Last night, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh hosted the second ‘Bobby & Phil Duo” at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, where they welcomed a very special guest for the entirety of their second set and encore: Phish guitarist and “Fare Thee Well” bandmate, Trey Anastasio.
Opening night had seemingly quelled rumors of an avalanche of jam band notables joining the boys on stage, so the packed house simply settled in for an intimate evening with old friends. Like the tour opener on Friday, the spotlight was on the “duo” for the show’s first set, with intermittent accompaniment from percussionist Wally Ingram, the only additional musician to take the stage on night one. Little did they know what lay in store…
It was a night of music with little messaging, but perhaps the opener, “New Speedway Boogie,” came closest to a comment for our times: “One way or another, this darkness got to give.” Next up were some latter-day, semi-deep cuts, “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Lazy River Road.” Bobby handled most of the vocals early on, alternating between electric and acoustic guitars. Things picked up considerably with a jaunty version of “Deep Elem Blues” followed by some of Bobby’s best moments of the night on “Row Jimmy” and “Cassidy.” The two-man jam began to come together on “Cassidy,” segueing into “Touch of Grey” before returning to the “Cassidy” theme to close the first set.
A lengthy intermission allowed the crowd to soak up the grandeur of their surroundings. Opened in 1932, Radio City Music Hall retains its art deco elegance and is simply part of the experience. As the curtain rose for the second set, it was clear someone had joined the duo. Was that Trey on acoustic guitar as the familiar notes of “Playing in the Band” filled the hall?…
Fans began to cheer wildly as the tune took shape and it became clear the second set was going to be something special. Trey brought the energy to a new level with additional musicianship and sonic depth. When the song was over, Phil walked over to Bobby and warmly embraced him. It was gratifying to see after years of the two going their separate ways, both musically and personally. Phil then embraced Trey before taking charge on “The Wheel”. Phil often saves his vocals for the second set, and once he gets started it’s hard to stop him. The jam led into to more Phil vocals on “Dark Star,” replete with requisite trippy lighting.
The high point of the show was the extended “Jack Straw” that followed, with Bobby and Phil trading vocals as the music steadily built up momentum. By the time we were on the Great Northern out of Cheyenne, fans had taken to the aisles, dancing and whirling with joy. Jack Straw from Wichita reached a powerful crescendo as he cut his buddy down, but more positive vibes followed with Trey stepping out on vocals for “Eyes of the World.” Next, the band returned to “Dark Star” to complete its second verse and set the stage for an extended “St. Stephen”. Finally, a spirited “Viola Lee Blues” floated into an emotional “Standing on the Moon” before landing back in “Viola Lee” territory to close the set.
Phil returned to the stage within seconds as the midnight hour approached. “I don’t think I have much time left,” he said before delivering an abbreviated but always heartfelt Donor Rap. Bobby and Trey then returned to join Phil for an acoustic “Ripple”, an entirely appropriate to ending to a night that only got better as it unfolded.
The Bobby & Phil Duo are headed to Boston’s Wang Theatre for two shows on March 7 and 8, followed by two final performances at the Chicago Theatre on March 10 and 11. Whether it’s just the two of them or other guests wind up joining them on this mini-tour, this tour will mark another interesting chapter in the ongoing Grateful Dead saga that continues to evolve in surprising ways.
For more information on the upcoming Bobby & Phil shows, head to www.bobbyandphil.com.
Below, you can watch full pro-shot video of the second set with Trey Anastasio. You can also check out some photos of the performance courtesy of Lou Montesano.
Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Trey Anastasio – Full Set
Setlist: Bob Weir & Phil Lesh | Radio City Music Hall | New York, NY | 3/3/18
Set One: New Speedway Boogie, West LA Fadeaway, Lazy River Road, Deep Elem Blues, Row Jimmy, Cassidy > Touch of Grey > Cassidy
Set Two: Playing in the Band^ > The Wheel^ > Dark Star^ > Jack Straw^ > Eyes of the World^ > Dark Star^ > St Stephen^ > Viola Lee Blues^ > Standing on the Moon^ > Viola Lee Blues^
^ with Trey Anastasio on guitar/vocals