Side Projects: Reader Reviews
TAB @ Higher Ground, Burlington, VT, 10.1.11 – by Jonathan Tran
Trey and his solo band opened their tour with an inspired effort Saturday night in Burlington, where the band played the 750-person Higher Ground for a show that was only announced two weeks ago. With proceeds benefiting Vermont flood recovery efforts TAB threw down a musically relevant show that only foreshadows good things to come this tour. Before you wonder any longer, yes, Trey decided to drop the acoustic first set in favor of two electric. And, yes, this was a welcome move by just about every fan in the room. Also of note was the return of improvised horn parts (instead of leaving stage) during jams, which was absent from last February’s winter tour. In short, all signs pointed towards “Go!” on the first night of Trey tour.
With the energy already at a peak before show time, the band came out firing with the up-tempo “Cayman Review” followed by the ever-requested “Simple Twist Up Dave.” It seems as though Trey’ has decided that TAB tour is where “Liquid Time” will stay, and the band crushed the tune last night. The uplifting jam fit the Irene recovery vibe of the evening and this lesser-played song went over as well as anything with the crowd.
The fireworks came out next as the band grooved into “Gotta Jibboo.” This version veered away from recent Phish versions and turned into a full-band dance showcase with Trey comping Ray’s clav and organ parts, while Russ and Tony held down the low end. The presence of the horn section throughout the jam seemed to push Trey further into the groove, all the while filling space with well placed musical accents. The debut of “Snake Head Thumb” came next, and was also well received by the attentive Burlington crowd. A “Stealing Time”-“Steam”-“Ocelot” mash-up, this gritty blues number developed into a hard-edged jam that fits Trey’s current guitar style. I could see this song making it to the Big League, and it would be a welcome first set addition.
After a perfunctory “Burlap Sack and Pumps” the band launched into one of the night’s highlights in “Money, Love and Change.” Taking the groove far from its origin, the band wound up in a “2001”-esque disco jam that surprised me with its return to the “ML&C” theme as it wound down. Trey, again, sat back and allowed the rest of the band to form around his rhythm licks. This jam was vintage TAB and is why we go see this band during the off season. An old-school “Magilla” showed off the horn players’ chops, and the set wound down with a well-played and always beautiful “Drifting.”
The second opened with the less creative trifecta of “Acting the Devil,” “Alaska,” and Clint Eastwood.” “Alaska” showcased some classic Trey lines, but the other two songs were mainly by the book. A welcome “Push On” came next and, as always, was a crowd favorite. The band got the energy jumping and you knew it was time for “Sand.” Again, taking the song away from recent Phish versions, Trey laid back to start, letting a wall of sound build around the groove. Eventually moving up in the mix Trey and the rest of the band took this version over the top, making it one of the better TAB Sands of late. “Let Me Lie” came next and, as out-of-place as it sounds at Phish shows, it fit right in to its spot last night. The Phish version lacks the beautiful backing vocals of Natalie and Jen, which were soulful as always. After a nice “Valentine” for the Burlington crowd came the debut of the new Anastasio/Marshall song “Winter Queen.” I’m interested to see where this song goes; hopefully not the way of “Pigtail.”
An energetic “Tuesday” followed, setting up the crowd-pleaser “Windora Bug.” In a final burst of creativity, Trey decided to take this one for a bit of a ride as he entered a loop and effect jam while Ray laid down inventive sounds on his keyboards. The predictable “First Tube” closer came next, and sent the crowd through the roof one last time. A “Hey Ya!,” “Show of Life” double-encore finished off the show and sent everyone off into the cold, rainy night elated that Trey had played a hometown show in their little room. I’m looking forward to a much more inventive and unpredictable TAB tour than what we heard last February, and if last night was any indication, Trey is too.
I: Cayman Review, Simple Twist Up Dave, Liquid Time, Gotta Jibboo, Snake Head Thumb*, Burlap Sack and Pumps, Money, Love and Change, Magilla, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Drifting
II: Acting the Devil, Alaska, Clint Eastwood, Push On ‘Til the Day, Sand, Let Me Lie, Valentine, Winter Queen*, Tuesday, Windora Bug, First Tube
E: Hey Ya!, Show of Life
3.5.2011 TAB @ The Fox, Oakland, CA
The Fox Theatre in Oakland is a refreshing oasis to see live music in. Smoking cigs is not allowed and puffing the kind is welcomed. Bars are plentiful inside the venue and it doesn’t take long to get a drink. Bathrooms are plentiful as well—and very nice. One doesn’t need a series of replacement shirts with the vents in the floor blowing precious, cool air upwards. Couple that with large gold buddahs floating on each side of the stage and you’ve got quite the music venue.
We entered the venue to a muffled sound in the hallway that resembled Dylan belting it out with the acoustic guitar. Many people were confused as to what the point of the solo acoustic portion of the show was for. It was like a giant social event with everyone either chatting over, or singing along with the music. My take is that it’s a chance for Trey to practice lyrics to Phish tunes and avoid burnout and fatigue from doing 2 electric sets.
The night seemed to begin at “Heavy Things”; as simultaneously – the rest of TAB took the stage – and people began to care about what was going on, onstage. Liquid Time is a showcase tune in this setting and the horns help color the musical pallate. Trey currently has the young Natalie “Chainsaw” Cressman on trombone, TAB staple; Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet, and Russel Remmington on saxophone and flute. While this is not “The Tower of Power” horns section, they help develop the sound of this band, playing mostly charted out lines.
This fan was surprised how well the hip-hop/pop covers work in the live setting. (Though they probably should keep Empire State shelved still.) Hey Ya really got the place going, as people decided that while being a genre crossing stretch and a lot cheesy, it was still hella catchy, fun and played well. “Push On” brought the night up a level again as Trey donned the Ocedoc and the acoustic guitar was being retired for the night. While Push on did peak the show up to that point, this is an example of a pre-packaged jam that is a bit busy and frenzied; as if the band has an “on” switch for ‘time to jam’. Either way it busted loose the vibe and had everybody excited at set break.
Set 2 took on a celebratory Phish vibe right off the bat with Jibboo, and contained none of what I consider the “canned jamming.” The former milkman, Ray Paczkowski sounded great on the clav. I haven’t listened back, but you should soon – lots of good stuff in this set. Cayman Review was hot and dancy, carrying over the Jibboo vibe, with Tony Markelis bass lines felt loud and clear throughout the theatre. The sound was superb in the Fox, and music seems to take on a life of its own in such an atmosphere.
Alaska in the three slot just screams lull, but still had a nice build and swanky blues licks by Anastasio. Valentine was clean and featured more pop with hippie lyric sensibility. Trey reminded us he can get deeply psychedelic in a snap, with Plasma. After the cerebral peak of the show, the jazz of Magilla felt perfect. The Fox was then transformed into a dance hall with Toots and the Maytal’s “Sweet and Dandy.” Jumping all over the dance vibe, like wooks to free booze – Trey started Sand and a major dance party ensued. It seemed like Trey hit some original ground in the last jam. The Gorillaz cover “Clint Eastwood” came after Sand. Hip-hop for a cool down? Bring it Trey….works great!
Some Dire Straits, Phish and Led Zep closed out a great night at the Fox. Sand and Plasma are your top tier highlights. A couple friends that have seen Trey a handful of times, when he’s come to the bay area told me that was the best show they’ve seen him do with TAB. Noting that he drew upon the Phish catalogue more heavily, and that the show had an upbeat energy to it.
Another tour in the books or Trey, bring on Phish Summer 2011!!! Thanks for reading, this is my Cu$ty review.
3.1.01 TAB @ The Ogden, Denver, CO
I should preface this review by stating that I have been itching to catch an Acoustic/Electric show since 99′ when I missed them all. I think it is an absolutely fantastic format for a show from one of guitars greats and I was jazzed heading in.
I noticed people on the PT Message Board have been giving Trey a hard time regarding the acoustic sets this tour, and frankly I don’t think they could be more wrong. You always hear people saying they want Phish to take risks and when they don’t, you tend to hear comments like, ‘Trey cut the jam short” or “Why wont Trey take the jam into type II territory?” You know what I mean. Well honestly, I can’t think of anything riskier for Anastasio than unplugging and strolling out in front of a loving, but extremely demanding crowd to play guitar in the format we all know is not his strength. Everyone has seen Trey play electric, but very few have had the rare chance to stand up close in a small room and hear him play their favorite band’s songs completely stripped down.
Trey came out around 8:30, did his classic nod and wave, picked up his guitar and quickly launched into Farmhouse. I’d read a lot of complaints about people being loud during the acoustic sets, but the crowd at the Ogden hushed immediately and stayed quiet and sang through all the right parts. It was actually quite impressive, particularly during Theme and Backwards Down the Number Line where they instinctively filled in for the missing band members. Trey enjoyed it too, and it felt like a true collaboration between performer and audience.
Trey appeared to enjoy himself thoroughly all night long, as he stopped numerous times between songs in the first set to joke with the crowd about buying nugs, comment on what a great room it was to play, and tell some hilarious Fishman stories—the best involving a wheatgrass enema. In addition to the enema story he joked about Fishman’s journals being the inspiration for songs like Tube and Gumbo, in response to which he played both songs. Tube translated amazingly well to acoustic as did Gumbo. We would actually end up being treated to all three Tubes that night, which as I told a friend the next day, sorta made me feel like I hit for the cycle.
