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Published: 2001/12/09
by Dan Alford

Phil Lesh and Friends, The Beacon, NYC- 12/1

Set I: Jam > Alabama Getaway, Tennessee Jed, Patchwork
Quilt > Jam > Mason's Children > Jam > Low Spark Jam >
Mountains of the Moon > Night of a Thousand Stars
Set II: Acadian Driftwood > Uncle John's Band > Deal,
Shakedown > Low Spark Jam > Viola Lee Blues > Other
One > Viola Lee Blues > Sugaree > Viola Lee Blues
E: Mountain Jam * > GDTRFB * > Mountain Jam * > GDTRFB *

  • w/ Dickey Betts

The crowd gathered for Saturday's show was eager to
get started, but the band didn't take the stage until
about 8:30. I was stuck with loge seats but as
pleasantly surprised by the sound quality. The Beacon
is unquestionably the quirkiest venue in the Big
Apple. There are literally eddies of sound where a
given band member is favored or disappears from the
mix entirely. There are spots below the loge where
two feet to the left or right makes all the
difference. Case in point, on Friday I was to the
right of the soundboard and heard a nice mix balance
between Jimmy and Warren, but friends who had sixth
row seats on the left side heard all Warren and Rob,
but little from Jimmy. On Saturday one of those
friends was behind the soundboard for the first set
and heard lots of Jimmy, but little Warren. He joined
us in the loge for set two, as it was the best mix I
heard on the run. Beyond that, the crowd was
friendly, and included some heads I had met the
previous night. Talk while interesting and lively
during breaks and before the show, but nonexistent
during the performance- a perfect group of fans.

The positive vibe lessened the disappointment in the
first set, which was uneventful for the most part. A
Bucket-ish jam into Alabama, a stand alone Tennessee
Jed and a not-quite inspiring Patchwork Quilt all left
me wanting more.

The jam out of the Garcia eulogy, however, cast out a
wide net. A loose approach allowed the music to wander
through calm wetlands, tuffs of flowers and cool
springs speckling the ground. Warren played the first
of the evening's many Dark Star teases as the band
gradually positioned itself for Mason's Children. The
song was lively, with intense playing all around,
raising the energy of the set to a new level and
foreshadowing the second set. A pretty jamlet exited
the last verse, like a brief sunset. Rob began to
play Low Spark and Warren answered the call quite
clearly. The pair flushed out the scene, while their
band mates reinforced their work, allowing the sound
to resonate like images in a sweet opiate fog. But
Phil pulled away and quickly settled into Mountains of
the Moon.

Normally it would have been a welcome destination, and
it was a beautiful version, nestled in the brush as it
was, but it was not Low Spark and the tease was too
sure to leave without hesitation. A short stroll in
the Blue Mountains grounded the music and a Golden
Road tease preceded Night of a Thousand Stars. Again,
it's a good song, but not Golden Road.

The second set was much stronger than the first, being
comprised of two distinct suites. The first was an
Americana section, with a warm, welcoming mood.
Arcadian Driftwood, sung in alternating verses by Rob
and Warren, had an easy upstate feel, like The Weight
or Lazy River Road- very enjoyable. Moving into the
second Uncle John's Band of the run, Rob gracefully
maneuvered over the 88, spiraling around Warren and
Jimmy's running rhythms. The intro stretched away and
away until Molo burst into a full gallop that rode
into the song proper. Like Monday's version, it was
moving at full speed, pouring energy off the stage.
The jam began with Warren sliding wah lines in
conjunction with Rob's percussive piano playing, the
vibrations spreading until the whole band was shooting
out in different but complimentary directions. The
sound quickly eased into a goofy prowl conducted by
Warren's squirrelly guitar and moved by the combined
forces of Phil and Molo. The leslied notes
aggressively slid down descending lines, finally
resting on a long ridge. Deal competed the triad, a
song made for Phil's distinctive vocals; he doesn't
have to try to sing this one as he does others.

The second suite was more aggressive, more rock n roll
in nature. It was just right for the Saturday night
crowd. Shakedown began loudly, getting a big cheer,
but Phil quickly pulled the thick jam down and the Low
Spark motif resurfaced. After the second set 11 the
night before, it seemed like a sure thing, but again
it drifted away. It was a brutal tease that cut to
the core and had many in my area hanging on to hope
for the rest of the set. It did, however, give way to
the always welcome explosion of Viola Lee Blues.
Warren's power chords contrasted nicely with Jimmy's
nimble notes, leading into the first verse. After the
short vocal bed, the guitarists echoed each other
flawlessly, Jimmy tracing Warren's wake before they
switched roles. Organ bubbles popped from the center
of the sound as the jam swelled and contracted and
swelled again in a protean flux that spewed out a
fiery Other One. Swirling, crazed forms materialized
from nowhere and faded away, creating shadowy layers
straight through the middle section. Warren unleashed
a terrifying solo on the return to the second verse.
Throughout this run of shows, Warren's straight solos
were repeatedly his strongest moments. During the
jams, he seemed to favor rhythm and special effects
rather than leads.

With another bloated contortion, the Quintet was off
again, charging into the second verse of Viola Lee
Blues, and departing for a waxy, drippy space in
mercurial fashion. Strange chittering creatures
called from the darkened recesses and Phil slid down
his heavy strings, rending the bedrock asunder. Near
the end of the long segment Warren set to work on
another extended Dark Star tease.

A powerhouse Sugaree had Phil digging deeply as Jimmy
climbed over Warren's slide latticework. A duel
sectioned jam ensued, again swelling to the breaking
point before returning to Viola Lee for the final
time. The crowd welcomed the closure with great
cheers and Jimmy was all smiles as the band worked out
a reggae tone to close- a fine, explosive set.

As the techs pulled out an extra monitor and mic
stand, everyone in my section began tossing out names:
Derek, Susan Tedeschi, Jorma, Mike, Trey, Greg Osby.
Even though the guy next to me pointed out the
Allman's manager during the set break, no one could
have guessed that Dickey Betts would be the guest.
Looking rather clean cut, with tucked shirt and
cropped hair, he joined the band, reaching across to
shake Warren's hand. Everyone was Phillin' the love!

The group rolled into a short, loose Mountain Jam.
Dickey sounded great, even swapping lines with Warren
for a bit before they nailed the theme. Jimmy sat
back, strumming rhythm for the entire encore, letting
the extra Allman alum deal out the leads with Warren.
Phil redirected the jam, heading straight for GDTRFB.
He called Dickey over and asked him to sing a verse.
His vocals were low in the mix, but he got a cheer
anyway. Betts had his back to crowd both before and
after his verse- he seemed almost nervous, but
certainly held his own. To finish, they quickly
reprised Mountain Jam and worked through Goodnight
coda from GDTRFB. It was nothing less than stunning!
Dickey and Warren sharing the stage again- it could
only happen at the Beacon.

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