Song Review(s): Phil Lesh & Friends - “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Darkstar” (Live, Sept. 18, 2021)
Phil Lesh has abandoned the arrangement of “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” the Other Ones debuted in 1998, and Dead & Company still play, in favor of the good ol’ Grateful Dead way of presenting it.
But Lesh, as he did in ’98, still sings it. And it suits his atonal baritone fairly well as his current stable of friends - guitarists Stu Allen and Grahame Lesh, keyboardist Holly Bowling and drummer John Molo - provide superb support.
“Half-Step” was the opener and one of three tracks - along with “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Darkstar” - the band shared from its final of three concerts/streams Sept. 18 in Colorado.
Allen took the mic for “West L.A.,” and the song’s ample open spaces left plenty of room for him to engage in six-string dueling with Lesh the Younger, who played slide, and for Bowling to work her 88 keys - and the audience - into a frenzy.
While that was at-times frenetic, “Dark Star” was the anthesis. It glided off from the bridge with a cappella vocals before settling into a mellow, exploratory jam that led to verse 1, a round-robin from Lesh the Elder (who struggled with the key) to Allen to Lesh the Younger before picking up a head of steam.
As is Phil’s wont, these Friends are a three-off. As tight as these songs - and offerings from the previous two nights - were, it’d be something to hear what they could do with several more shows to work with.
Grade card: Phil Lesh & Friends - “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Darkstar” (Live - 9/18/21) - B+/B/B