Heavy Things was great and always is, at least that’s how I feel about it. However, it was Liquid Time that stole the first set and I think featured Trey’s best guitar work of the night. With the rest of the band behind him it almost seemed like he forgot he was playing an acoustic, and his demeanor suggested it. Taking on his classic upward gaze for the first time that night, he soloed over the band for what seemed like quite a while, playing smooth rapid notes that were borderline flamenco-sounding. Regardless, I think everyone in the room including Trey was impressed and wanted a little bit more and he obliged us by picking up the Ocedoc and plugging in.
After listening to Trey play acoustic for an hour or so, his electric sounded absolutely fiery in that tiny venue and the crowd went nuts with the first notes of Jibbo. Trey hammered at Jibbo with a shrill, heavy guitar and it caught me a bit off guard. I hadn’t seen a TAB show in a long time and remembered Trey’s tone and playing being rounder and jazzier with TAB than Phish, but this was not the case and he seemed to carry over the same sound he’d been using with Phish. Nonetheless, the band tore it up, with the horns adding that extra punch that makes the end of TAB jams so much fun. I will say that I caught myself longing for that other guitar tone several times throughout the night, as it allows the songs in TAB to sound every bit as varied as they are, whereas Trey’s current tone makes everything sound a bit more like rock n’ roll with horns rather than several very different styles of music.
When the first set ended I turned to my friends and said that were that the entirety of the show I would be happy with it, and I truly would have been. But we all know it wasn’t. After set break the band came out and opened up with Night Speaks, a rocker that fit perfectly with Trey’s tone that night. Acting the Devil was fun and was followed by a nice version of Ooh child. Burlap Sack and Pumps featured some great horns and was thoroughly enjoyable, but I really just want to talk bout Clint Eastwood right now. The Trey Anastasio Band owns Clint Eastwood like Phish owns Loving Cup. Everything about this cover is perfectly done and Jen absolutely kills the vocals. From start to finish this was flawless and the best new cover in anything Phish, or Phish related in ages.
The rest of the second set can be summed up pretty quickly. Last Tube is a nasty song and was well done. I don’t recall Trey’s playing to be as insane during this song, as I’d expected, but it was still very good. The Devil Went Down to Georgia was fun to watch because of Trey’s dueling with the ladies, who played the part of Johnny while he played the role of the Devil. Plasma through first Tube was excellent with Tuesday rising as the unexpected highlight between the two. It seemed heavier and rowdier than I recalled it. Trey shredded it and then kicked into First Tube which is always a blast and on this night completed the Tube trilogy.
The encore featured a good mix of songs displaying a range of the styles this band is capable of. Words to Wanda, while very slow and dreamy, was a solid selection. I know nothing about it’s history but I hope we see some more ballads that are equally cool if we are gonna see more ballads. Then again it could be a cover.
So how was my long awaited acoustic/electric show? It was great, especially the first set.
2.27.2011 – TAB @ The Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL
I hadn’t seen any incarnation of TAB since the Chicago 1999 Riviera show… gulp…12 years ago. I scored tickets to this year’s show in a fluid bit of online luck through the official ticketing system. Last year I slept on getting tickets to the 2010 TAB stop in Chicago and, from what I heard, missed a scorcher, so I was excited to see this one and got as close to the stage as we could, about second row middle stage right.
The structure of these shows is well known by now. The acoustic set features a sizable selection of Phish songs reworked for solo acoustic guitar followed by a gradual integration of full band contributions until the last song in the first set is fully electric. The second set features the full-band electric treatment throughout. This was the formula for the evening in Chicago as well, as Trey came out around 8:30 in a split second after the house lights went down, shouldered his acoustic and quickly launched into “Backwards Down the Number Line.” I distinctly remember Trey sitting on a chair during the ’99 acoustic set with a microphone facing the guitar, and perhaps this is why so many raised an eyebrow at the announcement of a second time through the acoustic concept. This time around, however, Trey was standing up, engaged and energized. The guitar was amplified from within, sounded crisp, deep and loud. The crowd, particularly near the stage, was revved up but occasionally obnoxious. After constant calls from certain inebriated youngsters craving “Wilson” and “Guyute” (some genius actually shouted play Guyute mother fu#$%#!) a woman nudged me and told me how much more mellow the audience in Colorado usually is. I smiled politely wondering what she was implying, but shared in her bemusement. The amount of acknowledgment Trey showed these misguided folks: zero.
Like so many new Phish songs have in the past, “Number Line” has really grown on me by emerging as a vessel for good improv. Of course Sunday’s version was straight forward and contained, but as one previous TAB reviewer noted, it was fun to be in the audience and sing along, essentially contributing Page’s backing vocal parts with passion and warmth and no fear of sticking out. This outpouring of audience involvement occurred through most of the acoustic set with varying degrees of intensity, and seemed to depend on how much of the given lyrics the collective audience knew. It was great to see Trey fully aware of, and frequently encouraging, the sing-along atmosphere. And truth be told, it was great to see Trey, period. I don’t think I had spent so much time less than 20 feet from him since I saw Phish in Europe in 1997…gulp…14 years ago. The man is an inspiration. He is looking healthy, happy, and organized, and gauging from Phish’s massive output the last two years and the streamlined course TAB now sails, more good times lay ahead.
I was charmed by the well-played acoustic arrangements of Phish’s canon. Some songs were played on an alternately-tuned second guitar, and some called for a capo. An interesting moment occurred during “Dirt.” Toward the end of the song Trey’s bright disposition became rather sullen and contemplative and it remained that way through the end of “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan”. It was almost as though some painful thought or unspoken dedication had taken place. “Stealing Time” had a particular poignancy without the blaring electric intro, and the soft strumming of the first minor chord before the singing. For a brief time, I was able to conceive of Trey as a folk song writer, and it seemed he wanted to have a contemplative, Dylanesque moment.
The fun vibe returned inside the great divide of “The Wedge”, as did the sing-along. Trey’s solo act ended without anything extraordinary happening, but the beauty of the set lingered into the next phase as Natalie and Jen joined Trey for “Let Me Lie.” Much like Ocelot greatly benefits from the TAB horn treatment, “Let Me Lie” enjoys a whole new level of gorgeous vocal showmanship with the women of TAB. Trey and the ladies were enjoying some inside joke all night which involved allusions to some time Natalie spent in the south of France.
Everyone from TAB was on hand for “Heavy Things” and a palpable rise in energy took place during the exit jam, as Russ played a single snare drum behind Trey center stage. “Liquid Time” and “Hey Ya” provided a palpable rise in volume as well as energy. As it seems to be the case on previous nights this tour, the set-closing placement of the bouncy “Push On Til The Day” sent the audience into the stratosphere with a version that was pure polished fire. Trey was dancing around peacock and pigeon style, and spun around acting out the song’s punchy wind-up ending. “Push On” was the unquestionable highlight of the show for me and is a definite standout moment for anything Phish 3.0-related I’ve seen live.
The rest of the show was a sleek and well-crafted affair. “Gotta Jiboo” found firm albeit brief footing in groove and has a softer feel than TAB renditions of yesteryear. Standout versions of “Money, Love and Change” and “Night Speaks” represented the improvisational heft. Trey sounded like the Trey of old: crisp and fast and purposeful. He avoided relying on certain cliché riffs which can pepper modern Phish solos. The ascensions of the jams were fairly linear but executed so well and organically that no one could complain. During most of the solos and “jams”, the horn section leaves the stage and, interestingly, when they return to the stage and weave a phrase into the the jam, it signals the crescendo. Trey does not signal to them or anything, so they must have agreed on an approximate length of soloing. Otherwise, it seems they have quite a say in how long a piece lasts. Speaking of the horn section, their impressive chops really shown through in the maniacally fast arrangements of “Devil Went Down to Georgia”, and the show ended with a wallop of sound from the brass section in “Sultans of Swing.”
TAB provides a great counterpoint to Phish in so many ways. Smaller song pool, less exploration, less of a visual spectacle, less of a party; more intimate venues, more musicians, more performance polish, more brassy jazz; the overlapping of a handful of songs to compare and contrast. Trey still gets downright nasty, but seems to have less of a need for long periods of jam. Like Phish, I believe TAB has gained some things over the years as well as lost some things and I for one am grateful for the current state of affairs. Sign me up for years to come.
–Mike Thong from Chicago
2.27.2011 – TAB @ The Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL
A cold and rainy Sunday night didn’t stop fans from converging on the archaic Riviera Theater on the north side of Chicago. The line outside the crowded sweat box wrapped around the corner and was growing quickly about 7:30. For pure acoustics and layout, I’ve always wished for a return to the Chicago Theatre that TAB played in 2003, but the Riv would serve as our conduit on Sunday evening.
