Phil Lesh

Show Review: Phil Lesh in New Haven

Show Reviews

Phil Lesh and Friends, Westville Music Bowl, New Haven, Connecticut, July 23, 2023

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I first started following the Grateful Dead back in 1983. Myself and a core group of friends traveled throughout New England attending every show possible. By 1995 I had seen the band over 100 times. Since then, I moved to Hawaii and have barely seen any Grateful Dead offshoot bands. Furthermore, I hadn’t attended any of those performances with my old group of comrades. By chance Phil Lesh and Friends were playing the Westville Music Bowl, in New Haven, Connecticut while I was visiting my immediate family. Lesh’s performance was a perfect time to reconnect with old friends.

The Westville Music Bowl is a fairly new outdoor facility which opened up in 2021. The old Connecticut Tennis Center has been retrofitted to a 10,000 capacity venue for outdoor concerts. It is located within Yale’s athletic complex across the street from the historic Yale Bowl where the Grateful Dead performed in July of 1971. The setting is idyllic. Getting into the facility was a breeze and once inside you realized that there really was no bad seat. After all this was a tennis stadium. Another positive is that shows tend to start earlier, generally 6 or 7 pm.

On a gorgeous Sunday, the eighty three year old Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh brought his rotating cast of friends to the Westville Music Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut. It was the final show of a three date East coast tour. Lesh’s friends consisted of longtime drummer John Molo, the bassist’s son Grahame Lesh on guitars and vocals, Eric Krasno on guitars and vocals, Jason Crosby on keys, Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet and vocals, and James Casey on saxophones and vocals. At a little past 6:30 Phil and Friends walked on stage and began the set with the lyrics from “Darkstar” “Shall we go, you and I, while we can? Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds.” Immediately the band went into a jam which allowed the members to become attuned to each other. Seamlessly the band slipped into the pairing of Chinacat Sunflower ” and “I Know You Rider.” It must be noted that two days before the performance saxophonist James Casey updated his progress concerning his battle with cancer. The fact that Casey was performing during this battle showed his courage and grit. Although Casey played little saxophone throughout the night his undertaking of “Dear Prudence”, while the sun was setting, was extraordinary. Finally the band closed out the first set with the Jerry Garcia Band’s “The Love Each Other.”

The second set came together beautifully. The band was bolder and more adventurous. “Help On The Way”, “Slipknot” and “Let It Grow” continued for thirty minutes filled with long, powerful synergy between bandmates. It was a pleasant surprise when Jennifer Hartswick took the lead vocal on “Scarlet Begonias.” Finally the group returned to “Darkstar.” For twenty minutes the band explored the cosmos until the song blended into “Playing In The Band” which concluded the second set. Fortunately the band returned for an encore. The leisurely pace of “Brokedown Palace” with Hartswick on lead vocals was sublime. As the band bowed and exited the stage I took a mental snapshot of the day. Gorgeous weather, paired with divine music, shared with friends I call brothers, made for a splendid day.

Find our previous coverage here:

Set One: Dark Star Chinacat Sunflower, I Know You Rider, Loser, Deep Elem Blues, Dear Prudence, They Love Each Other

Set Two: Help On The Way, Slipknot, Let It Grow, Scarlet Begonias, Darkstar, Playin’ In The Band, Encore: Brokedown Palace



Leave a Reply!