Live review: Phil Lesh and Friends @ the 1stBank Center, Day 3

How’s that saying go? A rock guitarist plays three chords for thousands of people and a jazz guitarist plays thousands of chords for three people.

John Scofield bridged the rock-jazz gap Saturday at the 1stBank Center, hurling hunks of abstract jazz at every opportunity during the final and most crowded show of a memorable three-night Phil Lesh and Friends stand.

Where he lounged lazily on Friday, letting arena rocker Warren Haynes hog the limelight, Scofield on Saturday stepped up and delivered. Capable of capturing the entire house with his fluid if angular approach, the jazz luminary whirled around Haynes’ structured riffs in “Viola Lee Blues” and “Cumberland Blues,” danced with drummer Joe Russo’s inhuman hammering in “Cold Rain And Snow” and generally took charge.


Yet still, Scofield’s trademark Ibanez – a semi-acoustic tool he has employed for more than two decades with explosive, virtuosic tenacity – was left untouched for all three nights, sitting in its cradle unused and untapped while Scofield strummed a Strat.

Scofield’s composition-oriented style saw him ladling lengthy notes atop Haynes’ frenzied jamming – especially in the poignant “He’s Gone” – developing a rich backdrop that band leader Lesh and Russo explored with ruthless vigor.

After a first set of Scofield-driven carousing, Lesh cranked his cacophonous carousel to 11 early in the second set, his shattering bass lines pealing through “St. Stephen” and stirring Scofield into an “Age of Aquarius” rambling that became one of the band’s finest segues into the “The Eleven.”

“The Eleven” saw Haynes and Scofield finally – in their sixth set of music in three days – working as equals, trading and building on each other’s brief exploratory licks.

Following Haynes’ beautiful and unexpected “Layla” – in which Jackie Green took the guitar role of Eric Clapton while Haynes’ guitar wailed under his glass-fingered slide – the two guitarists again united in “Birdsong.”

Scofield’s unique phrasing darted and weaved around Haynes’ building riff in “Birdsong” as Russo powered through an orchestral, dense rhythm. Lesh backpedaled toward his 10-foot bass stack, leaning his lanky frame closer to Russo, as if hoping to absorb the drummer’s intensity.

After Haynes’ indulgent “Stella Blue,” Scofield found his final footing for the memorable three-night stand in “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad,” peppering the traditional blues tune with hard-driving jazz licks that came off like a saxophone jam.

While Phil and Friends will never veer too far off the tried and true tracks laid decades ago during Lesh’s days in the deep end of the Grateful Dead, it is Scofield who can prod wandering that reinterprets accepted sounds and keeps us all coming back for more.

Set 1
Golden Road>
Viola Lee Blues>
Cumberland Blues
Friend Of The Devil
He’s Gone>
Cold Rain & Snow

Set 2
St. Stephen>jam
The Eleven>jam
Bird Song>
Uncle John’s Band>
Stella Blue
I Know You Rider
Going Down The Road Feeling Bad
Attics Of My Life

E: Box Of Rain

Full review and photos of Day 1
Full review and photos of Day 2

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Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.

Candace Horgan is a Denver freelance writer/photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. When not writing and shooting, she plays guitar and violin in Denver band Black Postcards.