The floor was densely packed tight, leaving little wiggle room for elbows to send off last minute tweets and texts. The lights dropped at 8:28 and with little fanfare Trey was atop his stool strumming the opening notes to Backwards Down The Number Line. As plenty of audience recordings have proved, the crowd was eager to participate, showering Trey with chorus like waves on a sandy shore. It appeared Trey might have been thrown a curve, as he tried to realign his lyrics with the audience’s refrain, eventually leading to building finish and a large crowd eruption to greet the Bad Lieutenant.
Theme and Farmhouse continued the bar room sing along of the acoustic set, but Gumbo began the steady ascent of slowly injecting cc’s of adrenaline into the crowd during the breakdown section. Kill Devil Falls, Halley’s, Stealing Time and The Wedge all translated to great acoustic songs that elicited their own forms of audience participation. Let Me Lie brought out the female contingent and Water in the Sky, complete with its retro country arrangement, worked wonderfully and brought the song back to it’s roots. At this point, I understood Trey’s decision to incorporate his band earlier in the recent string of shows to help gradually build the show as a steady climb of intensity instead of two stand-alone sets.
Set one hit the launchpad with a frolicky Heavy Things. Seeing this song evolve from Trey’s power trio to a radio single, and from a 2000 tour staple to a rarity, it still carries a happy vibe. The acoustic led version had the band and audience in full interplay with one another and really capitalized on its slot in the set. Following the TAB veteran, Liquid Time made it’s appearance, a song I had waited to hear version since wearing out that section of my Party Time CD. The song was played beautifully and really presented Trey acoustic abilities in an untainted light. Considering most of the acoustic pieces we are getting to hear have been etched into our minds with a lazer beam, this song slides into emotional realms subtly and is held together with the layers of caressing horns, female vocals, Russ Remington’s tootin’ flutin’, and Trey’s pickin,’ as it slides into ether. This song really highlights Patch-Cow-Ski-lls, as he’s usually dialed up on the Hammond B-3. But in the acoustic version on the ivories, he displayed his range with some real colorful complementary playing. But as fulfilling as the acoustic > full band acoustic segue was, the brief Hey Ya! had to be played (I knew it was unfortunately coming), though it riled up the crowd as they realized the power was about to be unleashed. Push On ‘til the Day and all it’s fanfare evokes the same energy every time you hear it, as Trey knows how to ignite a room. Completely dousing the crowd with hit signature side step licks and jumping, the crowd was getting lubed up for some second set action.
Jibboo to start set two! Yep, it became the trend over a few shows, but it works so well. All I can think about as the lyrics circle for their final refrain, is the awaiting loop. And when it hits, you know it’s about to get tantalizingly nasty— Patch-mo funks it out and the interplay begins. The chemistry is unmistakable and has been building for years. Sunday night, Trey and Ray grooved, bounced and they kicked the second set into high gear five minutes into the original shredding beast of ’99. Twelve years later, hearing this song in the same room gave me a full circle appreciation for how Trey can reach into your soul and pull imagery from your forgotten past, overlapping them in an instant. As the horns came back out, the TAB washing machine was on spin cycle, bringing the house down. Plaster was figuratively falling from the roof and waves of sound pelted every crevice of this armpit of Chicago’s live music scene. While not the 20-minute explosion of years past, the intensity of Jibboo remains a staple of TAB shows.
Ocelot and its galloping intro suckered the audience into a steady eruption of horns and JHa and Chainsaw vocals that make this sound like a TAB song turned Phish instead of the other way around. Growlin’ bluesy licks lead into TAB versions that add such great texture to jams. When the horns participate in jams instead of just arrangements that lead to jamming, they give you the sense that this is a band, not just a group of backing musicians for Trey. Valentine cleansed the palette just in time for a song that I can’t get tired of hearing—My Problem Right There. A song that hits you on so many levels with it’s bluesy New Orleans sass, words can’t explain what one listen will.
From sass to ass shaking, Cayman Review and Burlap Sack and Pumps continued to turn the energy up. Burlap had a great break down section leading to the ending climax. Clint Eastwood, despite the Internet’s various opinions, works for me. It seems like they could take the outro into some jammy territory, but fortunately they saved the time for Money, Love and Change. With another assault on the strings, Trey was shredding all night while people were eating it up. Small Axe got the arms waving, let people catch their breaths for the cardiac attack on Devil Went Down to Georgia. Showcasing the horn prowess, the Burlington Brass destroyed the Charlie Daniels Band fiddle runs, soon kicking us into another jam factory production with Night Speaks to a Woman…paging JHa. Ripping as usual. Ether Sunday bubbled with emotion of rolling trumpet hills as it gracefully wound to its outro. First Tube put an exclamation on the night with it’s swirling beats layed down by Tony and Ray Lawton. Trey ripped the top layer as it built into that frenzied peak where the entire band is emitting a sound with so much power. Sultans of Swing presented the post-coitus cigarette, with the band hooking up for the OT winner. JHa and Chainsaw were given center stage to bring home the Mark Knopfler’s famed solo and ripped it to shreds.
The tour has built on show after show from everything I have heard, and it would appear that with one full tour behind him with his latest solo incarnation, TAB is hitting is in full stride.
-The Real Guy Forget
2.25.2011 – TAB @ AE Stage, Pittsburgh, PA
Nestled in the shadow of Pittsburgh’s Three-Rivers Stadium, Trey and his Classic TAB line-up rolled into Stage AE on Friday night and laid down an impressive show that was arguably the best of the tour so far. Upon walking in around the scheduled show time, I was surprised to see the place packed from wall to wall considering that it was one of the few shows to not sell out beforehand. Trey came onstage around 8:30 pm and opened his acoustic set with Backwards Down the Number Line. Everyone was in good spirits and as Trey sang the final part of the song, the crowd joined in by providing the backing lyrics of “All my friends, Backwards Down The Number Line.” The sing-along continued throughout the first set and included well-played versions of Gumbo, Farmhouse, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, and The Horse > Silent in the Morning. The first surprise of the set came in a rare TAB version of Talk. The last acoustic Talk that I personally witnessed was at The Clifford Ball, and hearing the opening notes was a welcome treat to my ears. With only Trey’s guitar, I felt that it fell a little flat in comparison, but you can’t compare apples to oranges.
After wrapping up the solo acoustic part of the set with Driver, Theme From The Bottom, and Down With Disease, the rest of the band joined Trey onstage and backed up his campfire axe for well-played versions of Heavy Things, Liquid Time, and Let Me Lie. I know it’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: Here’s to hoping that Liquid Time makes it into Phish’s repertoire this upcoming summer. Once Trey wrapped up his shirtless bike ride, the show really got started when he strapped on the electric and we all found ourselves in the Show of Life. After an uplifting version that pumped the crowd full of blissful energy, the band gave us one more song to close out the set and provided the highlight of the night IMO. Push On Till The Day started off in typical fashion but morphed into an all-out dance fest that had many first time TABers and even the tobacco chewing, country-fan security guard in front of us left with jaws on the floor. Leaving the vocal section behind, Trey laid down a mellow groove and let the rest of the band warm up their respective instruments. After several minutes of full band interplay, Trey stepped up and unleashed a ripping guitar solo that sent the packed venue into a frenzy. At this point, I found myself feeling like a rubber band that had been stretched to its limit and then suddenly released. I re-listened to this on the way into work this morning and I can say that it definitely holds up to any version that I’ve heard prior. If it doesn’t cause you to have a spontaneous fit of dancing or at least move around in your seat, you need to check yourself for a pulse. For a set that featured mostly acoustic numbers, I was left feeling great about what I had just experienced and I think that most of the people in the venue would agree.
Set two picked up right where set one left off with a killer version of Night Speaks To A Woman that allowed Ms. Hartswick to really stretch out her vocal cords and inspired many silently mouthed “wows” from the crowd. As the song built, we again found ourselves dancing in the aisles and spinning in circles. After mistakenly thinking that I was hearing was the opening notes of Piper (my buddy was kind enough to not make a big deal of my snafu as he just shook his head) I quickly realized that it was actually Valentine that I was hearing. Up next was a standard version of Cayman Review followed by a TAB infused Alaska. The horns added a nice touch to a song that I have been otherwise unimpressed by so far in the Phish setting. Typically a buzzkill for me, this version had a nice feel to it and had me nodding along while conjuring up images of Sarah Palin stalking the great Alaskan moose on her snowmobile. With a quick and effective jazzy slap to the face, we were all pulled back to reality with a tight version of Burlap Sack and Pumps and when Jibboo followed, I was excited at the potential of where it could go. Maybe it was the effects of the frothy beverages that I had consumed starting to take hold, but I didn’t feel that this version held up to others that I have seen in the past. A song that has led to some real no-nonsense groovefests in the past, this version just didn’t do it for me.
The second surprise of the evening came in the form of Goodbye Head. A tightly played 7-minute version of the song left many of us wondering when this, along with Liquid Time, would be included in Phish’s lineup. Why these two songs have been reserved for TAB only is beyond me, but hopefully some of us will get our wishes granted this summer and hear these songs given the full treatment. Mozambique and a fun take on the Gorillaz’ Clint Eastwood provided a nice breather for the dance party that would wrap up a fun night in Pittsburgh. Money, Love, & Change was another highlight reel version that was comparable, in terms of crowd reaction and energy, to the big Push On from set one. Magilla set the stage nicely for a down and dirty Sand that had us grooving in the aisles until the final note rang out.
