Phil Lesh & Friends bring down the house
Former bassist of the legendary Grateful Dead closed out the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater’s 2021 summer season Friday night
The audience at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater welcomed Phil Lesh & Friends with electrified cheers as soon as the band took the stage Friday night, and crowd enthusiasm only continued to intensify throughout the nearly three hours they performed.
As one Facebook follower commented about Friday’s Vail show on Phil Lesh & Friends’ page: “The raw energy alone is worth the price of admission.”
The show opened with Stu Allen’s strong vocals taking Jerry’s role in “Rubin and Cherise.” Facebook fan Tim Ederer was right on when he commented that Allen “can sound a lot like Jerry, but he definitely got his own thing going on.” In the second tune, Lesh’s son, Grahame Lesh, skillfully took on Bob Weir’s “Cassidy.” Then the entire band brought down the house with “Brown-Eyed Women.” Keyboardist Holly Bowling garnered a ton of applause and shout-outs with her totally-in-the-zone jam, followed by Grahame Lesh’s spotlight on guitar midway through the tune.
True to Dead tradition, Phil Lesh & Friends took the audience on a deep and textured musical journey all night. It delivered slow, soulful grooves with tunes like “It Must Have Been the Roses,” “Jack Straw,” “Unbroken Chain” and “Here Comes Sunshine,” brought up the tempo with harmonic tunes like “Peggy-O,” “They Love Each Other” and “Not Fade Away” (the latter of which had audiences clapping in unison for a great community feel) and started Deadhead dance frenzies with songs like “Playing in the Band.” Throughout the night, musicians fed on the crowd’s energy, and vice versa, creating a genuinely magical show; a waxing moon rising, colorful light display and blooming flowers and evergreens in the background simply added to the musical journey.
Lesh continues to deliver energetic shows, with masterful musicians backing him. Each tune morphed into extended psychadelic jams typical of Dead shows, showcasing individual artists, as well as the band as a whole. As fans commented on his Facebook page, Phil’s “voice sounds great.” The 81-year-old “hasn’t lost a step.”
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“Phil still continues to be the man that carries on that Grateful Dead magic,” Joe Kaiser commented. “Lots of decent bands have come along since Garcia passed, but Phil — he’s the only one that could capture that improv magic for me.”
Through it all, longtime Phil & Friends drummer John Molo — nicknamed “Mount Molo” to describe his volcanic drumming power — kicked it, and in the end, gave a shoutout to the legendary Charlie Watts.
After closing out the second set with “Lady with a Fan,” “Terrapin Station” and “Morning Dew,” the audience gave Phil Lesh & Friends a well-deserved standing ovation. “Ripple” was an apt ending, leaving feel-good Dead vibes to fill the air.
“This is one of the most lovely places I’ve played,” Lesh said at the end of the show, indicating a likelihood that he’d return to the venue if the opportunity arose.