Phil & Friends Fail To Lift Off Saturday Night at Capitol Theatre (SHOW REVIEW)

Expectations ran high for Saturday night’s Capitol Theatre show in Port Chester as this was the first time former Jerry Garcia Band keyboardist Melvin Seals sat in with Phil Lesh and Friends. Unfortunately, this was not the show to be at. Before assuming that the following review is overly harsh, I urge you to check out others’ recollections at: http://www.philzone.org/ Other stuff/PLF @ Cap Saturday 5-28-’16.

What was so disappointing about the performance?  It certainly wasn’t the setlist, which was strong, but the combination of Warren Haynes, Eric Krasno, Alex Koford, and Tony Leone never really gelled. In fact, there were long stretches of the show that seemed like unfocused noodling. This was beyond disappointing considering the amount of talent on stage. The only Garcia Band song was “The Harder They Come,” which Warren surprisingly needed the TelePrompter for.  However, he has no problem with an infinite amount of covers which Gov’t Mule have in their repertoire. A one-off performance of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” from their first Beacon New Year’s show comes instantly to mind.  The monitors meant that Warren’s vocal delivery was sporadic and didn’t allow him to occupy the song the way he usually does.  Melvin’s solo on the song was nothing to speak of, although he’s ripped through it so many times before as well.

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The first set did include Mule staples like “Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” and “She Said, She Said,” which were nice to hear. But once again, they lacked the fire so often present in these tunes.

The second set included more Dead covers, but not enough energy.  Phil doesn’t often play Bobby’s songs, so the “Playin’ In The Band” that began and ended the set was unexpected.  But the jam that followed, like so many from the show, really just sounded like tuning up.  While the uninitiated would crack that all their improvising sounds like that, there is a clear difference between noodling and jamming with a purpose.  Compare this night’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” to the Roseland version from 2000.  It was as if the debut from the “One For Woody” show had all the life drained out of it.  When Warren played in “The Dead” in 2004 and 2009, he shelved not only his usual tone but his assertive style.  This show was no different.  Even on the just-released soundboard from Nugs.net, you can hear a “Dark Star” that never really takes off.

Sunday’s show, featuring “Rubin And Cherise” with Jerry’s hologram being projected on the Cap’s wall, was infinitely better.  Maybe the band needed a night to work out the kinks.

Phil Lesh & Friends Setlist Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY, USA 2016

Photos by Ross Edmond

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