, Warren teased Freebird. The
band was definitely letting it go tonight, enjoying
itself. Birdsong was great right from the start, nice
and warm- an opiate dream. The midsection dipped into
an underground river, the sound speeding up and
eddying behind rocks. This was a real exercise in the
versatility of having only one drummer. Molo was able
to turn corners and spin in circles with ease;
something a pair, for all its power, could never do.
The river eventually bubbled up in a garden of strange
colors- some truly fine music being made.

The transition jam was focused forward with Jimmy and
Warren pushing each other. Molo was really cooking
and forced it to boil over before tightening into a
pretty jamlet featuring Jimmy. Night of 1000 Stars
was nice. Despite the psychedelic name, it is a real
rocker. It is laden with lyrics, reminding me of a
John Popper tune (an affect enhanced by Warren's
vocals), and has a great bridge. There is a line
about "drums in the jungle" at which Molo lit up. At
the end Phil said, "Thanks. We like that one too."

On Lady with a Fan Jimmy really shined. There is
something incredibly refreshing about his straight
forward, clean playing. He is a perfect foil for
Warren's excess of FX. Rob's piano worked to
accentuate Jimmy's sound, drawing out specific notes.
Phil came through stronger on the climb to the
station, derailing the engine and putting it back on
track single handedly. Jimmy rode the crest into a
Terrapin with cool wood blocks, and a nice Middle
Eastern feel. The final jam swelled up into a runaway
train that could not cool down. It veered toward
Patchwork Quilt, but Molo stood up to make a call. A
full-blown Meltdown ensued, angular patterns existing
for only seconds at a time.

During Terrapin I turned around to see none other than
Mike Gordon standing right behind me. I shook his
hand and said "hi" before he headed into the
soundboard area. He stayed right up until Franklin's
and then headed backstage. Unfortunately, he didn't
take the stage for the encore. For that matter, I'm a
little surprised that Page didn't make an appearance.

The move from Help to Slip was marked with a huge bomb from Phil. The instrumental featured a blistering tunnel jam. Phil was coursing over heavy guitar chords, Warren eventually screaming out. A wild and furious jamathon! They rolled into The Eleven and rolled right back out without a second thought. Phil slowed it down and allowed yet another jamlet to burst forth. Rob pushed back to Slipknot and with another bomb the band was hauling through Franklin's. It was a longer version than others that I've heard from Phil and Friends line-ups. The encore was a soul-searing Stella Blue into the obligatory Box of Rain tour closer. As I said at the outset, it was not my favorite show, but it certainly featured some great moments. For more on Phil and Friends, check out my regular Tape Cases section that looks at the soundboard releases from the fall tour- http://www.jambands.com/Departments/TapeCases/content_2001_05_21.00.phtml

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