After playing a top-notch show, TAB came back out and thanked us all with a nicely played First Tube that sent us all into the frigid February night with smiles on our faces. I agree with others that the acoustic set is a bit of a waste of precious time, but it’s still cool nonetheless. All and all, I was very impressed with the evening and it was a really nice have the opportunity to see a show of this quality between tours. Here’s to hoping the nice weather and summer vibes are upon us soon……….
– Casey Boire
2.20.2011 – TAB @ The House of Blues, Boston, MA
It’s always good to hear Trey. I had a great time at the House of Blues last night. Lots of dancing space, great sound, and a good vibe in the crowd. I personally prefer the electric sets so much more than the acoustic and last night’s show was no exception. Sue and Eliza were at the show and Trey seemed be play to their affection with a relatively tame show full of love songs and emotion that lacked some of the explosive energy that I love from Trey. The second set seemed to move back and forth from TAB rager (Jibboo, STUD, First Tube) and swing blues tunes (Wee Wee Hours, Burn that Bridge) which never really allowed for the raging momentum to get going like many of Trey’s shows of the past. There were no long jams with hand signals queuing band members to change keys or break down to just a few members. This staple exploratory jam section of almost all of Trey’s past electric sets has become one of my favorite moments of each show. There has been a noticeable lack of these jams in the first three shows of tour perhaps alluding to the more relaxed personality of this band, the search for bliss rather than rage, or simply paralleling Phish’s move to shorter, more predictable jam development. Trey didn’t really start jumping up and down too much until First Tube. He used to start sets by jumping up and down. But that lack of high energy did not disappoint the crowd as there were many other highpoints that made for a great night.
The show started with Sample, Punch You in the Eye. I’ll be a little critical here at Punch You as Trey seemed to mess up the rhythms changing from one part to the next in the beginning of PYITE. Its almost like he needed Fishman to hold down the beat. But we know he doesn’t so I guess he was just a little sloppy. All due respect, but he is not really a solo acoustic musician. Probably the highlights of the first set were all the unique improvised song endings in the place of jams. He used chord progressions to get out of songs and usually ended them a bit prematurely. Sample, Punch, Bag, Chalkdust all had very cool chordal improvisations in place of the jams. After a rocky start including a botched and restarted Strange Design (dedicated to Sue and Eliza, it was written for them while Sue was pregnant), he did a nice job with Shine a Light, Dog Faced Boy and got some emotive juices flowing. Many people said Shine A Light was their first set highlight. Trey then told a great story about writing jazz standards back in school and originally writing Lawn Boy as a standard. Russ Remington and Tony Markelis joined him for a run through that featured a smoking Russ solo. One of my personal highlights was the welcome sound of the full band as they sculpted a lilting Let me Lie. I think Trey pulled of the emotion of the “I cheated on you but now we’re cool” songs like Let me Lie and Dog Faced Boy on this evening. Of course all the buzz is about the Hey Ya closer which is fun and got our feet moving for the first time in the set but really fails to deliver as anything more than a novelty. I liked the days where Trey aspired to be like Sun Ra and Frank Zappa and the JB’s rather than to cover pop songs. But I will take it, and it was all smiles for all in the room, especially Trey.
Set two gave us a healthy dose of swing blues and rock venom climaxing in an unlikely place of soulful bliss. The Done Done It opener started the set to showcase the girls. The lady’s sing a great “Don’t Do It” for Trey to respond “I done done it.” A Ray Paczkowski organ solo fit right in. Valentine followed with a fast tempo and a guitar solo showcasing crisp and fast licks. Back to the swing with In the Wee Wee Hours with solos by Natalie, then Jen. A show highlight in Jibboo came up next with a classic Trey Ray interplay jam. The horns left the stage for the only time of the night and let the foursome craft the wizardry. The call and response from Trey and Ray’s clavinet brought he jam up without Trey ever really reverting to rhythm guitar. It was all melodies from Trey tonight and this really worked in the middle section of the Jibboo jam where Trey sat back and just let the hose flow. As the horns reentered the stage the climax was big and fun but nothing like what I remember of the Jibboo in this room last year.
Sweet Dreams Melinda, Burn that Bridge provided another valley in the journey of the show setting up a raging Simple Twist up Dave played for an audience member who was calling for it. Trey’s soloing was again crisp and straight ahead. He started jumping up and down a few times and a few of my crew thought this song was the show highlight. The Small Axe cooldown (another repeat from last year’s HOB show) featured some excellent trombone work by Natalie “Chainsaw” Cressman. She has a similar guttural approach to her instrument as Jen does to the trumpet. Her best moments are these slower numbers allowing her to evoke the deepness of the trombone. Ooh Child and Tuesday were very standard versions with limited jamming. Tuesday is fast and high energy enough that I would love to see it blow up sometime. Tonight it had enough gusto get the juices flowing just in time for what I would consider the climax of the set. The Ocelot coaxed a groove from the band and playing from Trey that moved us all from the inside out. The addition of horn lines seem very natural to the song with simple melodies that back Trey’s vocals. As the girls sang “won’t you come out?” they seemed to draw from Trey his most relaxed and blissed out playing of the night.
Again trading lines with Ray’s Hammond Organ, Trey left a lilting feeling to all in the audience similar to that of “The Way I Feel.” He was playing so cleanly and precisely that every note was perfectly created for the ear. He was “whaling” with string bends on the Ocedoc, rather than with the foot pedal that took center stage in 2009 Phish Ocelots. This is the type of playing where a guitarist bends the string before plucking it, then after he plucks it, “unbends” it down so that that the note descends. This organic playing was extremely emotive and fit the theme of the night for me. This was followed with more of same feeling in Ether Sunday. Again nodding to his wife and daughters with the “Sunday at Home” song, but also milking the shiny music that descended from the Ocelot. This song featured a deep and lowdown Trumpet solo that had everyone clapping for Jen. The First Tube closer brought the energy to the highest it had been all night with Trey’s signature jumping and a mad venomous solo. I was super impressed with his solo as it was not some the standard guitar wankery that we have heard so many times with First Tube. Rather, it was creative and fit right in. He followed many of the composed horn lines responding in similar melodic patterns.
The encore of Magilla and Black Dog was all high-powered and for the first time of the show we had three songs in a row that kept the energy up. Whoever wrote the horn arrangements for this band for Magilla deserves a grammy because they are so sick! The familiar melodies of Magilla stand out in various unexpected places throughout this tune. This song was one of the few times that Ray got to stretch out on the sax and it made me want more. In fact, the playing at the end of set two and the encore kind of felt like the end of a first set setting us up for a second. But Trey had already played two sets filling valuable dancing time with his acoustic prowess (insert tongue in cheek). Black Dog closed the show for us with perhaps the most growling music of the night. After the lyrics of this Led Zeppelin classic Trey turned around during his solo and faced Jen. As Jen pulled sounds from the depths of her throat, Trey shred his guitar. The two of them snarled at each other in low tones while the rest of the band raged along. This was a fitting ending for a set that I thought often came from the depths rather than sitting on the surface.
While this show did not deliver everything I wanted from Trey, it was crafted with care as it evoked Trey’s soul, and built to a climax at the end and had its most powerful playing in the last few frames. Thanks for reading.
2010 TAB TOUR
Trey & Classic TAB – 2.19.10, State Theatre,. Minneapolis, MN
Strolling down Hennipen Avenue in Minneapolis is a rare treat. Clubs and restaurants abound, as well as several significant music venues. On this late-winter Saturday night one could take in Trey at the State Theater, B.B. King and Buddy Guy at the Orpheum or something called Dixie’s Tupperware Party at the Pantages Theater – all within three blocks of each other. With B.B. King and Buddy Guy across the street from Trey, one could only speculate the possibility of Hennepin Avenue exploding into a six string supernova. No doubt Trey was aware of these legends throwing down in the neighborhood and I have to assume it pushed Trey and the rest of the band to perform one of the best shows of the 2010 TAB tour.
The State Theater is a beautiful piece of 19th century architecture. Home to one Phish show back in April of 1993, the State Theater boasts a moderately deep but wide floor with a single balcony. The plaster reliefs, classical murals and gold leaf create an ambiance found few placed today.
The band opened with a very lively and tight “Last Tube.” This opening statement made it clear to all – serious fun and shredding were the order of the night. “Shine” took the second slot followed by the powerful combo of “Caymen Review” and “Push On Til The Day.” The latter of which was a first set highlight, as Trey and the band wove a tight and spinning musical tapestry that had the crowd grooving very hard. Following “POTTD, “the crowd erupted, and I shared a look with my wife confirming our mutual feeling that TAB was on fire and we were experiencing some of the best music Trey and the band have ever laid down.
The incredible sound of the State Theater, acknowledged at one point by Trey, was a big part of the experience. We were lucky enough to be seated dead center on the floor in row S. At one point during “Shine,” soundman, Gary Brown, parked himself across the aisle with his tablet computer, using his stylus to mark peaks on the bright green histogram sound-o-meter. I think my comment to my wife went something like this: “Holy shit, they just calibrated the band to our position!”
