Phil Lesh played a ton of Grateful Dead faves in Central Park (review, setlist)
Fresh off playing Lockn' Fest, the Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh brought the Terrapin Family Band and Nicki Bluhm to NYC's Central Park SummerStage last night (8/30), where they were also joined by the extraordinarily talented organist Melvin Seals of the Jerry Garcia Band. The first set, which started bright and early at 6 PM, had two JGB originals and a handful of covers that Jerry would play, like Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue," Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion," and JJ Cale's "After Midnight." It was a mellow first set, a nice way to start the night but it could not have prepared you for what was to come.
Once the sun set, Phil and his band returned for a second set that kicked off with a bang with "Shakedown Street." Instantly the crowd was dancing and singing, and you knew the set was going to stay on a high. It did indeed, with "The Music Never Stopped," "Estimated Prophet," "Playing In The Band," "The Wheel," and more favorites to quickly follow.
Phil's backing band often varies, but he's been bringing the Terrapin Family Band to the NYC-area fairly often this year, which is not a bad thing at all. The band -- which includes Phil's son Grahame Lesh and Ross James on guitars, keyboardist Jason Crosby, and drummer Alex Koford -- bring a lively spirit to Phil's shows, and they really know how to lock in with each other. Melvin Seals fit right in, going back and forth with Jason Crosby at a few points and just generally adding a real nice layer to the TFB's sound. And Nicki Bluhm, whose own music is worth hearing, is one of the better singers I've seen Phil play with in recent years. She can belt it when she needs to, but also knows how to dial it back. Hearing her take the lead was always a treat.
The biggest treat of the night though, was the second half of the second set, when Phil and his band really started dropping gems on us. They broke out the rare and beloved "Dark Star," only to segue into the gorgeous "Morning Dew" and then back to "Dark Star" once again. It's a pairing The Dead did a handful of times in their legendary early '70s era (you can hear versions on Europe '72: The Complete Recordings and The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack, among other places), and it remains one of the more blissful and psychedelic moments in their colossal repertoire. Making it even more blissful last night, Phil and the band immediately followed it with "St. Stephen," which included a portion of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and Phil taking lead vocals during the "Lady finger..." bridge. Even as a bandleader Phil keeps his lead vocals to a minimum, but it's always satisfying to hear him take the mic and last night was no different. Not to mention, the Terrapin Family Band really stayed true to the clean, trippy side of "St. Stephen," as The Dead often would coming out of "Dark Star."
After "St. Stephen," the second set ended with a crowd-pleasing "Turn On Your Love Light," and the band returned for a one-song encore of "Sugaree," a perfect way to wrap up a perfect night.
Watch a video of "Shakedown Street" from the Central Park show, and see the full setlist, below.
Phil Lesh & the Terrapin Family Band - Central Park 8/30/17 Setlist (via)
Tangled Up in Blue
They Love Each Other
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)
Mission in the Rain
Rubin and Cherise
Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)
I Second That Emotion
The Music Never Stopped
Playing in the Band
Dark Star > Morning Dew > Dark Star
St. Stephen > Whole Lotta Love > St. Stephen
Turn On Your Love Light