Watching The River Flow: On Tour With Phil Lesh And Bob Dylan (Fall 1999)
If there was one Phil and Friends show to pick as the best, one would be hard pressed to exclude the show held November 14 at The Centrum in Worcester, Massachusetts. From the opening notes of the jam that began the show, to the ending strains of “Not Fade Away,” this show certainly hit the high water mark with many. After a long, sinewy jam that explored every nook and cranny of space, the band exploded into the classic, “Dark Star,” with Lesh, Haynes and Rob Barraco sharing each of the song’s verses. Trucks and Haynes proved that they are consummate jammers, each taking a new pathway into the uncharted waters of outer space. The freewheeling jam led into a wonderful arrangement of “Sugaree” that featured some great vocals by Haynes. The jam that followed led into “Cosmic Charlie” and was welcomed like a long-lost friend by the sold-out arena audience. The group continued in the spacy mode, again reprising “Dark Star,” including the song’s second verse, before again dropping a bomb on the audience with an explosive “St. Stephen” that would not be complete without an equally pyrotechnic “The Eleven Jam.”
Lesh’s joyous celebration was beautifully capped by “Not Fade Away.” Despite the rousing opening set by Phil and Friends, Bob Dylan and his band continued the relentless pacing of the show. Opening with the seldom performed gospel hymn “Somebody Touched Me,” Dylan’s acoustic set included “To Ramona,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” and “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” which may be as powerful a song as has ever been written. Also featured was “Everything Is Broken,” “Like A Rolling Stone” and a very rare, fifteen-minute rendition of “Highlands,” that showed a jazzy, poetic side of the rock superstar. Dylan proved again to be a man of many surprises.
The show the next evening at Cornell University’s Barton Hall in Ithaca, New York, also yielded a different twist, as Phil and Friends included not only Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes, but also Hot Tuna’s Jorma Kaukonen on guitar. Besides being the smallest venue on the tour, Barton Hall also holds many fond memories of what is considered to be one of the greatest Grateful Dead shows of all time, May 8, 1977. The surrounding area also includes such historic Dead venues as Harpur College, the site of another historic show on May 2, 1970, and the Broome Country Arena in nearby Binghamton.
Barton Hall is an ancient place that hasn’t changed a bit since 1977. Because of its historical significance to Deadheads, this show proved to be the toughest ticket with legions of ticket-less Heads, fingers held high, some with $100r bills, searching in vain for that all elusive “miracle ticket.” Adding to the frigid mix of driving snow and bitter cold, the venue had one small doorway through which every person had to enter.
Once inside, the arena contained a spongy surface very conducive for dancing, with painted lines used for track and field events. The security consisted solely of students wearing some snappy looking Bob Dylan and Phil Lesh and Friends T-shirts, giving the event the air of a psychedelic sock hop.
Despite the fact that the show was long sold out, by the time Phil and Friends took to the stage, the place was barely one-third full. Jorma Kaukonen plugged in between Trucks and Barraco, and during the show’s opening jam, was unobtrusive, content to allow Haynes and Trucks lead the charge. “Eyes Of The World” was serene in its majesty, picking up considerably into a thunderous “Caution Jam” that wove magically into “Mountains Of The Moon.” The hall provided a surreal echo, as the drums and music bounced back toward the stage. Kaukonen finally stepped out during Haynes’ “Soulshine,” delivering a breathtaking guitar solo before diving headfirst into the old Pigpen-era Dead classic, “Mr. Charlie.” The “Cold Rain And Snow” that followed was appropriate, and the interesting jam that ensued drove into “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad.” “We Bid You Goodnight” was heartfelt as the room’s acoustics added to the a cappella tune. During the band introductions, Phil acknowledged, “It’s great to be back in a place that has so much historical significance for all of us.” For Trucks, this was his last appearance of the tour, as his own band was scheduled to hit the road.
Bob Dylan continued to seek out some gems from his considerable songbook and favorites, performing a seldom played “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” “Cat’s In The Well,” “Senor,” “I Want You” and “Money Honey,” a song that had previously never been performed. “Senor” was superb, with Larry Campbell playing a wonderful fiddle solo, and Dylan adding some rich, full blasts from his harmonica.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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