Prior to “Mozambique,” Trey spoke of young Natalie Cressman’s pedigree and set her up for a big trombone solo. During Nat’s solo, Trey chopped away on guitar like a parent teaching a kid how to ride without training wheels. Trey egged her on by chopping ever higher pitched chords and then backing off to let Nat ride on her own. She clearly needs little hand holding as her licks were very hot, riffing up and down the scales with jazzy precision.
“Drifting” was done very well as Trey infused the lyrics and music with heart and soul. “Night Speaks to a Woman” saw Jennifer Hartswick working her pipes and taking advantage of the venue’s prime acoustics as she carried the refrain, “Like water on the breeze,” and punctuated the song with the lyric “Awww, night speaks!” More on Jennifer later. “Sand” was another treat as Trey took the jam into dark and bluesy territory where Trey dropped the sonic bombs a la Jimi Hendrix’s National Anthem.
Following “Sand,” the band left the stage and Trey did another mini-acoustic set. I enjoyed Milwaukee’s acoustic selections as the saucy crowd sang along with everything they had. Crowd participation was a bit lacking in Minneapolis; the crowd had much less enthusiasm than Milwaukee. This may have been due in part to Trey restarting “Joy” after struggling to find the key. A few more acoustic numbers, including “Farmhouse” – which fit the mostly rural Minnesota locale and the set was closed with a ripping acoustic version of “Chalk Dust.” Trey seemed to really enjoy his time alone on the stage. Trey seemed like he could have kept going on the acoustic set but mother nature called. Trey requested a potty break and promised to be back in fifteen minutes.
Set two opened with “Jibboo,” a joke not lost on all following the set one potty break comment. “Valentine” continues to be played very strong and infecting the pshyches of all who hear it’s redemptive gallop. “Money, Love and Change” saw Trey having technical difficulties with the ‘doc. Guitar tech was on the scene swapping the light with the dark colored ‘doc and after a moment of confusion, Trey rejoined the sinister marching grooves of “ML&C.” “Liquid Time” came next, though this song seemed to be a bit lost on the young crowd. “Alaska” was a blues fun-fest and the lyrics, “won’t see the sun ‘till sometime in July” had me thinking Minnesota might not be that different than Alaska. “Goodbye Head” was delivered very tight and although the changes in the back half of the song seem “Time Turns Elastic’esque,” it comes off much stronger and with more continuity than “TTE.”
“Mr. Completely” was probably one of the best TAB run-throughs ever Trey was on top of this one, simultaneously playing conductor, rhythm and lead guitar. Trey had at least five different hand signals which were used to call out different players for solos as well as down-shift and up-shift the groove. After ripping flute, trombone, guitar and keyboard solo’s the band sounded like they were going to wrap Mr. C – much to the disapproval of Jen. Jen stepped forward and blew her horn, laying down a feature solo of the evening. The audacity of Jen jumping was met with a huge smile on Trey’s face. Jen is clearly confident on stage and if she feels she has something to say – look out – she’s going to say it!
This brings me to the high point of the show, “Black Dog.” This number features a tight whole-band groove interrupted by bluesy lyrics dripping with sensuality. Jen was powerful and playful throughout this number, cocking her head back and rolling her eyes for the lyric “I don’t know but I’ve been told, a big leg woman ain’t got no soul!” Jen took us over top, bringing the song to multiple climaxes; first during the “aw, aw, aw, aw, awwwww!” lyric and climaxing again as Jen and Trey traded vocal and guitar jabs. Jen clearly wore Trey out and had more in the tank, taking the vocal lead deep and long to the end of the song. The crowd was going nuts at this point, the building was on fire and the roof was down the street. Jen gets the MVP for this show, hands down. This is a must hear version – especially if your name is Robert Plant.
The band left the stage at exactly midnight and after a few minutes returned for the now routine “First Tube” closer. Trey finished by showering the crowd with noise, triumphantly ending in the Jedi pose.
-Mike “BigNasty” Nast
Tickets in hand and off we went the six or so blocks to the State Theatre. It was a gorgeous February Minnesota night and the city seemed in good spirits all around– Not a vibe that I necessarily pick up every time I am in the Twin Cities. As we reached Hennepin Ave. and the Theatre District I saw the bright marquee of the Orpheum Theatre lit up with the names of guitar legends BB King and Buddy Guy. And to our right is the State Theatre lit up with Trey Anastasio. Great live music up and down the avenue! Thoughts of a possible sit-in start to enter the back of my head. Wishful thinking I knew, but a fun thought nonetheless.
Get a few beers and make our way to our seats in Row F. Seeing the Languedoc getting tuned and ready for Trey to rip it up the realization finally starts to sink in and it hit me that I am about to see Trey Anastasio and Classic TAB! And then the lights went down and the roar of the crowd erupted with opening sounds of that distinct guitar tone. BLAST OFF!! Opening up a show for the first time this tour with Last Tube the band jumped right into the groove. Sounding extremely hot right out of the gates the band showing off just how tight this newly assembled configuration of TAB is. The three piece horn section ripped through their newly arranged parts on the invigorated Shine while Trey bounced all over the stage nailing the high, sustained guitar parts with virtuoso precision, something that he would continue to do all evening long. Two classic Trey Band tunes came next in this first set with Cayman and Push On. Both tunes were played extremely strong and tight by the entire band (another theme that ran throughout the night) and had the energy in the theatre going off the charts.
A bit of a breather was needed after Trey and Company whipped the crowed into an all out frenzy with the highly climactic end jam of Push On. Trey took this time to introduce the newest band member Natalie “Chainsaw” Cressman, the daughter of former TAB trombonist and the first second generation member of the band. The crowd gave quite the hoot for the cute Ms. Cressman and then she tore up an incredible solo in Mozambique proving to everyone that she definitely has the chops to play in this high caliber of a band. The old school vibe continued with two personal favorites of mine Drifting and Night Speaks, Trey’s signature guitar lines made everyone in the building smile and groove. The full band segment of the first set ended with a run through of the re-energized Tuesday and a smoking groove oriented Sand which featured the impeccable rhythm section of Tony Markelis and Russ Lawton laying down a thick, nasty pocket of funk. The band then left the stage for Trey to strap on his acoustic guitar and play a few solo Phish ditties for the crowd.
After a shaky start (started Joy in the wrong key) the acoustic mini set was off and running. With the opening notes of Bathtub Gin ringing through the theatre an elated crowd let out a collective cheer. This version soon turned into a sing-a-long with Trey playing some drum beats on the guitar with a huge grin on his face as the crowd doooo-do-do-do-do-do-dod do do do do do do dod do’d with joy along to the Phish classic. Trey then commented on how great the acoustic guitar sounded in the room which made the crowd cheer and want even more. He obliged, playing the solo piece Sleep Again before jumping into an audience pleasing Farmhouse and Waste. I really thought Waste was going to do it as he’d been out on stage for quite some time, but to my surprise he played a rip-roaring acoustic rendition of Chalkdust! Awesome.
A quick intermission followed the acoustic set– Just enough time for a bathroom break and refills. And then the lights were back down and the dancing was once again on with the nice, fun Jibboo opener. With the first set light on new material the second set was a showcase for some of the newer TAB tunes. Valentine, with its strong composed horn parts and poignant lyrics was incredibly enjoyable. Next the band revved up the engines a bit with Money, Love and Change. This version was big on jam, with everyone getting in on the action– Loose and raw like the song is meant to be played. The Dire Straits sounding Liquid Time continued the full band exploration and highlighted the nice work on the keys Ray Paczkowski had been providing all night. Following up Liquid Time with another fairly new tune Alaska, (both off of Phish’s Party Time) this bluesy number was supplemented nicely with the addition of the horns. The next two selections of the night left my head spinning and my jaw on the floor. The Goodbye Head>Mr. Completely was magic. What went on during the jam out of Mr. Completely is hard to put into words. It was one of those moments that you just stand there with your mouth open, happy to be alive and watching Trey play and direct his band through such vast soundscapes. This was truly a moment to remember. The Show of Life placement next was perfect at this point in the show. Everyone needed a moment to reflect on what had just occurred in this real show of life before our very ears and eyes. Smack— Black Dog hits ya across the face next with Jen belting out the Plant vocals with extreme precision. Rock and Roll baby, Rock and Roll!!!
Just after the stroke of midnight the band came back out on stage for the stand alone encore of First Tube. Trey was turned up and rocking. Jumping and bouncing with his arpeggios sending the crowd off with one last hurrah! What a night of music from Last Tube to First Tube! Walking out the doors you couldn’t help but to be happy– Happy to be apart of such an experience– Happy that our guitar hero Trey Anastasio is alive and reenergized, playing the guitar once again like the Jedi Master he is. This was a fantastic high energy concert. The Trey Anastasio Band is pure fire and they brought some major heat to Minneapolis. A fun night at The State Theatre! And then back out into the crisp Minneapolis winter air with a smile still etched upon my face, and the walk back to the hotel reliving and recapturing the night’s highlights and planning ahead for the traditional after concert pizza order. It was good to be alive.
