Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Live Review: Phil Lesh Quintet - 3/6/24 @ The Capitol Theatre Port Chester, NY

Phil Lesh Quintet
Live 3/6/24 Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY

The most interesting, and consistently excellent, Grateful Dead related music this millennium showed up from 2000-2003 when Phil Lesh formed the “Q” , his quintet of Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, Rob Barraco and John Molo. Lesh knew it was a good thing and a real band as the Q recorded an album and has reformed sporadically over the years. Now as Lesh amazingly celebrates his 84th birthday he brought them back together for two nights at the Capitol Theatre, in Port Chester, NY.

Wednesday was their second and very likely their final full show as a band. The Quintet decided to start in unique fashion as Phil led the group with an a cappella verse of "The Wheel" before dropping into their original "Night of 1000 Stars". The Q was linked up from the start as the song was fast moving and energetic, everyone got in on the act and smiles were flashed from bandmember to bandmember. 

The clear highlight of the first set was next as the band dropped into "New Speedway Boogie" a wide ranging effort that ran almost twenty minutes. The Q caught a groove and rode it, as Haynes' slide work and strong vocals were masterful within/without the blues vamp. The song morphed into a spacey breakdown which hinted at other roads to travel, but then returned to the groove, wrapping up the song winningly.    

Phil stepped up next and lead the Q into "New Potato Caboose" as he strongly sang and drove the team forward with his confident bass lines as the blissful and spacious jam floated out. At this point in the show it was super inspiring that an 84 year old was visibly nailing his craft so well. That changed a bit with "Birdsong" as the tune started off extremely pretty but ended with some confusion among Phil and Molo, far from a train wreck, just a reminder that these are actual humans up there doing their things which they haven't done in a few years. 

The Q locked back in for a set closing pairing of "China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider" which was engaging with Herring's flurries of dart like guitar lines, Barraco's bright keys and Warren's wah-wah work, closing a very enjoyable first set. 

After a long break (and a few Q huddles which were projected on the Theatre walls) the band returned and noodled a touch before delivering "Dear Mr. Fantasy" as Barroco's organ work along with Warren's passionate vocals/guitar highlighted a buoyant and expansive jam. The group delivered "Shakedown Street" with more of a cool groove than a blazing funk attack, but the chill vibe worked very well, getting the older, sold-out crowd dancing. 

Next came "Unbroken Chain" and unfortunately, Lesh was just not up to delivering this one on this night. It was amazing how much he sang before this effort, but this complicated original proved too much for him. He forgot full verses, where he was in the song, and had major issues with his in ear monitors. As the song wrapped up Phil said "Sorry about that" into the mic, yet the fans may have given him the biggest cheer of the night, all were super supportive. His age clearly showed here and I don't think one of those fans would have faulted him if that was the end of the night, however Phil was not going out like that.

Instead, after a brief regrouping, he started nothing short of "Dark Star" singing the first line before moving to his chair mid jam to sit for the remainder of the set. The rest of the Q more than propped him up (even though Haynes was dealing with tech issues) as the band amped up their game delivering a top notch version of the legendary song with Herring in particular on fire, blazing away with power, then rolling back for nuanced fills. During the jam the band hinted at, then went full on into their version of Traffic's "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys". 

Haynes took over the vocals on the dynamite cover but it was Herring's amazing solo that again was a shining highpoint. The track drifted into a pumping "Passenger" keeping the energy high and dropping some "Dark Star" teases before bringing the meat of the second set to an exciting close. While most thought that was it, the band gave a sweet rendition of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" and then took a bow.  

Unlike on Monday, Phil gave his donor rap before the encore. As the long show extended past midnight Phil discussed how important the crowd is here at the Cap as they allow the band to close that circuit, fully realizing the music. It was touching and the Q then brought it all full circle with a proper version of "The Wheel". 

Phil has a few more shows scheduled for his birthday week with a rotating cast of Friends and who knows what the future holds, but if this is the last time the famed Quintet play together, they went out on an emotional high note. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow Dark Star>Low Spark!! Would have loved to hear that. Nice write up. God bless Phil Lesh.