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Phil Lesh and Friends Nokia Theatre Philathon 2008

This past Tuesday concluded the now annual Phil Lesh and Friends Nokia Theatre Philathon, a fourteen night run of wonderful shows on Broadway by the long time Grateful Dead Bass player and his current group of Friends: John Molo on Drums, Steve Molitz from Particle on Keyboards, The Master Larry Campbell on Guitar, Mandolin, Fiddle, Steele Pedal Guitar, and other assorted implements of sound, Barry Sless (when available) on Steele Pedal Guitar and Guitar, The Pride of San Fransisco Jackie Greene on Guitar and Keyboards and majority of Vocals, and Theresa Williams (Campbells wife) on Chick Vocals. Lesh's current lineup, together for about a year and a half, settled in to the Times Square Nokia Theatre with Deadheads in tow on Halloween, and stayed for fourteen nights spanning 3 weeks, a unique situation for a band that's been on the road on and off for the past eighteen months or so. According to Lesh in a WNEW FM Radio Interview, playing one venue for a long stretch like this affords the band to get more comfortable and into a groove, which can't be achieved while playing multiple venues night to night. And what better place to get in to a groove than New York City on Broadway at the cozy 2,000 seat Nokia? If you haven't been to the Nokia Theatre get your ass down there. It's just a really nice place to see a show. Clean and new with an organized, friendly staff, great sound system with general admission dance floor and seating behind it. Each seat in the house has a perfect sight-line and there are multiple video screens visible to all.

I was lucky enough to catch three of these shows, all three Sundays, thanks to Mondays off, and my wife's permission...sorta, and Phil for making it happen. Hey, who knows how many more times he'll be able to pull off a run like that? Might as well do it while I can. I wished I could've gone to more, like some of my friends did, but seeing three shows is at least somewhat satisfying for me. All three Sundays were good shows, as well as all of the other stuff I've downloaded and listened to so far. A big thanks goes out to Joe D'Amico (aka Joebeacon) for taping every night and uploading these killer sounding recordings of Phil and Friends to Kudos to you Joe! You're a modern day hero man!

Photo:Rachel Papo NY Times

Obviously I can't review 14 shows would be a huge post or multiple posts and I don't have time for that right now, but having listened to, or been there, for about 10 of these shows I can definitely say that this band came a long way since last year. It even came a long way since this past summer. Sadly enough, as usual, Phil will probably tear down another band he built up and developed. Rumor has it that everyone in the band's contract is up soon, except for drummer John Mollo's, and Lesh won't be renewing them. But that's really the idea behind Phil Lesh and Friends anyway; for Phil to play with different configurations and have fun exploring "The Moment", and this particular "moment" is about to come to a close. So, what probably was the second best of the Phil and Friends bands (the best being "The Q";Haynes, Herring, Barraco, Mollo) will come to an end at the close of this year. Leaving all us of Deadheads with nothing but memories, and a whole bunch of live CD's to listen to. What a beautiful world it is that you can go to a show and download it the next day online!

All in all these shows were consistently strong. As usual Phil invited a number of guest musicians to join the band; Warren Haynes joined on the second set of Tuesday 11/3/08 for some great playing, notably a killer Stella Blue at the end of the set, and Joan Osborne joined on Thursday 11/13/08 for a nice treat singing Sugaree in the 2nd set. Some high points for me in listening to these recordings, which takes some time with 14 shows to sift through, were: a pair of Beatles songs "Don't Let Me Down" on Sunday 11/9/08 (as a matter of fact that whole second set was great with a Dark Star, Cryptical, Mountains of the Moon interspersed throughout and a sweet Ripple with Larry on mandolin for the encore) and "I Am The Walrus" on 11/11/08 (also a great second set). Both these songs were played to perfection, and these are just a few highlights that come to mind in a sea of them. Each show has it's own gems, so get on that computer and start downloading...and give thanks to the tapers who give so much back to the community by preserving these moments for all of us. As always, if you were at any of these shows and want to share your thoughts with us please comment.

Download Phil Lesh And Friends at the Nokia Theatre Shows Here

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