It doesn't really seem like it was 9½ years ago that Phil started his "band." There was quite awhile there after Jerry's death when it was just Bobby, for the most part. Mickey was on the '96 Furthur Festival tour. Bruce helped out both '96 and '97. Ratdog was rollin' and tumblin' their way into many a Deadhead's heart, fillin' a void that needed to be filled in some really big way... at least in some way. Nothing could replace Jerry and the Dead but we still needed music! Then along comes Phil back into the picture!
The Fillmore, San Francisco
Hard To Handle -» Cissy Strut -» Hard To Handle,
Astral Weeks, Jack-A-Roe, True Blue,
Blue Sky, To Love Somebody, Cosmic Charlie
Broken Arrow, Golden Days,
Baba O'Riley -» Tomorrow Never Knows -»
A Love Supreme Jam -» Dark Star Jam -»
Gimme Some Lovin' -» Dark Star Jam -»
Days Between -» Dark Star Jam -» Box Of Rain
It's All Too Much, Ripple
Gary Lambert on guitar
Stan Franks on guitar
Bobby Strickland on sax
Scott Amendola on drums
Just a month before this show, Phil stepped back into the limelight for the first time, really, since the Summer of 1995 -- Soldier Field. He played a few shows since with David Gans and the Broken Angels. Headlined a Christmastime Philharmonia concert or two. Had guest appearances with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Bruce Hornsby, and Ratdog to name the few. But now it was time for something new. Here, a month after the first show, Phil is back with a mostly fresh lineup and almost a whole new batch of tunes.
It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall overhearing the discussion of what would be played this night. How on Earth did the show opener get chosen?! While the band was tuning up, as the crowd was eager for the show to start, who in the audience had any clue what was to come? A song not played by the Grateful Dead in 27 years? Yeah, right. Low and behold -- Alligator. Whoa. Alright, now this isn't Jerry up there, there's no Pigpen, no Weir... but Alligator was being played by a member of the band for the first time in 27 years. That's freakin' cool.
Hard To Handle to follow really set the tone to a nice level of groovy, funky and jazzy. Phil was often right near front and center on bass, probably up there enjoyin' playin' again and maybe even workin' on shakin' off any rust from them strings and outta them old bones. Lotta shows to play after this one! This was just the beginning of workin' on puttin' this whole Phil Lesh & Friends thing together.
Another sweet surprise came with Blue Sky. Maybe not even close to the best version ever sung, or the best version ever played... but it was oh so cool to have Phil singin' that. An absolute crowd pleaser with yet another immediately following. To Love Somebody is a song by, of all people, The Bee Gees... but it's been covered by many, many artists since then including Waylon Jennings and Rita Marley. I've never heard it before but this was some great island reggae, mon. Wow. Very, very cool!
At its end, without wasting any time at all, another delicious present in the form of Cosmic Charlie, the first in 21½ years. Come on now, Alligator to open the show and Cosmic Charlie to close the set??! Why couldn't you do this a few years before??? Not fair! Not fair!
While these "break-outs" were pretty wild and the music was a mostly jammin' fun time, nothing to this point really knocked me on my butt. It was, though, an excellent nearly hour and a half-long set of music. Many times I just smiled smiled smiled... probably a smile so bright, ya know I coulda been a candle. Ha... now onto Set 2.
I've never been a big fan of sets starting with slow numbers but to start the 2nd Set was Robbie Robertson's Broken Arrow, a tune the Dead had started to play in their last couple of years. Phil's catalog of songs he sang was a rather short one but I guess he wanted to dust this one off. I just think it woulda worked better elsewhere in the show.
Vince was up next with his song, Golden Days, a tribute to Jerry. This had a very spacey-kinda intro but the song itself in show-form doesn't quite have the same impact as the Robert Hunter composition, Down The Road. I'm sure it was still a treat for Vince to sing it. Jerry was a big part of his life and he missed him dearly. Probably so much so it later killed him. But a good time he had on this night, that's for sure!
More later-years GD, sort of, and more Vince with The Who's Baba O'Riley into The Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows. As a Dead encore, I used to love this! They blew it out of the water on most nights. Here with Phil and these guys it wasn't bad. The band played around a lot differently than a straight-forward run-through. They gave it room to jam and make some noise which was sweet. A Love Supreme Jam probably most people didn't even notice which went into, oh, and this was awesome, a Dark Star Jam. Phil led the way so perfectly, as if this was the Dead and Jerry was up there, too. Bobby Stickland on sax really filled in some of those empty spaces while Vince, at times, did just about as great as Keith or Brent ever did. All the while Phil steered the ship straight on through to Gimme Some Lovin'. Brent really could let loose on this one. It was retired with his death, except for one last finale on 9-15-90 (Bruce's first show?) Not since then has it been played. While not truly a Dead song, it was loved by many so this is another gem brought back to life.
From rockin' and rollin' the band descended into depths not really done by the Dead in a very long time. Back into a Dark Star Jam, Phil took this one way back into his past by way of outer space and back, almost reminscent of the years 1969 and 70. Whew. So easily it slid forth and transitioned into what could only be considered a tribute to Jerry, Days Between. Mmm. The crowd fell into such silence with Phil at the mic and as I listen again right now, for the third time in a couple days, it's bringing a tear to my eye.
"Gave the best we had to give
How much we'll never know
We'll never know"
Jerry, on most occasions, made that such a beautiful new song. Now by Phil -- powerful. And meaningful even more so. His very first time live and he nailed the crap out of it... then worked some more magic with a nice little jammy end that moved yet again into a third and final Dark Star Jam. Such fantastic new territory! Ahhhh.
And to finish up the set, a familiar favorite -- Box Of Rain. Lyrically with this song, Phil was perfectly comfortable and so perfectly in his groove for the first time all night. That's not to say the previous two and a half hours were sloppy and not well done. Au contraire... it's just that this is BOX OF RAIN!!!!!! There couldn't be a better way to finish!
Truly that could've ended the night and folks woulda walked out into the Haight on quite a high. But there were two more songs before it was really finished: the first encore had Vince singing It's All Too Much, a '95 addition to the GD's rotation, and then Phil got the crowd involved at the end of Ripple. It was clear he was really into it and to get the crowd singing along was absolutely the best way to put a capper on this extraordinary evening at The Fillmore. One more thing from Phil:
Recorded by Jill & Rob Rightmyer... Thanks!!!
Phil & Friends 3/26/98 is @ Archive.org
for your downloading and listening pleasure.