Phil Lesh and Friends: Bank of America Pavillion, Boston, MA 6/21/08

There is nothing like a Phil Lesh and Friends concert on the night of the summer solstice in the balmy air on the water in Boston. Little wonder, after the conclusion of his two hour second set June 21st, the bassist of the Grateful Dead pronounced Beantown one his three favorite places to play.

Phil & Friends clearly stepped it up for the enthusiasts that packed the Bank of America Pavilion, thereby rendering occasional vocal miscues strictly minor blemishes. A string of punchy tunes like the opening “Bertha” allowed the band to warm up and the crowd to get comfortable before wunderkind Jackie Greene—he of vocals, guitar keyboards harp and keen stage presence—inhabited songs such “Me & My Uncle “ to the very fullest.

Yet as Greene led the band through his own “So Hard to Find My Way,” his infectious enthusiasm elevated to the point he was able to navigate the group smoothly into what turned into an absolutely frenetic version of “Turn On Your Lovelight” to finish off the first set.

Which was, in turn, nothing like what followed a half hour or so later. The sublime selection of “Here Comes Sunshine” and “Eyes of the World” were coupled with subtle segues of healthy improv growing ever more forceful as the quintet moved authoritatively into “The Wheel” only to jam on “New Potato Caboose” prior to surprising the increasingly delighted masses with The Beatles’ “Revolution,” taking at a mid-tempo pint between the original rocker and the jazzy White Album version.

What might have constituted a lesser band’s whole evening had just proceeded and what ensued might well have been a night unto itself for a band less enthusiastic in its devotion to its muse and their own rapidly evolving chemistry. To hear “Unbroken Chain” lead directly into “Help On the Way”/”Slipknot”/”Franklin’s Tower,” all rife with collective panache, didn’t even prepare the most devout Phil-fanatic for the dramatic means by which Jackie Greene delivered “Wharf Rat.” And it’s symbolic of the all around good musical sense Lesh attributes him that Greene once again utilized his growing confidence and skill as lead guitarist to lure Larry Campbell ever further out of the confining shell of precision into which he still too often retreats.

The encore might well have been a microcosm of the dynamics at work in the show as Phil & Friends galloped through “I Know You Rider,” only to consecrate the crowd with the ever-so-sweet selection  of “Attics of My Life;” vocalist Teresa Williams (she of opener Levon Helm’s band and the Americana group Olabelle) more than justified her increasingly frequent presence singing with the band here so that the song itself and its gentle rendering spoke volumes about a band and its leader who have no fear but consummate heart.

Photos by Rich Gastwirt via

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