Photo by Craig Taraszki

Phil Lesh celebrated his 70th birthday this past Friday at San
Francisco, CA’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
The evening featured three sets of music and appearances from a range of musicians the Grateful Dead bassist has performed with over the past decade. The members of Lesh’s current band Furthur—Bob Weir (guitar), John Kadlecik (guitar), Jeff Chimenti (keyboards), Jay Lane (drums), Joe Russo (drums), Zoe Ellis (vocals) and Sunshine Garcia Becker (vocals)—served as the evening’s house band, though several past members of Phil Lesh & Friends also sat in throughout the night.

Lesh kicked off the evening with an acoustic set that featured all the members of Furthur minus Russo, singer/songwriter Jackie Greene, Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz and Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson. All three men played in various incarnations of Phil Lesh & Friends from 2004-2008. The set opened with a sing-along take on “Ripple” and featured Furthur’s first takes on “Lazy River Road” and Bob Dylan’s “‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” Other set highlights included “Brokedown Palace,” “Mountains of the Moon” and a set-closing “Attics Of My Life.”

The guest-heavy band plugged in second set and swapped out Lane and Molitz for Russo. The musicians opened with “Scarlet Begonias” and quickly moved into Noah Lewis’ “Minglewood Blues,” Furthur’s first take on “Easy Wind” and “New Speedway Boogie.” The rest of the band’s set was loosely based around a version of Lesh’s “Viola Lee Blues” that snaked around “High Time, a “Caution” jam, “Hard to Handle” and Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” “Sugaree” closed out the evening’s penultimate set.

Greene and Molitz returned to the stage along with drummer John Molo for the ensemble’s third set. Molo was the longest member of Phil Lesh’s various Friends groups, playing with the bassist for almost a decade. Along with Greene and Molitz, he anchored the latest version of Lesh’s ever-changing band through 2008 (the only missing member of that combo was guitarist Larry Campbell, who had a gig this weekend
with Levon Helm). The celebratory set found the members of the band riding to the stage on a float to the tune of “Not Fade Away,” as well as a huge balloon drop and group “Happy Birthday” to Lesh. The band then charged into “Playing In the Band,” “The Other One,” Lesh/Jerry Garcia’s “St. Stephen,” Particle’s “Elevator,” Lesh’s “Unbroken Chain,” “Comes a Time,” “Cream Puff War” and “Franklin’s Tower.” A cover of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode closed the night.

Here’s a look at the setlist via Other

I: [email protected], Lazy River [email protected], [email protected], The [email protected], Brokedown [email protected], A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna [email protected], They Love Each [email protected], Mountains of the [email protected], Attics of My [email protected]

II: Scarlet Begonias, Minglewood Blues, Easy Wind > New Speedway Boogie, Viola Lee Blues > High Time > Caution Jam > Viola Lee Blues > Hard to Handle > Viola Lee Blues > Like a Rolling Stone > Sugaree

III: Not Fade Away > Happy Birthday > Not Fade Away, Playin in the Band > St. Stephen > The Other One > Elevator > Unbroken Chain, Comes a Time > Cream Puff War > Franklin’s Tower

E: Johnny B. Goode

1st set without Russo and with Steve Molitz, Chris Robinson, and Jackie Greene; 2nd set without Jay and with Jackie Greene and Chris Robinson; 3rd set without Jay and with John Molo, Steve Molitz, and Jackie Greene