Saturday, May 17, 2008

Buzzing off the Phil Lesh shows

Phil Lesh is covering Grateful Dead albums in order, as part of his farewell to the Warfield shows...

Here's a report I filed for Premiere Radio network....All I can say here is that the Workingman's Dead/American Beauty show was so good, so focused, so well played and adventurous, that I want to be a Deadhead again. It was some of the most joyful music I've heard in decades.

I'll be back Sunday....with a video....dying to see whether they play all albums in order, or skip to just the studio ones.

Also, I had written about Jackie Greene years ago from a singer/songwriter festival at Villa Montalvo, in Saratoga. Nice to see him taking on this role. I knew he'd be big and he really has been the best thing to happen to Phil and Friends in years.

Bands have recently gone back to play entire old albums live (Roger Waters with "Dark Side of the Moon," for example)--but the Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh took it to the limit this week, revisiting the Dead's LP career in order for a week. Friday night was the first time in four decades that Deadheads knew exactly what to expect next, as Lesh and friends covered "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty," the two 1970 albums that helped bring the jam band into the mainstream, with tightly-focused country rock songs and big radio hits such as "Casey Jones" and "Truckin'.'" Of course the band stretched them like Silly Putty. They sped up the "driving that train/high on cocaine" line faster and faster to close out "Casey Jones." Guest Teresa Williams led an almost a cappella "Attics of my Life" and sparked some of the best singing in Dead memory. Lesh's band included Larry Campbell on guitar, violin and pedal steel, John Molo on drums Steve Molitz on keyboards and Sacramento singer-songwriter Jackie Green, who does a great job channeling the voices of both Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia on vocals, piano and guitar. They were joined on songs he recorded with the band originally by David Nelson, of the New Riders of the Purple Stage. Guitarist Mark Karan joined them Wednesday night, as they played "Aoxomoxoa" and "Live Dead," and Weir guested Tuesday for 1967's debut "The Grateful Dead" and 1968's "Anthem of the Sun." The five-night set, spread over six days, ended Sunday and marked the closing of San Francisco's Warfield Theater, which was being taken over by AEG, after being operated for more than 30 years by Bill Graham Presents and Live Nation. The Dead collectively and in offshoot bands were the musicians who played the most shows at the theater, including a long 1981 run that was recorded for two LP's. Crowds outside the 2,200 seat theater were as thick as those inside. Deadheads set up a marketplace along San Francisco's Market Street and danced to recorded band tunes.

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