Phil Lesh and the outstanding combination of musicians that is the Terrapin Family Band returned for their second show on Monday at the Brooklyn Bowl. They had absolutely won over their New York City audience with a very strong show on Sunday night, leaving folks to wonder if night two could top it. Last night’s performance rang a resounding yes through the Williamsburg venue.
The band reached for a fun night immediately, opening with “Sugar Magnolia,” and then waded through a warm “Scarlet Begonias” into a great and spirited “Sunshine Daydream” to lay out a welcome beginning segment for night two.
Even against the relentlessly locked-in grooving that would vault the second set, the band’s hammering take on “Monkey Man” contended for an early highlight, a topper of perhaps even both Brooklyn Bowl performances. They found their footing with the song fast, and following some wicked soloing from Ross James, the Stones’ number revved the energy way up. It also granted yet another super smooth segue from this band, as they eased the brakes straight into “Fire on the Mountain.”
A cool improv jam started off the second set, and then built up, to the absolute delight of the audience, into “Sweet Jane.” Although its intro might have been this song’s strongest point, the Velvet Underground classic is one of the coolest covers Lesh works into his many collaborative experiments.
The crowd hollered with excitement when Joe Russo’s Almost Dead guitarist Scott Metzger jumped on stage for a sit-in, and then louder still when the collaboration was on “Viola Lee Blues.” Metzger fit right into the Terrapin group, matching James and Grahame Lesh’s musical bravado, he completed a triple-guitar soloing dance that lead the song through an extended, mesmerizing groove.
The rest of the second set saw the Terrapin Family Band taking some of their most daring musical chances of the entire two-night run, to fantastic results—rhythmic shifts, extended improv, unstoppable steam. “Unbroken Chain” was a very strong one, showcasing some gorgeous piano work from Crosby, and then pulling back and forth on the intensity for the kind of modulation the song is known for. Usually this Phil masterpiece finishes after winding down to its delicate last few lyrics, but after that part the band charged off again for a unique outro jam.
Similarly, “The Wheel” featured a frenzied tempo right off the bat, making way for bursts of fiery playing. This ushered in a psychedelic atmosphere that would color the rest of the evening. From Wheel, they sailed perfectly into “Playing in the Band,” and then “Terrapin Station,” for a beautifully segued three-song journey. The old fight song was multi-layered, finding room to get funky, then spacey, then jazzy with a swing jam to finish, while Terrapin was patient and grandiose the whole way through.
Even “I Know You Rider,” bursting out after the last note of Terrapin, headed down a long, melodic trip, sounding beautifully laid back. The band then hit another one of their niftiest moments, when they etched out of the ending of Rider a rather haunting minor-chord reprise on “Playing in the Band.” This re-oriented itself into the song’s regular place for a firm ending to a magical set.
The encore for night two might as well have been a miniature set three! “Birdsong,” starting off, searched around for a bit, but quickly spiraled up into a lengthy, rousing ride through “The Other One” which churned through murky musical waters that recalled the flowing feel of Viola Lee and Unbroken.
When an encore stands out as a show highlight, you know you’ve got a real show. They jumped into “Samson and Delilah,” where some magnificent soloing from Grahame took the tune into a uniquely uplifting and cheerful jam, before diving into its usual mode to finish out.
The Brooklyn Bowl and its reeling crowd were grateful to get two standout shows from a Phil Lesh lineup for whom the opposite coast is their home base. Lesh will light up the Northeast again next month, when Phil and Friends play three shows at The Capitol Theatre, on March 15, 16 and 17.
Set 1: Sugar Magnolia -> Scarlet Begonias -> Sunshine Daydream, Broken Arrow, New Minglewood, Monkey Man -> Fire on the Mountain, Throwing Stones
Set 2: Sweet Jane, Cumberland > Viola Lee Blues w/ Metzger, Unbroken Chain, The Wheel -> Playing in The Band -> Lady With a Fan -> Terrapin Station > I Know You Rider -> Playing in the Band E: Birdsong -> The Other One -> Sampson and Delilah