Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Phil & Friends beautifully out there



From the Buffalo News:

Phil & Friends beautifully out there
By JEFF MIERS
NEWS POP MUSIC CRITIC

"Some people might not like change," Trey Anastasio recently told the (Wilkesbarre, Pa.) Times Leader. "I like change, and I think without change, you don't grow."
The former Phish guitarist and vocalist nailed the theme of Saturday's Phil & Friends festival at Darien Lake, which found him reunited with his former Phish-mate Mike Gordon, and sharing the stage with former Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. This show was all about taking the music somewhere else, somewhere new.

All the artists performing on Saturday did exactly that.

Anastasio and Gordon did it while performing a set from their solo albums, backed by the Benvento-Russo Duo, which opened proceedings with a set of its own. Lesh capped the evening with ambitious renderings of Dead tunes and related pieces, placing himself amid a wave of gorgeous, organic sound supplied by a band including Bob Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell, drummer John Molo, pedal steel-player Rob Barraco and vocalist Joan Osborne.

Lesh doesn't seek to be the center of attention, but he leads the band, and his playing on Saturday was, as it has been for 40 years, impossible to ignore. Anastasio's set was filled with profound moments. "Sweet Dreams Melinda" was one of them. Playing with keyboardist Marco Benvento and drummer Joe Russo, Anastasio, with Gordon on bass, took off without a trail of bread crumbs to see him home. The result was an amazing flight of fancy, with moments of transcendent interplay between the players.

Anastasio led the way on his own "Dragonfly," but then the map was thrown clean out the window. Paul McCartney's "Ram" was paid a tribute with a killer version of "Uncle Albert (Admiral Halsey)." Lesh - with Campbell in the role of primary soloist, but everyone in the band rising to the occasion - laid it down with a patient virtuosity. "Dire Wolf" was amazing, and Campbell brought it to a new level with his own dirty Stratocaster sound and nimble blend of country, rock, jazz chromaticism, and straight-up Chicago blues.

"Bird Song" surprised the crowd, and featured a brilliant bass improv from Lesh. All of this ran smoothly into a caffeinated "New Speedway Boogie," a vehicle for Osborne, who kicked it like a cross between Janis Joplin and Filmore-era Aretha.

Osborne was on fire throughout the evening, never failing to inject each moment with soul.


e-mail: jmiers@buffnews.com






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