Sunday, March 20, 2016

Phil's 76th, part 2

Back through downtown Stamford and onto busy route 95 again, then through the narrow streets of Byram and the busy streets of Port Chester to our normal parking lot.  The proprietor was on duty this time and we had a nice chat with him, then took a detour over to a crowded Shakedown Corner.  Someone across the street was playing 1972-vintage music (Grateful Dead that is, of course).  One guy in front of us suddenly stopped, entranced by something he'd seen and said, "Somebody hold my dog so I can pat this one!"  Dave obliged.

Up to Kiosko and had a nice chat with our customary waitress, who had had the day off yesterday.  She brought us out the red sauce of death, I had another nice burrito with rich pork and a couple of Negra Modelos, and we watched Deadheads try to figure out the parking kiosk out the window (hey, maybe that's why it's called ...).

Down to the Cap, got an even more thorough pat-down this time, and then headed way up to row I of the left balcony, almost in the upper corner of the Cap.  But even there the sound was fantastic and the sight lines were fine.  We again could see Barraco very clearly, and though we couldn't quite see the details of the guitar players' fingerings, the sound was great and that's really what matters!

A loud and wacked Friday night crowd filled the seats, and the band finally came out, a bit later than they had Thursday.  Dave had done some work on setlists before our excursion, but we were a little at a loss as to what to predict at that point.  They had played a lot of the songs you might expect from a Lesh and Friends band on Tuesday (Help/Slipknot! (but not Franklin's), Shakedown, Viola Lee, Eyes, Terrapin, Dew, and they threw in an Eric Clapton song).  And then on Thursday they'd done more, like China Cat (but not Rider), Cosmic Charlie, Passenger, Mason's, TOO, St. Stephen, etc.  So let me see, what was left.  Well, Dark Star...

They opened with Dark Star!  They did a long, meandering introduction, but soon enough we realized what song they were playing, and then everyone in the theater realized that this was that song about ... oh you know, nothing less than the nature of reality itself and our place in the cosmos and time and stuff.  Here's the first set:

Dark Star > (all)
Again & Again (WH, RB)
New Speedway Boogie (WH, PL)
Sunshine of Your Love > (WH)
Broken Arrow (PL, WH)
End Of The Line > (WH)
Dark Star > (all)
I Know You Rider (PL, WH)
  • This was a deep space Dark Star, that threatened to fade away at times but then would blink back into existence, all the time dragging us faster and faster into it, until we could not even feel the speed with which we were rushing through space.  They did the modern vocal treatment, splitting the verses between the three vocalists.
  • And then suddenly they were in Again & Again, one of several songs from the record that that ensemble had done back in 2002 (There and Back Again).
  • And then of course Speedway; Phil loves playing this song, and Haynes' vocal was satisfyingly dark.
  • And then the unexpected, another Clapton song, Cream's Sunshine Of Your Love.  They did a short introduction to this for once, and it was clear early what song it was.  They then proceeded to jam the hell out of it though, wandering far off the reservation several times before coming back to finish it off.
  • And then another one we would not have predicted, Robbie Robertson's Broken Arrow, that Phil had recorded on his first solo record in 1999.  This is a one of those songs that I liked, but had never heard a great rendition of; but this cover was sure it, the song rocked!
  • Mentioned this yesterday, but there was some excellent musicianship going on on that stage.  Herring was ear-popping, an amazing lead guitarist ... we said, "How come they didn't get this guy for Fare Thee Well?"  He was never not playing, like Garcia used to do, and he could wring magic, blues, and spaciness out of any song.
  • But don't listen to just Herring, there were some other incredible players on the stage, don't you know.  To name one of them, Haynes seemed to take a bit to really warm up, but by the end of the night his guitar was on fire, especially when he was playing rhythm and Herring was twisting all around him.
  • And Barraco was as excellent on piano as I've ever heard him.  And again as mentioned yesterday, his vocals were excellent and the way his voice paired with Haynes (and Lesh) was sublime.
  • But enough of that.  Time for another Haynes song, End Of the Line, which he did when he was in the ABB.
  • And of course back into Dark Star for the last verse.  And then a prediction of mine, they closed China Cat (from the night before) the traditional way, with a folkie rave-up of I Know You Rider.
Yay!  That was fantastic and we'd survived the guys talking behind us in the Presidential Booth.  We'd first thought that the upper corner of the balcony would be a calm vantage point above the craziness that a rock concert can bring, but there was a constant stream of people stumbling up and down the stairs, arguing over seats, and bursting out with trivial conversations that they just couldn't hold in.  There were characters there, including some interesting ones in the row in front of us.  Oh well.

