After celebrating his 83rd birthday at The Capitol Theatre on Wednesday, Phil Lesh returned to the historic venue on Friday with a slightly different Phil Lesh & Friends lineup featuring guitarist Rick Mitarotonda (Goose), keyboardist John Medeski, guitarist Grahame Lesh, vocalist Nicki Bluhm, saxophonist James Casey (Trey Anastasio Band), violinist Katie Jacoby, and drummer John Molo. The show kicked off three consecutive nights culminating with Phil Lesh’s 100th show at The Cap on Sunday.

Since going his own way following the Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well 50th anniversary shows, Phil Lesh has performed with various lineups, giving each show a unique feel and improvisational direction. Since October, however, the core lineup of Lesh, Rick Mitarotonda, John Medeski, John Molo, and Grahame Lesh has played eight shows together along with the Trey Anastasio Band horns, Jennifer Hartswick, James Casey, and Natalie Cressman, making it one of the most consistent Phil & Friends lineups since Fare Thee Well, and while the idea behind the band is to keep the Grateful Dead songbook ever fresh and flowing, there’s also something to be said for letting the same group of musicians deepen their telepathic channels as they forge a musical connection over time.

With the soulful singing of Nicki Bluhm and the spirited violin of Katie Jacoby take the place of Natalie Cressman and Jennifer Hartswick, the band still sounded new, creating a harmonious balance between the fresh instrumentation and the improvisational magic the core group has developed over the past few months (with some members like Medeski and Molo having played with Lesh for over 20 years).

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Casey Jones”, “Althea” – 3/17/23

Highlights of the show included the first “Passenger” since April 2021 at Terrapin Crossroads and a a rare “Easy Wind”, originally sang by Ron “Pigpen” McKernan on Workingman’s Dead and last played by Lesh at his Phil-O-Ween run at The Cap in 2021. Both songs benefitted from Nicki Bluhm’s powerhouse vocals. The rest of the setlist drew from Grateful Dead staples as well as The Beatles‘ “Dear Prudence” and the traditional “Whiskey in the Jar”, but the best parts of the show, predictably, were the improvisational segments, which saw the band go out on psychedelic limb after limb, experimenting with the new instrumentation as they weaved one song into the next.

Check out full-show audio, fan-shot videos, and a gallery of photos from Phil Lesh & Friends at The Capitol Theatre courtesy of photographer David Gray below.

Phil Lesh & Friends return to The Cap tonight, Saturday, March 18th and tomorrow, which will mark Lesh’s 100th show at the venue. For a full list of his upcoming tour dates and to purchase tickets, visit his website.

Phil Lesh & Friends  – The Capitol Theatre – Port Chester, NY – 3/17/23

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Here Comes Sunshine” – 3/17/23

[Video: Evan franks]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Dear Prudence” – 3/17/23

[Video: glassemon]

Setlist: Phil Lesh & Friends | Capitol Theatre | Port Chester, NY | 3/17/23

Set 1: Casey Jones, Althea, Friend of the Devil, Here Comes Sunshine, Easy Wind, U.S. Blues, Truckin’

Set 2: Passenger > New Speedway Boogie, Dear Prudence (The Beatles), Cold Rain and Snow (Obray Ramsey) > He’s Gone > The Music Never Stopped > Viola Lee Blues (Cannon’s Jug Stompers), Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad (Henry Whitter)

Encore: Phil’s Donor Rap, Band Intros, Whiskey in the Jar (traditional)

Note: Phil Lesh & Friends ft. Rick Mitarotonda, John Medeski, Grahame Lesh, Nicki Bluhm, James Casey, Katie Jacoby, John Molo