Finally. Feels like I slept for about 100 hours. 'Tis a brand new day and if I had my way, 'twould now be the start of a brand new week, as well... I mean seriously, weekend should mean the END OF THE WEEK. Right? Yet the weekend -- Saturday and Sunday -- is not the end of the week. What's up with that? Helllooooooo? WeekEND?! Am I the only one who's bothered by someone's foolishness in naming the weekend the weekend?
Yeah, annnnnnnyway, morning means coffee. Morning usually means Sportscenter... but this morning it's time for some Phil & Bobby. I gave this a listen a few days ago but with every show, I like to give it a listen as I type it up, too. That's why my review/comments blends tenses -- the show happened in the past but when I give it a listen, it's always like it's never even happened; there's where the present tense sometimes shows itself. And never can I just listen once and write it up later. Foolish! Gotta absorb it, let the music take me over, get lost in it, dig it, feel it, groove to it... and then do that all over again.
Phil & Friends
April 20, 1998
San Francisco, California
A Benefit For
The Unbroken Chain Foundation
Phil & Bobby
Bruce Hornsby & Branford Marsalis
Stan Franks: lead guitar
John Molo: drums
Minglewood Blues, Friend Of The Devil, Wang Dang Doodle,
High Time, West L.A. Fadeaway -» Jam -» Space -» Bird Song,
Box Of Rain -» Imagine
China Cat Sunflower -» I Know You Rider, Masterpiece,
Revolution, Hell In A Bucket -» Jam -» The Other One -»
U.S. Blues, Cassidy, Morning Dew, Touch Of Grey
Like A Rolling Stone
Is this really a Phil show? 'Tis, 'tis indeed. But look at the lineup. Some dude named Bob Weir on rhythm guitar and vocals. Interesting... another appearance just like with the debut of Phil Lesh & Friends a couple months before. Bobby was not in the band for the previous show, in March, but here he is again on the 3rd ever Phil & Friends show. (Sheesh, what a Rockstar Wannabe mic hog. Doesn't he have his own band?!)
Right from Note 1, this night would be yet another phul with phirsts for Phil. It had been over 2½ years since he'd been a part of a Minglewood Blues. I can only imagine the smile on his face laying down those bass lines so familiar to him. The theme of reintroduction remained with Friend Of The Devil. Bobby had busted out FOTD on the Furthur Festival the summer before but here it takes on new life. No lead vocals by Bob... he has handed over the reigns to his good friend Phil so he can make it one of his own (afterall, this is Phil & Friends!) But while Phil does a nice job with it -- Branford!! ... wow!! I've got few words for how great this version is because of his part in it. Jerry has sung this so many times so incredibly well, has even made it the highlight of many a mediocre show... but Branford gives this song life like I've never heard before and the crowd is with me on this... they are diggin' it just as much as I am. (Lucky bastards.) I usually listen to a show straight through, no skipping, no replaying certain parts, but here I just replayed Friend Of The Devil again because... ohhhh -- So sweet!
Reflecting upon the countless Grateful Dead and Ratdog shows I have heard in the past, Wang Dang Doodle is not a song that I can recall ever wowing me. Not that it's a bad tune... it was always just quick 1st Set Bobby filler and so I expected some more of that here. I couldn't have been more wrong. It starts out normal enough and they amble along like so many times before, well, like Phil & Bobby together have, and to a lesser extent, Bruce, too. Stan Franks, guitarist with the David Murray Octet, adds in nicely here and there, as does Bruce and Branford. The whole band is groovin' this away pretty nicely. Then around the time when the Grateful Dead usually had this wrapped up and onto the next song, Branford steps up, takes the lead, and for quite awhile here he made this his song, almost. With everyone playing off him the rhythm slowly builds ultimately into the crowd acknowledging this wave that just overtook them out of nowhere. This was not your normal Wang Dang Doodle, that's for sure.
Some bittersweet new territory again follows. It's been awhile since anyone's heard a live High Time but here it is. The crowd got so quiet and so intent, it seems, on just listening to Phil pay tribute to Jerry. With Bob and Bruce up there, this really is pretty special. I wish I knew what effect this had on Phil and his thoughts about the song because after this first playing since Jerry, it would be over 6 years before anyone would hear it again, not until "The Dead" played it a few times in the summer of 2004! That's a heckuv an absence.
Yet another pretty interesting moment came at the end of West L.A. Fadeaway. The band was right there just a note away, right on the absolute verge of ending the song, when it's like Bobby maybe turned to Phil and then Molo within the span of a second, motioning to them and saying, "Give me a beat," and with that Bob was able to keep the song alive, taking it briefly into what could be described as a West L.A. Reprise kinda deal. This was weird and very cool at the same time. That quickly wound down into a Jam which devolved even more into just a loose Space, each over the course of 6 or 7 minutes. There was a hint or two of the next song but not enough to really call it Bird Song yet... but sure enough they got there with ease. As I'm listening to it right now... it's nice, Branford, and this is one he's quite familiar with, gives the crowd another spot where the crowd really appreciates the music here. Bob sings it alright... but this is the first time when Jerry's absence is really makin' me sigh a bit. Just not the Bird Song with Branford that so many Deadheads know from the past. It's still nice but... just not the same... but then again, this isn't the same as it used to be, is it?
