For the first time since saying “Fare Thee Well” with the other Grateful Dead survivors at Soldier Field, bassist/vocalist Phil Lesh returned to the Windy City for a two-night stand at the extremely intimate by comparison Riviera Theatre. In addition to being supported by guitarist/vocalist (and his son) Grahame Lesh, guitarist/vocalist Ross James, keyboardist Jason Crosby and drummer/vocalist Alex Koford of the Terrapin Family Band, guest guitarist Eric Krasno (Soulive, Lettuce) and saxophonist Karl Denson (who returns to Park West on Friday, November 17 fronting Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe) ensured there was some extra bounce in the band’s already bountiful groove.
Those who stuck around well into the wee hours undoubtedly found their fix on all things Dead-related (and who knows what else), while surely marveling at Lesh’s ability to connect a cast of players that went well beyond lofty expectations.
And what a glorious vibe it was for the second and final round this run as the extraordinary musicians celebrated over 50 years of rock’s longest, strangest trip, alongside a handful of other covers divided into two sets that cumulatively clocked in three-and-a-half hours. Considering Lesh is 77 and experienced numerous health scares over the years, it was truly remarkable how strong of a player he remains, and even if his lead vocals leave a little to be desired, the marathon wisely split up the leads and also relied heavily on everyone’s magical harmonies.
As for the set list, Lesh and company kept friends guessing and hoping, but ultimately satisfied with a front half that included his old act’s “Mason’s Children,” “Friend Of The Devil,” “Uncle John’s Band” and “Sugar Magnolia,” plus a nod to Jerry Garcia Band’s “Cats Under The Stars.” The late leader also earned a reflective shout out in the second half with “The Wheel,” though it was a back to back take on Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue” and The Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice” that found the fellas really letting loose and locking into their collective chemistry.
The same could be said about “Terrapin Station,” a sweet score given the group’s namesake and status amongst Deadheads in general, which segued seamlessly into “Morning Dew” just as a new day was dawning. Those who stuck around well into the wee hours undoubtedly found their fix on all things Dead-related (and who knows what else), while surely marveling at Lesh’s ability to connect a cast of players that went well beyond lofty expectations.
For additional information on Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, visit PhilLesh.net.
For a list of upcoming Jam Productions shows, visit JamUSA.com.
Upcoming concert highlights at the Riviera Theatre include The Mountain Goats (Nov. 17); Liam Gallagher (Nov. 21); Morrissey (Nov. 25); Grizzly Bear (Nov. 29) and Migos & Lil Yachty (Nov. 30). For additional details, visit RivieraTheatre.com.