Coming off an energetic and magical sold-out show at the Brooklyn Bowl on Mischief Night the evening prior, for Halloween, The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, hosted Phil Lesh and an at-capacity crowd for the most anticipated show of his recent East Coast run. The Grateful Dead bassist was joined by The Terrapin Family Band (Graeme Lesh, Ross James, Alex Koford, though minus Jason Crosby), Nicki Bluhm, Robert Randolph, and longtime friend and keyboardist Rob Barraco. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band also joined in on the Halloween festivities as well, though the New Orleans-based ensemble missed out on the previous night’s Brooklyn Bowl show due to the venue’s smaller stage.
To celebrate Halloween, the band—mostly dressed up in Day of the Dead makeup save Robert Randolph, who donned a pink bunny suit for the occasion (major props to Randolph as well who must have been suffocating on stage)—offered up a performance full of Halloween treats and tasteful covers. Hundreds of fans dressed up to party, and even most of the venue’s staff were in costume. Beautiful intricate pumpkins decorated the stage, and giant eyeballs floated down from the ceiling. With the atmosphere set, the band came to treat fans to a beautiful night of music.
The music started with the upbeat crowd sing-along “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” with some tasty passionate keys from Barraco and extended guitar jams from Ross and Graeme. After the classic “Stagger Lee”, Nicki Bluhm took us on a sweet and emotional cover of Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”. Next, the beautifully-written “Let The Mountain Be My Home” segued into to the quintessential Grateful Dead Halloween song “Candyman”.
“How Sweet It Is”
A cover of Hank Ballard’s “Tore Up Over You” was up next and followed by a grungy rendition of Neil Young’s “Old Man”. In the wake of Tom Petty’s recent passing, the ensemble paid homage to the iconic musician with a rendition of “The Apartment Song”, which was made particularly sweet by the steel guitar offerings from Robert Randolph. Ending on a high, the bouncy, upbeat “Sugar Magnolia” ended the first set with a scream.
“The Apartment Song” (Tom Petty) > “Sugar Magnolia”
What would a Halloween show be without werewolves and monsters? We certainly won’t know this year, as Phil Lesh’s second set opened with Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”, and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band (PHJB) joined in to give the song a New Orleans howl. The ending lyrics of “Werewolves of London” were also changed to include “I saw Peter Shapiro standing out on the street, and his hands were perfect”, referring to the legendary promoter and owner of The Capitol Theatre and Brooklyn Bowl.
PHJB stayed on the stage and joined in on Stephen Stills’ “Love The One You’re With”, which saw particularly soulful vocals from Nicki Bluhm and some smooth guitar playing and B-1 organ. Boris Pickett’s all-time classic “Monster Mash” gained new life and more depth with the addition of the PHJB and Robert Randolph’s steel pedal guitar. The crowd karaoke and PHJB’s time with the rest of the band continued during the stand-out renditions of a blazing “Fire on the Mountain” and delectable “Sugaree”.
“Love The One You’re With”
With the stage clear, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band led the crowd on a twenty-minute mini-set that also served as a master class on horns, showmanship, and real southern funk. Ben Jaffe (Bass/Tuba), Clint Maedgen (Sax), Ronell Johnson (Trombone), Water Harris (Drums), Kyle Roussel (Piano), and Branden Lewis (Trumpet) showed themselves as great musicians and entertainers, all the while giving some old tunes new life and energy.
Phil Lesh and his stacked ensemble didn’t offer drums or space on Halloween night, instead returning with a haunting rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”, which was slowed down to one-third speed to open the group’s second set. Graeme’s goosebump-inducing singing and the addition of some magical harmonies and an extensive piano solo made the number a highlight of the show. The time-honored “Playing with the Band” was up next, which segued into “Mountains of the Moon” with Phil on lead vocals. The set ended with a rousing and spiritual “Uncle John’s Band”, before the group returned with the macabre “Sampson and Deliah” as a perfect encore to end Halloween in Port Chester.
“Bad Moon Rising”
“Uncle John’s Band”
Thank you to YouTube user Sean Roche for capturing the videos of Phil Lesh’s Halloween spooktacular at The Capitol Theatre on Tuesday. You can also hear full audio from the show below, courtesy of JT/NY.
Setlist: Phil Lesh & Friends | Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 10/31/17
Set One: The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion), Stagger Lee, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You) (Marvin Gaye cover), Let the Mountain Be My Home, Candyman, Tore Up Over You (Hank Ballard cover), Old Man (Neil Young cover), The Apartment Song (Tom Petty cover) (>), Sugar Magnolia
Set Two: Werewolves of London * (Warren Zevon cover), Love the One You’re With * (Stephen Stills cover), Monster Mash * (Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt Kickers cover), Fire on the Mountain *, Sugaree *
Preservation Hall Jazz Band Set
Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover), Playing in the Band (>) Mountains of the Moon, Uncle John’s Band
Encore: Samson and Delilah