Trey and Classic TAB – 2.19.10, Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL
Trey and his septet hit the stage at approximately 8:30 PM CST last night at The Riviera Theatre on Chicago’s northside. He seemed like a man on a mission right from the get go and was jumping into the air with excitement. On his face was a shit eating grin and his enjoyment was contagious. The primary opener for this tour, “Shine,” got things underway. “Cayman Review” included some nice interplay between Trey and Ray on the keys. “Push On Til the Day” was when the performance hit its stride. This included a portion where it was just the 4 piece that toured in Fall 2008. “Sweet Dreams Melinda” had a mellow jam tacked on the end of it. Trey introduced 18-year old Natalie “The Chainsaw” Cressman on trombone. She and Jen added a lot to the show on vocals and the horns. Russ Remington was impressive on both saxophone and flute. “Alive Again” lacked some of its Afro-Cuban flair from previous tours without Cyro Baptista on percussion in the band. However, Tony Markellis and Russ Lawton still created powerful grooves all evening long perched on their risers behind Trey’s signature octagon rug. The rug really ties the room together.
“Jibboo” was an obvious highlight in the first set. TAB has always played the Bob Marley cover “Small Axe” as an instrumental and this was nice placement for that tune. The next few songs almost had a 70s R&B vibe at times. It seemed like the focus with this incarnation of TAB was more blues/rock than the elongated dance grooves of ’01-’03. This band played shorter, more to the point versions not unlike 3.0 Phish. “All That Almost Was” grew somewhat repetitive. “Alaska” sounded great with the horns. “Valentine” was a decent new song with references to Trey’s recovery. “Tuesday” sounded a little awkward with the horns and I felt it lost a little of its rocker essence. At this point after 75 minutes the rest of the band peeled off and Trey picked up his Martin acoustic for a four-song mini-set. This became a singalong of four commonly played Phish songs. Trey stood the entire time and his playing on the acoustic was as good as I’ve ever seen from him. The crowd was very receptive at the end of “Wilson” as he told us his customary “we’ll be back in 15 minutes” to bring the first stanza to a close.
“Dragonfly” a lyrically lacking song from Bar 17 opened the second set. “Night Speaks” featured Jen belting out her part with usual gusto. The show featured a lot of songs from Trey’s self-titled solo debut. “Sand” has long been a second set TAB standby. This had more Crimson Dago + Milkman dueling. That was an effective spot in the show for the Party Time/Bar 17 ballad, “Let Me Lie.” “Mr. Completely” had each member of the band stepping up for a spotlighted solo and Tony modulating on his bass to Trey’s command. There was a legitimate segue into the rarely played selection, “Plasma.” “Birdwatcher” provided a jazzy interlude after the “Mr. C > Plasma” combo. Perhaps that one could be played a cappella this summer with Phish? “The Way I Feel” from Trey’s album One Man’s Trash had Tony shaking the building with his slow bassline. “Last Tube” appeared to be the end of the set after some well phrased solos by Trey and the return to the horns that makes the song. At the song’s conclusion Chicago resident Jennifer Hartswick took hold of the microphone and soulfully delivered a version of “Black Dog” that Robert Plant would have approved of. This fit with the rock theme of the evening. The encore was quite predictable as they’ve done “Sultans of Swing,” “First Tube” a number of times on the tour. “Saving it up for Friday night” was appropriate on this occasion. The horns handle the part where Mark Knopfler takes it to the next level. I would have preferred that Trey played that on his guitar. “First Tube” was introduced as the first song that Trey, Russ, and Tony wrote together and was a fitting end to an impressive show. Trey Anastasio and Classic TAB seem to have rounded a corner after the NYC Terminal 5 show on this tour and took it to the next level in Milwaukee, and especially last night in the second city.
— Jon Lake
Trey and Classic TAB – 2.18.10, Pabst Theatre, Miwaukee, WI
Trey sounds amazing. His energy although usually at elevated levels when Red takes the stage, was at a height I don’t know I have ever seen. Dancin, jumpin around, deep knee bends, and Pete influenced windmills were prevalent throughout the night. The few local Phishies I spoke with all were in agreement Trey’s emoting of twitchy, nervous, positive energy was a direct result of him realizing he was creating his first top shelf musical project since his recent return. This music is good. It is real good. Russ and Tony are lock step giving us that retro 3 piece sound I fell in love with in 99. Ray is a monster on the clavinet, Rhodes, and B-3. The horns are tight and crisp with the new arrangements giving new energy to old classics. The perfect female harmonies offered by Jen and Natalie contrasting with Trey’s more monotone occasionally out of key vocal gives strong associations to the later years JGB line ups.
Seems like the acoustic mini set is here to stay which is pretty lame but “Stealing Time,” “Bathtub,” and “Number Line” were surprises.
“Shine” and “What’s Done” started out a little slow but like every other version things got going on “Push on Til the Day.” The versions of this song on this tour have been some of Trey’s strongest jamming since his recent return and this one is no exception.
“Sleep Again” was great to here making me wonder if a Phish electric version is in store for 2010. “Cayman,” “Jibboo,” “Sultans” brought the house down. Loving every moment when the horns left the stage allowing the remaining members to play as a four piece the jam Ray and Trey through down in Jibboo was amazing with some cool funky, ambient groove excursions.
The second set was hot throughout. Why this band is so rippin on this tour. My highlight was “Goodbye Head,” “Words to Wanda.” The composition of “Goodbye Head” was just nailed. Seemed to have worked on it a few times between recent shows. The composition is so old school Phish and I believe they will rework the soaring guitar led jam into the arrangements when Phish takes it over this summer. Love “Words to Wanda.” Another beautifull version led by the ladies perfect harmonies.
You can tell Trey has his confidence back. “Money, Love, and Change” which has been filled with keyboard and horn solos earlier in the tour just the full Trey treatment with him touring the entire piece into a rock star shred fest.
Last comment. “Spin” is great. Don’t remember ever hearing this one. Another nod to Trey’s new-found finger speed he ripped through this blues rock instrumental with precision and tremendous emotion.
Great night. Can’t wait for tonight. Check this band out.
— Albert Walker
What can you say about a band whose first songwriting effort yielded “First Tube”? Trey walked out, jumped around like a kid, pumped his fists; it would be a big old love fest last night in Milwaukee.
“What’s Done” was the second song, and already, it was as if Clapton circa ’74 (they used to call him God) was standing up there, albeit toxin-free and in complete control. Hearing “Push On ‘Til The Day” for the first time in over four years…when we thought there might never be any more Phish, this was the first song that made that prospect seem tolerable. Tonight, it was an old friend I hadn’t seen in forever, but we both still remembered the secret handshake.
“Let Me Lie” just does something to me. It has that askew knowing-innocence that only Trey and Tom can evoke. I can’t read anything into it. I can’t dissect it. Just feels good. Ray’s best solo of the first set came in the tour debut of “Sleep Again.” It must be oddly comforting for Trey to sing those words now, as if they’ve finally come true. “Birdwatcher” was like being transported into a speakeasy during Prohibition, sparking the party portion of the show. “Cayman Review” was solid, and “Gotta Jibboo” extended the drinking motif. Trey appeared to be chomping at the bit, but as the horns backed away, Ray took the reins, leading to four-piece jam, not really like Phish at all, but still…Red. The horns returned for the first of many instances throughout the night when the seven-piece ensemble locked into a single-minded groove with the unnerving determination of The Terminator and the pulse of a heart attack.
“Sultans Of Swing” figured to be the set-closer, but we were treated to a solo acoustic interlude. The acoustic “Bathtub Gin” at the first Bonnaroo was a heartbreaker, not knowing if or how we’d ever hear it again for real. Now, Trey playing the acoustic is a plain celebration of the new reality. He just makes you smile until it hurts. I’m a fan. Never expected “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan” or “Backwards Down The Number Line” but this little showcase only served to remind me how much these piecess have already become complete Phish songs to me.
It was my buddy Jim’s birthday, after all. So naturally, he called the second set opener: “Curlew’s Call”. The band was in the zone from note one. “Sand”…Why must Trey deprive the Phish audience of this nugget of grand blues funk? Because it’s just better with the horns, folks. Classic TAB = not experimenting, just locking in; that’s how “Sand” was created. Trey keeps a jam going exactly as long as he wants; no Fishman to end it early (just sayin’.) Sustaining the kind of intensity that brewed in this jam takes something beyond mere musicianship; to harness it and bring it all back around to a point of closure takes the will of a superhero. Harrowing, and absolutely perfect.
I just love the main riff of “Night Speaks To A Woman.” Trey and Ray engage in a raging battle, with Trey toying with a harmonic variation on the main theme is pretty insane. The climax is as unexpectedly nailed perfectly. “Goodbye Head” is a brilliant composition, impeccably nailed last night in all its reverse-“Kashmir” glory. It slides gracefully into “Words To Wanda”; getting this and “Let Me Lie” in the same show is kind of a full-circle moment for me. I just remember feeling like these two tunes blew away almost all Trey’s solo songs on Bar 17/18 Steps, and where are those others now?
Phish 3.0 + Classic TAB: Trey having his cake and eating it, too. These musicians SO commit to the groove with Trey as commander-in-chief. In “Money, Love and Change,” he rallied them into this fury of sound, and they return to the main theme in the end when it just couldn’t have gotten any more intense in that room. Breather: “Small Axe”. “All That Almost Was” feels more like a celebration of what is and what will be.