After Bird Song comes to an end, Phil steps to the mic and dedicates "these next couple of songs to Paul and Linda McCartney." Sadly, Linda had just passed away days before this. I don't know if the guys knew the McCartneys... but they've sure been a part of many of John, Paul, George, and Ringo's songs through the years. Box Of Rain was the first of the two, as purely Phil as it gets, and then it's Imagine, a John Lennon song, that's part of the two-fer dedicated to Paul & Linda. I'm not a Beatlesologist by any means but that doesn't seem to make sense to me because Imagine wasn't even a Beatles song. That's a Yoko Ono era song. Hmmmm... well, in any case, the crowd seemed to like it and it's not bad but methinks ya wanna close the 1st Set on a high note and that was not it. Perhaps if Linda hadn't just passed away, they wouldn't have ended with that so this was a special occasion and for that reason, it gets a pass.
Set 2 rolls ahead with both Bruce and Branford adding nicely to China Cat and Phil, like he did on Show #1, takes Jerry's vocals on Rider. There's some nice momentum and everyone's working on all cylinders to make this much-loved combo a pretty good start to the rest of the night. Masterpiece, though, slows it all down. Pretty standard version before they mix things up a little bit more with some more John Lennon, this time Lennon/McCartney with Revolution... but not a Revolution that Deadheads are used to. This one's definitely more on the bluesier side than a GD show encore. Stan Franks really helps that along with some scorching guitar here, probably one of his two or three loudest moments of the night.
More mixing it up, sort of, with Bucket in this really weird spot in the show. For the most part, at least through most of the tune, this is about as close to the GD as it gets. Franks here also lights it up like you wouldn't believe. Holy cow. And because of Branford, this also sounds close to Ratdog in the Dave Ellis era. Despite its odd placement in the show, twas still pretty nicely played. At the end, both Bobby & Phil led the way into a cool little Jam with, again, some hints of what's to come. The knowledgeable ear surely picked up notes of The Other One which was perhaps the highpoint of Set 2.
Out of O1 comes something absolutely out of the blue -- U.S. Blues. First time played for this one, post-Jerry, I do believe. Phil led the way on vocals and it really feels like he's havin' a fun time with it. And another rather strangely placed tune is up next -- Cassidy. Well, this one isn't so much, I guess, considering in the end of Ratdog shows is where Bobby put it most often in '97 and during the 1998 Spring Tour. It's just not where it usually fell in Dead shows... but once again, this ain't the Dead now is it? No, it sure isn't, especially with Phil singing Morning Dew. What a bizarre night, in a way... so many Jerry songs with no Jerry to be found. In 2007, or maybe even in 2000, this wouldn't be such a big deal, or as big of a deal as it is in '98. While Dew is really nice, even downright beautiful at times with Branford on sax, it's still... still a Jerry-less Dew and... bittersweet, new, a time of transition and still, even approaching three years after Jerry's death, still a time of healing and getting used to these new fangled versions which are so similar, and they've got Jerry's spirit, that's for sure... but not his sound exactly. Touch Of Grey to close out the set, I think, exemplifies that feeling the best and it also carried such a message to all of us -- We Will Get By. Jerry's gone... but We Will Survive.
Pretty cool 3rd show ever for Phil Lesh & Friends. I think back 'round this time he was still workin' into this new routine. He had a lot of it figured out, no problem, ya know... but now here was leading a band and a cast of players who often changed, so he had to learn to shift gears more easily than in the later years with the Dead. Of course, he is a pro and he'd been doing this music thing for awhile, and here with Bobby alongside, it was much easier. Still an interesting early time in the days of P&F.
One last note -- Bruce Hornsby on piano/keyboards? Really? The strangest part of this show, I think, is the fact that Bruuuuuce had such a small part here. In almost three hours of music, there were very few moments where he shined. Even when he took the lead for a minute or so here, a minute or so there, that's all it was, very brief and on top of that, he didn't sing a lick except for backing vocals. Branford, on the other hand, he was seemingly prominent throughout the show, on practically every song and so very important to the sound of the band on this night. Absolutely way on the other end of the spectrum that Bruce was on. Still, though, I really dig this "older" Phil stuff. It doesn't get the attention that the Warren Haynes era gets, or the most recent shows. But hey, to me, in its own way, it's all freakin' pretty sweet!
sound quality: whew, almost Smokin' hot!
Audience noise is low and each instrument is nearly crystal clear.
When you can pick out Bob's rhythm guitar with no problem on an Aud,
like you can here, that's often some really good sound!
for both listening and downloading. Enjoy!