Concert Review: Phil Lesh & Friends in Mansfield, MA 7/6/06

Concert Review:
Phil Lesh & Friends
Tweeter Center
Mansfield, MA

I’m sad to say that I’ve hit the point in my life where the outdoor shed concert is a real negative – the long drive, the packed parking lots, the bad acoustics, etc. I much prefer seeing shows in theaters. My buddy said that it was a very Phish crowd. I’ll buy that explanation.

That said Phil delivered as he always does and as only he can. It’s hard to compare Bob Weir & RatDog with Phil & Friends – the remnants of the Grateful Dead. Bobby is all first set – the rockers, the cheesy ballads, the cowboy songs. The band is tight, Bobby is singing great and it’s just a fun dance party. Phil is all second set, the soupy jams, the risk taking, the high-wire act. Sure, there are disasters (i.e. not a great Slipknot! > Franklins) but there are moments of real magic, too.

Thursday’s show was interesting. Phil’s bass was really driving the energy all night, and Molo was great. I’ll take Molo over any of the other drummers on the scene, including Billy K. First set was the Rob Barraco show. Doin’ That Rag was a perfect opener. Mike Gordon joined on banjo for Deep Elem and Brown-Eyed Women and both songs were energetic and fun. Joan Osbourne’s Next Time You See Me was nice, but I couldn’t help but compare it to Chris Robinson’s version from last year, and the song really takes off with his harp. A great version of Golden Road closed out the first set. It was a great set, but way too short (about an hour!)

Second set was the Trey Anastasio show. Now, I’m not a Phish guy, I’ve never seen Phish live, and I barely listen to them. I do love those NY Phil shows from ’99 with Trey, so I had an open mind. Trey plays fast and loud and he just dominated the set. I really like Watchtower, which is saying something, because I’m long since bored by Watchtower. St. Stephen was great. One of the best versions I’ve ever gotten. Hoping for a William Tell > The Eleven, but heard the familiar start to Help > Slip. Help was good, Slip was just a tease. They then worked into a very nice version of Ryan Adams’s Nobody Girl, interrupted by China Doll, and then back into Nobody Girl. I absolutely adore Joan’s take on China Doll. Her vocal rivals Jerry’s it’s so good. But it was played at the wrong time – it just brought the momentum to a halt. After that came a solid I Know You Rider, another short Slipknot and a disappointing Franklin’s Tower. I felt like Trey was clashing with Greg Osby’s sax at that point. For encores we got a GDTRFB, which was fine but nothing special, and a Box of Rain complete with fireworks from the parking lot.

All in all it was a very solid show. I’m lukewarm on Larry Campell on guitar – he’s good but he didn’t blow me away at any point. Barry Sless only played pedal steel during the first set and he didn’t play at all during the second set. I would like to see Barry on lead – or Scofield. Barraco is terrific – great on the keys, great voice. I love him in the band. Joan Osbourne is incredible – astounding voice and a very sexy stage presence, which is an odd factor for a Dead show. She should take more leads, though. I think she danced more than she sang! And Molo and Phil. What more can be said about those two? Heaven’s own rhythm section.


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