I asked a friend who spent years as a Deadhead (and now is a high-powered, Armani-clad business journalist who shall remain unnamed to protect his new image), what he thought about going to see Phil Lesh on his latest tour. "Deadheads think of him as part of a unit, an extraordinary part of an extraordinary unit, but not his own guy," he said. Lesh doesn't have a great voice, he reminded me. "He has a voice that's melodic simply because of its instrumental musicality. The only reason he can sing is that he plays bass so well, and knows his instrument so well that he can't be off-tune."
"But then again," he said, "it probably would bring back some very good memories."
So the question was: Is Phil Lesh and Friends more about new music or about new interpretations of Grateful Dead standards? Turns out it's the latter. With Warren Haynes (of the Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule) and Jimmy Herring (who replaced Dickie Betts in the Allman Brothers Band) on guitar, Rob Barraco (of the Dead-like jam-band Zen Tricksters) on keyboards and John Molo (long with Bruce Hornsby) on drums, the playlist is almost all Dead standards and songs they covered.
"The be-all and end-all for a Grateful Dead fan would be if he's doing 'Unbroken Chain' from the Mars Hotel album," my friend said. (Lesh recently did: at the Jones Beach Amphitheater on July 14.) "Now that I know he's doing all these very cool Dead songs," he said, "I'd go." See for yourself Thursday, July 25, at Alltel Pavilion. --Richard Hart