I’ll be pretty shocked if I ever hear a version of “Spin” that tops the one from the Vic Theatre in 2006, but I’ll always get a little freaky feeling when I hear the song now because of that night. The song proper ends in a whirlwind crush of guitar, and the jam is a totally separate animal. Trey slowly, deliberately unsheathes the lightsaber and just slays the Wampa. There’s no one else on that stage.
A virtual Johnny Ramone strum-fest through “Tuesday” as the horns have their way ends the set. The encore is a repeat of New York’s two nights earlier, “Magilla,” and after a heartfelt tribute to everyone in the band, “First Tube.” I could get this every night and never get too much of it. Guitar aloft, screeching, a huge grin on the axeman’s face, the crowd in rapture. Ultimately, the same way I feel after every TAB show: it’s not Phish, but Trey still takes me to places nobody else can.
Trey and Classic TAB – 2.14.2010, Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ
Trey Anastasio and his horn-laced Classic TAB stepped on the stage, gave a nod, and acknowledged the holiday with the relatively new Trey tune, “Valentine.” Yet the piece remains entrenched in mystical imagery peering into to Trey’s emotions,“Release, release, the rope around your neck/the rope around your neck/It’s to put the weight down.”
“Caymen Review” came next foreshadowing the dance party this show would become. With bar lines too long to wait on. Besides, it was definitely not worth missing any Trey when he is playing the way he has: completely invigorated and as a suburban shaman.
After we shined on and ridden along “Shine’s” story line, Trey had a tale for the audience. It turned out 21 years ago was Trey’s first date with his wife Sue. That’s 1989; Phish were already a band, “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday” and “Junta” were already written. Trey also called Sue his “Freehold Sweetie” which is an astonishing fact to this crowd considering Freehold, most commonly known as “The Home of the Boss” is only twenty minutes away. Trey again acknowledged the holiday by dedicating “Drifting,” a song written for her, to Sue.
“Drifting”-“Love, Love, Love”. Ah, Cupid is in full effect shooting arrows of bliss. And from here on out this show turned into a non-stop, old-fashioned psychedelic sock hop. In “Curlew’s Call” the Gita was summoned. “Obstacle of Course,” the new Anastasio / Marshall tune was then played for the second time ever after being debuted at Philly’s Electric Factory. Though only the second time played the new tune about being wary of “creature comforts” sounded like it was an old staple. It fit perfectly and is very catchy.
The instrumental “Tube Top Wobble,” a personal favorite from Trey’s 2007 release “The Horseshoe Curve,” was more than welcome. The song itself has been in TAB rotation since 2001 and “The Horseshoe Curve” is half studio outtakes from Trey’s 2002 solo self-titled record “Trey Anastasio” and half live takes from the band’s shows. The tour-closing rendition of “Tube Top Wobble/Flop” from Classic TAB’s performance in Richmond, VA (10/25/08) is an example of what Miner has called the “musical density.” When I got home I could not believe how deep and long this five-minute instrumental felt.
“Night Speaks to a Woman” is a rocker and this one was no exception; another tune for Valentines Day. “Night Speaks” slid into the clearly orchestrated and beautifully executed “Goodbye Head,” which smoothly moved into a silken “Gotta Jibboo.” “Gotta Jibboo” continued with the JuJu and “Tuesday” continues to defy it’s own lyrics and refusing to let “the beat slow down”.
End of Set I.
The start of Set II brought “Sand” and this:
Stories differ, but either a dancer or one of the many fans ejected from this show for Count Basie’s strict no smoking (anything) policy, knocked into the firearm, setting off the fire alarm and bringing the house lights on. Either way, it made for a most unique moment. Trey, without missing a beat, kept the jam alive by starting an audience clap along. Unamplified, he picked up a cowbell and led an impromptu parade through the Count Basie with the horns continuing the “Sand” melody. No doubt a truly memorable moment for the young Natalie Cressman.
For a moment I though the rumor of a Bruce Springsteen appearance might come to fruition, especially with the mention of Trey’s own “Freehold Sweetie”, but it never materialized and the parade worked quite well. When they made their way back up to the stage Trey signaled to the audience that they would be back in five while the technical difficulties were worked out. When they returned they jumped right into “Push On Til the Day” which featured an extra whirling dervish wind up from Trey before unleashing glory.
The nearly fifteen-minute “Mr. Completely” continued the improvisational zone and flow. This indulgent arrangement featured every single member of the band taking solos. It was a perfect showcase of the incredible talent and cohesiveness of this latest incarnation of TAB after only five shows! “The Way I Feel” slowed things down, but in a good way. This song smoothly continued the stirring of the pot. If “Sand “ was jumping into the above ground five foot pool as a little kid, “Push On” and “Completely” were the moments where the whirlpool started and everyone is trying their hardest, running on the walls, to get the flow started. “The Way I Feel” is the moment when everyone lets go and is just taken away by the near-electric current. This moment in the show also allowed the audience sing in chorus creating unity with a simple, yet elegant, four word blues chant.
“Money Love and Change” continues to be a dirtier, chunkier version during this TAB tour. Toots and the Maytal’s “Sweet & Dandy,” made it’s second appearance this tour, this time as a special request from Tony Markellis. Though Jen’s voice was more angelic at the E-Factory, this version was much more together overall.
And the jams continued with the musically dense, “Last Tube,” likening a delicate and psychedelic hay ride. This just may be my favoritre TAB tune. The encore. Is it “Liquid Time?” Trey seemed like he was going into it and then decided at the last moment that he wanted to play “Sultan’s of Swing”. Between this and “First Tube” Trey and his fabulous new band rocked us on home. The music even stopped at 11:20, still time for another song, but it just was not needed.
Special Thanks goes out to Mr. Miner for the opportunity to write a review for his amazing Phish website. Best and most dedicated and educated on the net. Thank you for your effort every single day, unbelievable, really. Wow. Thank you again
— Keith “Better Late Than Never” Corcoran
Trey and Classic TAB – 2.13.10, Oakdale Theatre, Wallingford, CT
Trey was talkative at Oakdale last night. He talked about the “intimacy of the venue,” and that he felt “too far from the crowd.” But he let us know that indeed, he was ‘feeling us,’ and that spoke volumes. Trey’s solo band then set off to show us how much they felt us. This band knows how to kick off a show, I’ll tell you that!
After seeing some of the openers from the first few shows of this tour, it seems to me like the band, if not actually performing tons of new songs, is at least moving them around quite a bit. The idea of not knowing where songs will end up in the set and thus how the songs will themselves be affected, is certainly a tantalizing idea and the opening notes of “Alive Again” gave us the first example of this excitement right out of the gates!
The band arrangement, itself, allows Trey to direct the music in remarkable ways, moving the players around like chess pieces in a cosmic game. (Visions of ’95 anyone?) The first set featured more of the tight, composed Trey that we’ve come to know and love, not allowing for much expansion, but serving to settle in the band and showcase some songs; he sounds great. “Push on til the Day” was certainly a danceable highlight and the slowed-down funk of “Sand” was the first time I looked up and noticed some of the gorgeous washes being thrown up on the walls of the Oakdale. The music and lights worked in synchronicity all night and the stripped down rig brought back a feel of the early-nineties theaters and clubs Phish knew so well.
“Liquid Time” is one that we’ll be seeing in the future in the ‘Big Leagues’ when Phish adds this genius number to the rotation this Summer. (!) This was a song I know many of us were looking forward to hearing and it did not disappoint. Bottom line is that in a set like this, there is something everyone will love. We’ll all have highlights, so it will be nice to listen back to this show. Same goes for the second set, but this monster seemed to have more of the wilting funk, the expression of depth in music for which we’ve all decided to join these ‘ranks.’
I began to notice, even more clearly, the interplay taking place for this music to unfold. I watched Trey adjust the band to suit the music, more of the chess action, but also watched him play off Ray, and dance back and forth off the bass and drum lines. It became very clear how excited Trey is to be playing this music for us.
The “Jibboo” found the venue bathed in blue lights and focused all of it’s energy on rocking the foundation of the Oakdale to its core. The dance party had officially begun in earnest, and after that funny little new tune called “Birdwatcher,” Trey brought us all to an emotional peak with “Love is Freedom” and its roll into “Simple Twist Up Dave;” a segment that is needs to be heard at all costs! The start/stop playing that this song demanded from the oiled machine truly meshed the two excellent songs together so that they almost felt like they’d always belonged as a pair.
The remainder of the show just came like Mike Tyson rights and lefts, blowing the roof off the place in what became a title fight in Connecticut (albeit a Middleweight belt at stake.) “Drifting” and “First Tube,” in particular, were two of the danciest numbers all night, and exactly the kind of playing I’d imagine TAB to sound like, this being my first Trey show of any incarnation. When the band came back for the encore and Trey asked the appreciative and fun crowd if we “were in a hurry to get anywhere,” we let him know, in no uncertain terms, that we indeed were ‘feeling them’ right back. Then they proceeded to perform a three-song encore to cap a great night in Connecticut!
