After six sold out shows, Phil and Bob’s Spring duo tour came to a close last night in Chicago. Lesh, 78, and Weir, 70, continued their journey as the patriarchs of the music of the Grateful Dead in a timeless fashion on this particular tour which featured appearances by Trey Anastasio, Wally Ingram, Jeff Chimenti, Larry Campbell, and Teresa Williams. These four musicians who were recruited by Weir and Lesh for the ride, with the exception of Anastasio, were virtually unknown to the Grateful Dead scene of 1995 at the untimely passing of Jerry Garcia.
The crux of the Dead has always been found in expanding creativity and the potential for magic and that’s exactly what Weir and Lesh did when they invited these four unique musicians onstage. I imagine Garcia in some far off place filled with sunshine and sycamore trees smiling when one of the boys expands the music to new minds and the next generation. Well, that’s how I like to imagine in it. This all is one dream we dreamed long ago, after all.
To begin the night in Chicago Weir and Lesh pioneered, “Cumberland Blues”. The evolution of “Cumberland” for Lesh and Weir’s duo has improved significantly since its debut for the duo on their second night in Boston. The tempo has improved and the interplay has evolved into the masterpiece that was displayed last night. “Tennessee Jed” and “Alabama Getaway” followed “Cumberland” in a country fashion. There is something to be said about how the Dead can take tunes with such a strong flavor of “Hank Williams” and turn them into twisting whirlwinds rhapsodies of sound and color. “Loose Lucy”, one of the duo tour favorites followed with earth-shattering dictation. I am of the opinion that “Loose Lucy” is a Weir adaptation of a Jerry tune that stands above the original. Weir’s strong baritone voice and wonderful dictation showcase this “barroom rock n roll” tune composed by Garcia. Lesh took the wheel and vocals with, “Lazy River Road” which the duo brought out for their duo tour the second night in New York City. Similarly to “Cumberland” the progressive practice between the two dear friends through the tour is shown through this tune. The tempo is by 100% faster than the first night the duo played the late Garcia ballad. “The Maker”, a tune popular in the JGB catalog was sung by Weir. Afterward, “Mississippi Half-Step”, perhaps one of the highlights of the show put Weir’s chord genius front and center. Lesh smiled and reacted with driving Phil bombs. Weir was indeed in the mindset of bending minds and the Twilight Zone only continued to expand with an exploratory, “Cassidy” to close the second set.
Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams once again joined the boys for their second set after being recruited by Weir and Lesh for the remainder of their duo tour in Boston. Jeff Chimenti, Dead and Company keyboardist extraordinaire, who was recruited for “Ratdog” many moons ago by Weir also joined the second set. The flavor that Chimenti’s dancing piano lines provided to the structure of the music is immeasurable by words. Much like Anastasio, Chimenti is versatile enough to hop into any mold with Lesh and Weir with extraordinary malleability and dexterity.
“Crazy Fingers” kicked off the second set in beautiful fashion. I love Lesh’s lead guitar parts that he chooses to voice on his bass. Right around the five minute mark of “Fingers” Chimenti and Weir opened up the cosmos with a jam reminiscent of audible velvet. Both magician beyond their time, irreplaceable. “New Speedway Boogie” shook the house, per usual. Another favorite of the duo tour, “Mountains of the Moon” was brought to the second set which bled into a dark and daring, “Cryptical Envelopment”. “Let It Grow > The Other One” sent the audience on a trip to the unknown corners of the mind and just when the psychedelic answer of “being” might have come true for the audience Lesh drove the tune into, “Uncle John’s Band”. God damn, what a trip. This is the point in the show where the insane ticket prices become a thought of yesteryear and the music takes the meaning of a lifetime. With the audience aching for more Weir slowed down the pace with, “Days Between” to provide an introspective end to the duo’s tour.
Our group of musical companions left the stage with the audience howling for more. Could it be, tours end? It wasn’t so, the encore slot was still waiting ready to split Deadhead sides. “Brokedown Palace” took its fitting spot to end a bittersweet Spring tour.
Lesh and Weir perform in a manner reminiscent of their younger selves to me. I’m a 21 year old Deadhead with infinite love for the music that has defined my life with almost uncanny resemblance; To have the privilege to see Weir and Lesh continue to carry that creative torch is a gift.
Well, where to now? Well, the golden road never ends in Deadhead-land and we here at So Many Roads will continue to join you on the road. Next stop is Mansfield, Massachusetts for the beginning of Dead and Company’s summer tour.
Lazy River Road
New Speedway Boogie
Mountains of the Moon>
Let It Grow>
The Other One>
Uncle John’s Band