The significance of the occasion seemed to be on all of our minds.
There we were at Stanford University’s lovely Frost Amphitheater — right in the midst of where it all it began for the Palo Alto-born Grateful Dead nearly 60 years ago — and we were watching 82-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Phil Lesh perform Dead tunes once again onstage.
It felt good. It felt right. It felt like going home.
And, really, it’s always felt that way at Frost — a venue that the Dead played 14 times during its career.
Just ask Lesh, who took to social media to share his enthusiasm about the return to Stanford.
“Going back to where it all began, a dream we dreamed one afternoon, long ago,” he posted earlier on Facebook. “I couldn’t be more excited to take this trip down to Palo Alto with my dear friends Grahame Lesh, Scott Metzger, Joe Russo, John Scofield and Benmont Tench.”
Yes, that’s the amazing lineup for this current Phil Lesh and Friends tour, which kicked off with the Frost show on Saturday (June 4). It looks good on paper — especially with the unexpected additions of jazz guitar legend Scofield and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers great Tench to the fold — and it translated even better in concert.
However, the group did get off to a bit of a slow start in its 80-minute first set, offering up a “Truckin’” that never really got out of second gear and then stalling a bit in the jammed-out transition to “ Playing in the Band.” Yet, the joy was so tangible in the audience that nobody seemed to mind. Fans were too busy shouting along with iconic “Truckin’” line — “What a long strange trip it’s been” — and feeling the added poignancy from being back where said “long strange trip” first began.
The somewhat slow start was to be expected, given that this was Night 1 of the tour, and the group would continue to find its footing as it rolled through “St. Stephen,” “Uncle John’s Band” and “Sugar Magnolia.”