Took a bathroom break and considered another beer, but I was getting pretty worn out by that point!  The first set had started late and then had gone on for quite a while; these were long, thorough versions of those great songs.  It was already late by then, and we just knew that the second set would require some serious attention.  I'll have to admit that even so I had to sit down for parts of it ... my feet were getting seriously sore.  I *did* get a chance to see the Cap's smoking yard, but just for a short time.

The break was long, but finally the band came back out.  We had no idea what they were going to play, and that's the way they wanted it!  Here's the second set:

Unbroken Chain > (PL)
The Wheel > (all)
Cumberland Blues (all)
Uncle John's Band > (PL, WH)
No More Do I (WH, RB)
The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys > (WH)
Franklin's Tower (PL, WH)
  • Well that wasn't too hard to predict was it?  Of course they had to do Unbroken, and this was a drifting, ethereal cover with Phil barely whispering the lyrics at times.
  • And The Wheel had definitely been on Dave's list.  He'd never seen this done by a Phil/Bobby band before and this was a good one.
  • They'd teased Cumberland in the first set and I was very glad when they launched into it for good.  This is another song that Phil loves to play and as mentioned, to me it's one of the most vital Grateful Dead songs of them all.  As with Unbroken and Wheel though, they downplayed the lyrics a bit, almost forgetting the big finish ("Lot of poor man got the Cumberland Blues...").
  • But right after that they sure concentrated on the lyrics, doing another sparkling UJB!
  • No More Do I is another Lesh/Hunter song from the There and Back Again record, and as with Broken Arrow we found this one of the best versions we'd heard.  The guitar interplay between Haynes and Herring on this was jaw-dropping.
  • Another Traffic cover after that, with the band trying to deconstruct The Low Spark Of  High Heeled Boys into its most basic elements, and succeeding.  We were deep in the laboratory with the guys; Lesh was booming, shaking the rafters, Molo was hammering his kit into the floor, Barraco was surfing on the organ, and Haynes and Herring were screaming.
  • Time to end the set by winding up another little thing they'd left hanging.  They'd done Help/Slipknot! on Tuesday and closed Friday with a short but sweet Franklin's, with Phil singing the last few verses.
Again, yay!  We were totally exhausted, after pouring all of our energy into following every note from this amazing band.  I had to sit down again, but then Phil came back out and the crowd gave him an even louder and more extensive ovation than the day before.  He tried to start talking a few times but we were not going to be stopped and he just stood there beaming.  Phil finally got in an extended Donor Rap, and then the guys (with some delay) trickled back onto the stage.

They'd closed the prior two shows with ballads, and it was time for another one, Haynes soloing on yet another song from the 2002 record, Patchwork Quilt.  This was done very well too, but I think that even the band was feeling the fatigue at that point.  Last bows for all, then watched Phil slowly leave the stage ... hopefully not for the last time but you never know.  It's been a bad year already for musicians with long and illustrious careers.

OK, forced our way outside through the spaced-out crowd, and walked slowly back up the hill to the lot, where we shook the proprietor's hand a last time, and then made our way back to the Thruway and the (relatively) deserted streets of Stamford.  Not much trouble getting to sleep after that long day!

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