Trey and Classic TAB – 2.12.2010, The House of Blues, Boston, MA
Trey, Ray, Russ, Tony, Jen, Russ, Natalie – quite a band. They are back to their old antics from the early-aughts, as the positive energy and uplifting dance grooves spewed from the stage in Boston last night. The magic of horns plus the round tone of Trey’s guitar, backed by the Tony/Russ groove machine and Ray’s keyboard assault, created quite the dance party at The House of Blues. My thoughts were racing “seeing faces of the friends that I recall[ed]” – Tony and his bass stand, Jen and the horns set up stage right, and the quintessential Vermonter, Ray Paczkowski peering out from his goofy glasses. Individual solos stood out as highlights in each and every song, regardless of who took them. And the Bad Lieutenant, himself, had a stunning night, crafting solo after solo of spiraling, creative, yet grounded journeys, choosing his moments wisely in a show that was more controlled than raucous. While the show lacked the serious risk taking of old, Trey and his virtuosic bunch certainly know how to throw a party.
The show started with a horn intro to “Shine.” The newly arranged horn lines for this song are typical of the original arrangements that Trey and Don Hart have worked up for this tour, also evident in “Birdwatcher,” “Alaska,” “Tuesday,” “Goodbye Head,” “Valentine.” Even TAB classics like “Last Tube,” “Mr. Completely,” and “First Tube” boast revitalized horn arrangements, each with new melodies that stand out. The horns are clear and powerful, but not overwhelming, as they only play in certain spots. “Cayman Review” got the house moving, and by the time he dropped “Push On,” the crowd had “come out of the cold” and found dance space for the night. The breakdowns in “Push On” amazed last night, with big smiles on Trey’s face as he chopped away behind the horn leads. It was not an adventurous version, but super high energy. The end of the song saw Trey spinning around on stage, back and forth, as the final composed sections brought the song to a close.
After the darker “What’s Done,” “Birdwatcher” showcased the newest member of the band, 18-year old, Natalie Cressman. Adding great harmonies, and a strong ability to take simple but powerful leads, Cressman brings a youthful exuberance to the band. (Wasn’t Jen 18 when she joined the band?) In addition, there is a new sound that comes from the stage on songs like “Birdwatcher,” “All that Almost Was,” and “Let me Lie” when Remington plays the baritone sax and Trey, Natalie and Jen sing. The two female voices add something light and ethereal, yet deep and dissonant, all at the same time. After “Birdwatcher,” Trey introduced Natalie to the crowd as the first ever second-generation TAB player. Indeed her “Mozambique” solo was pristine and powerful. This song was the first that really saw Trey passing the solos around, as Ray took a piano solo and then Jen capped it off with her best moment of the night with a smashing trumpet lead as if “Mozambique” was written for her.
“Night Speaks” highlighted a tight, but risk-free first set. On this song, the horns left the stage for the first time, allowing for Trey to lead Classic TAB through a stripped down excursion. There is nothing like the moment when Trey is building a jam and the horns return to stage, all set to go. I would characterize this group as much more organized when they contribute to jams. Whereas in Trey bands of old, you could clearly hear Grippo or Apfelbaum improvise something and the other players jump on board their melody with outstanding complimentary harmonies, this band seems to have it all planned ahead of time. I’m pretty sure I watched them read off charts for the layers that they added during the jams; sections that were noticeably shorter and more controlled, while Trey climaxed his solos. The early Trey band took more risks, blew the roof off more often, and generally more often played to the “expect the unexpected” vibe. This band comes across as more mature, and the results are great – but in a new way. Trey summed it up nicely when he said “if you write economical arrangements, you can sometimes make a richer sounding chord with less people, less voices.”
While Phish 2009 brought us to our knees in an offering to the gods, it sometimes lacked the standout rhythm playing by Big Red that is so fun to dance to. Trey brought this rhythmic funk in set two. “Sand,” “Goodbye Head > Jibboo” – these are the fabric of TAB experience. As the horns left the stage after the lyrics of “Sand,” Trey and Ray started their onslaught. Ray Paczkowski is an essential fixture of Trey’s bands. With his thick beard, hat, glasses, and the cow on his upright piano, he is an unassuming wizard. In some ways, when Ray plays the clavinet, he is the embodiment of Trey as a keyboard player. Much like the Man in Black inhabiting John Locke, the spirit of Trey’s liquid funk lives in Ray. His ability to follow and lead Trey in this way is unmatched in anyone else that I have seen, and “Sand” really showcased this synergy. As Trey stood right next to the organ, looking at him, Ray worked one had on the organ one on the clavinet and we had three interweaving lines to mess with our minds.
“Goodbye Head” stands out as one of the best composed pieces of music written by Trey for rock band in this millennium. I think the composed sections are much more powerful than “Pebbles,” “Scents,” “TTE,” “Cincinnati,” etc. And the addition of horns to “Goodbye Head” confirmed it. Whether it was the rich chords over the trill part of Trey’s composition, or the staccato blasts to accentuate the beats of the song, this is a fabulous piece…with no jam, quickly providing a perfect bridge to the dance party that “Jibboo” never fails to bring. TAB’s “Jibboo” is different than Phish’s “Jibboo” with Jen’s horn melody, and Tony and Russ moving a bit snappier, while Phish plays it deeper in the pocket. Again, the horns left the stage for the jam and again, Trey cocked his head to the left, moved closer to Ray, and the magic ensued. In the clavinet funk, these two are one musical mind, and as they built the “Jibboo” they’re connection overwhelmed much of the audience. The risk-free attitude of the first set had vanished, as the band wove a tapestry of move-your-ass-funk based in the Trey-Ray symbiosis. And as the horns came back they broke the formula for the end of “Jibboo,” as their contributions came as dissonant, descending lines that Trey jumped right onto “Jibboo” became enriched with the chordal textures of the horns, something absent from Phish versions.
“Small Axe” brought a needed cool-down featuring another Natalie solo, crisp and clean. “Valentine” with horns accompaniment is a great song that probably has not gotten the credit it deserves as it is too new to stand up to more classic pieces. In “Valentine,” images of a field, rain, strings of electricity, light, the juxtaposition of spinning in circles and walking in a straight line, all mirror our own efforts in life. As Trey urges to “release…release…release the ropes around your neck” one can’t help but feel the longing and struggle in his own life. But he’s not Jeff Tweedy or Nathan Moore, he’s Trey. So while it’s moving to hear him take this perspective, what REALLY moves us is his guitar.
After the “Sand > Goodbye Head > Jibboo,” I had no expectations of the band topping that part of the show. But “Money Love and Change” did just that. Jen’s voice oozed soul and passion as she sang “Some live their days, oooh, hidden from themselves.” Once again, after the lyrics, the horns left the stage to leave Trey to stir up some magic with Ray. But this time, instead of crafting a solo, he focused on the funk chords, and instead of hitting the clav and the organ, Ray stayed on the upright piano. As I mentioned, we got very little extended funk-chord rhythm from Trey in Phish in 2009, so this next section was the bees knees. Hidden inversions, slides up the neck, sevenths, ninths, grins to the crowd, the little dance he does with one foot to the left, then the other to the right. And it was just beginning. He motioned to Russ Remington to come out and solo. Russ started with a lilting, coursing slow moving melody line over the groove, but as Trey motioned to Tony with one of his hand signals, they shifted key to a place where the alto sax could shine. And if this section was the bees knees, then Russell “Killer B” Remington was that led the way. Russ never got the credit that Grippo did throughout Phish history, but any follower of Trey’s projects knows that when Russ solos on the flute in songs like “Last Tube,” on the baritone sax in “Night Speaks,” or in this case on the alto sax in “Money Love and Change,” he is a consummate professional. Trey signaled key changes two or three more times (change is the one thing you can count on) before cueing Ray to take over, again on the piano. All the while, bandleader Trey stayed in rhythm guitar land. Then he called for Jen to come out and she took over with her high end trumpet. The show was peaking, the new girl was noticeable giddy, the crowd was on fire, and Trey was loving every minute of it. At this point he called upon the soul of every man, woman and child to stand up and be counted as he signaled Tony, Russ, and Ray to drop out for a guitar and horn funk breakdown. Even though we’ve heard this move 1000 times, you cannot dismiss moments like this as a break in cosmos, where everything outside comes in and everything inside comes out, and as Russ Lawton brings the drumbeat back and Tony lays into the low end, the English language doesn’t have words to describe the feeling.
So we find ourselves in the “Show Of Life.” As Miner pointed out, Trey’s new song about struggle and strife is meant for Phish. “Dragonfly” closer. “Sultans,” “First Tube” encore. They wouldn’t stop. The energy was off the hook after “Money Love and Change,” and Trey knows how to keep it brewing. I am sure there are some who thought the “First Tube” was the highlight of the night. I can sum up my feeling of the show by the look on Natalie’s face during the second run through “First Tube.” After playing her dissonant horn part, she stepped back from the mic, continuing to move to the music, her eyes rolled back in her head and closed as she smiled in that blissed out way that only Trey’s songs evoke. Thank you Trey, for all that you bring to our lives. And Thank you Mr. Miner, for letting me write this.