If a man is measured by his friends, Phil Lesh is a giant.
Thursday’s reunion of Phil and Friends – the first for Colorado in five years – at the resonant 1stBank Center proved that. With jazz luminary John Scofield fueling introspective riffs and furious Joe Russo commandeering rhythm, the thunderous Lesh captained an all-star throwdown Thursday.
From Warren Haynes’ discoed “Shakedown Street” opener to Jackie Greene’s take on the Who’s “Magic Bus” to Scofield’s opulent adornment of “Fire” and “Wharf Rat,” Lesh culled some rich jamming from his friends with subtle-to-fiery dollops of deep end.
Piercing through three guitarist’s watch-this showmanship was Russo’s vicious drumming. The Grateful Dead employed two drummers to hammer dense rhythms on songs like “Fire.” Russo – his sticks a blinding whir of superfluity – should be earning double pay each night.
As Scofield eased into a jazzy spin through Haynes’ moving reincarnation of Jerry’s “Standing on the Moon,” Russo’s explosive detonations prodded the guitar maestro into an ascendant riff that quickly enticed the entire crew into a six-way crusher. “Standing,” with Haynes crooning “Somewhere in Colorado” at the song’s apex, saw the soulful Haynes and jazz-centric Scofield jamming in unexpected unison, a rarity for the night.
Haynes, a stalwart by Lesh’s side whether the band be Furthur or Friends, can rock the Jerry riffs like few others. Scofield, who last sat in the Phil’s circle of pals back in 2006, often serves as more of a horn section, dropping occasional yet transcendent melodies atop Haynes and Greene’s bluesy licks. It seemed difficult for the two sounds to truly merge, with Scofield either forcing blues (like in fallen Dead keyman Brent Mydland’s “Just a Little Light”) or Haynes awkwardly venturing into a jazz odyssey in “The Other One.”
In Jerry’s tender “Wharf Rat,” Haynes and Scofield found common ground under Jeff Chimenti’s ripe keywork, not quite marrying their riffs but overlapping each other’s elastic jams. But shortly after Lesh steered them into a supremely funky “Slipknot!” and a crushing “Franklin’s Tower,” the jazz-blues duo were in lockstep, tickling each other’s feathery jams with their own sounds.
Closing the show with his well-worn but appreciated speech on the importance of becoming an organ donor, Lesh, who is alive thanks to a 1998 liver transplant, said 1stBank was “a great sounding place.” Fronting a 10-foot bass stack, Lesh’s sound was cavernous Thursday, driven by a furious drummer and peppered with spice from two virtuosos on guitar. With two more nights – tickets are still for sale – Phil and Friends’ one-off stand in Broomfield seems on track for one of the crew’s best.
Pride Of Cucamonga
Doin’ That Rag
Standing On The Moon
Just A Little Light
Fire On The Mountain
Rollin’ And Tumblin’>
The Other One>
Help On The Way>
Not Fade Away
*1st Rollin’ And Tumblin’
Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.