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"Phil Lesh & Friends on New Year's Eve"

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{short description of image}For 30 years or more, we all knew that a New Year's Eve without the Dead was unthinkable. Acting under the information that Phil and Friends were planning an East Coast show - information which we worked hard to be absolutely certain was correct - the Other Ones planned a New Year's Eve gala at Oakland Coliseum. Well, things change." This has caused a split among deadheads, as the fervent followers struggle to choose their loyalty. Many are distressed by the fact that their musically bound community has been forced into a polarized, partisan situation. Lesh toured with the Other Ones - whose lineup includes drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, guitarist Bob Weir and keyboardist Bruce Hornsby - on 1998's Furthur Festival. The 1999 tour was canceled while Lesh recovered from liver transplant surgery, and eventually Lesh opted out of the group, citing philosophical differences.
...... If Jerry Garcia was arguably the heart of the Grateful Dead, bookish bassist Phil Lesh was clearly its mind. Lesh, with his training in classical music and jazz, was the major impetus behind the Dead's shift from a relatively conventional folk-blues ensemble into what became the prototype for today's jam bands. Lesh has maintained a busy touring schedule with his own band, Phil and Friends. After playing package tours with Bob Dylan, Lesh has returned to a familiar place at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland Sunday night for New years Eve. .....Although Lesh's band has had a revolving cast, it has stabilized, at least for this tour, into a tight quintet. The two guitarists, Warren Haynes and Jimmy Herring, have both logged time in the Allman Brothers, although never at the same time. Keyboardist Rob Barraco was, until recently, a member of the Zen Tricksters, the New York jam band that began life as the Cadillac of the Dead cover bands. Drummer John Molo, the single constant in Lesh's bands, is a stoic, versatile percussionist who worked for years with Bruce Hornsby and has also logged time with the Other Ones and Planet Drum. It was New years Eve and the musicians played like they had something to prove. Whereas previous incarnations of Phil and Friends jammed continuously, and sometimes aimlessly, this group spent more time playing songs than simply improvising. The two guitarists played off each other spectacularly, whether Haynes' beefy slide tone was playing in counterpoint to Herring's equally aggressive lead picking or the two were playing intricate harmonies. Lesh was equally energized by the guitarists' interplay, leading the ensemble with booming, yet tasteful bass lines. The group was also miles ahead of previous Phil and Friends incarnations vocally. Although Lesh is an expressive vocalist, his range is limited, so the presence of Haynes' throaty growl and Baracco's smooth, choirboy tenor provided welcome variety among the lead vocals. As might be expected, the group's principal focus was the Dead's repertoire, although the tunes were given new life by tasteful touches like Baracco's barrelhouse piano on "Mirror of Thalassa" and the guitarists' soaring instrumental harmonies introducing the coda of "The low spark of high heel boys." The first set ended with a dynamic medley beginning with Lesh singing "Bertha" Generally one of the Dead's more awe struck tunes, this version was rendered at a ferocious tempo driven by Haynes' snarling slide. Next, Haynes delivered an equally stinging vocal on "Smokestack Lightning" that led into Baracco's passionate rendition of "Shakedown street" that left the often taciturn band members with big smiles on their faces. Four sets and six hours of awesome music, by creating a distinctive group chemistry of their own based on strong individual musical personalities, Phil and Friends are successfully bringing new life to the Dead's voluminous canon.

By Randy Cohen

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   Who was their !
Lesh's band for New Year's Eve will include keyboardist Rob Barracco (Zen Tricksters), guitarists Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers Band, Gov't Mule) and Jimmy Herring (Allman Brothers Band, Aquarium Rescue Unit), and drummer John Molo (Bruce Hornsby, Other Ones).

Warren Haynes 

Jimmy Herring

Rob Barracco