Last night Phil Lesh brought the Terrapin Family Band for the first of two nights at Brooklyn Bowl, and what a first night it was – full of high-spirited playing and groovy takes on a setlist of Dead classics, with a few cool bonuses to boot.
Consisting of guitarists Ross James and son of Phil, Graham Lesh, Phil and Friends veteran keyboardist Jason Crosby, and drummer Alex Koford, The Terrapin Family Band members meld together beautifully last night, which made for a uniformly rich, almost Americana sound, with playing that was at times a good, mellow groove and at other times heated and funky.
The evening broke with a “Jack Straw” that reached a decent, swift build up and amped the crowd right away. For the first awesome surprise of the night, this transitioned nicely into “Like A Rolling Stone.” Played at half the tune’s usual tempo, it kept Straw’s dreamy quality, making for a terrific pairing of the the two and a fantastic start to the night.
Koford took his first turn to sing lead on “Ramble on Rose,” and the consensus spread around the crowd of his beautiful voice. But on another note, Phil also sang a good deal of lead vocals on a few tunes throughout the night, and it’s a happy report to say his voice sounded real nice.
The first set topped off with splended versions of “Uncle John’s Band” and then a fun sandwich of “Not Fade Away” within “Good Lovin’.”
“Shakedown,” opening set two, brought the first of the really focused and more explorative playing from all members, that lasted pretty much the rest of the evening. Stirring up the joyous Bowl crowd into a full on dance party, it sandwiched a very neat musical interlude, a rocking take on the Dire Straits classic “Sultans of Swing.”
James and Graham Lesh traded back and forth between lead and rhythm all night, and it’s hard to say who played better; both played commandingly and delivered one great solo after another. James helped to surge up jams, like the fiery one coming out of “St. Stephen,” with his signature gritty, cosmic twang, while Graham played mostly very melodically, with impressive, tentative solos, his best maybe being in the psychedelic minutes of “Eyes of the World.” But staccato drumming from Koford kept bringing “Eyes” back and again to a crunchy disco tempo.
Well into the second set, it was clear the fun being had by the band members and the crowd could not be hidden, as people were literally jumping around to the show’s more thrilling moments, while Phil was beaming smiles next to his son.
The band wrapped up the party with a strong venture through “Help>Slip>Frank”, the Slipknot in particular finding some extra heady musical territory. Someone from the band slipped “Werewolves of London” teases into the fray of Franklin’s, which made the band members and some of the audience laugh as the band chose to forgo the opportunity.
Phil expressed his love for Brooklyn before his rap, and then with the TFB closed out a more than solid first night with a terrific encore: a “Box of Rain” that melted seamlessly into a beautiful version of “Wharf Rat”, with all members harmonizing beautifully on the tune’s clinching lyrics, and eventually coming back into BOR.
The band comes back to The Bowl tonight to finish this two-night run.
Set One: Jack Straw ->Like a Rolling Stone, Ramble on Rose, West, Uncle John’s Band, Good Lovin’ ->Not Fade Away, Good Lovin’
Set Two: Shakedown Street ->Sultans of Swing ->Shakedown Street, Estimated Prophet >Eyes Of The World >St. Stephen ->Eleven ->St. Stephen, Help On The Way ->Slipknot ->Franklin’s Tower*
E: Box of Rain ->Wharf Rat ->Box of Rain
*with Werewolves of London teases