Anticipation was high heading into Kings Theatre on Saturday. The previous evening saw the Trey Anastasio Band lay it all out on the table, and expectations reached a crescendo leaving many fans wondering how Trey and his merry band of misfits could possibly top the energy of the prior night's show. Well the Saturday audience needn't have feared, as TAB continued to hit on all cylinders, pumping through groove after groove with such ferocious intensity, we had to scoop our jaws off the floor at the end of the night. Kings Theatre provided the perfect landscape for this epic throw down, as the former movie palace was recently reopened, and refurbished to its pristine twenties era majesty. Originally a film house that doubled as a vaudeville theater, its name is fitting as we all felt like royalty walking through its hallowed lobby and cavernous concert hall. And it's apt that the tour opened at the Kings, as like Trey, this theatre once shined brightly, suffered through some dark days of deterioration, only to be restored to all its glory in the modern age. As countless audience members found themselves zoning out on the bold and intricate ceiling design throughout the festivities, Kings Theatre itself was the opening act to TAB's epic headlining performance.
Commencing the night with Sometimes After Sunset, the evenings only draw upon the forthcoming Paper Wheels, the band was off to a roaring start. Song name and lyrics germane, as sometimes after sunset we go see shows that often "reveals to me the inner me," as live music has the inexplicable ability to break down our inhibitions to realize our better selves. With Cayman Review up next we delved hotly into TAB's classic repertoire, where we'd largely stay the rest of the night. A mid-set Night Speaks to a Woman, off the same 2002 self-titled album, allowed for some extended jamming that showcased some tight interplay between Anastasio and keyboardist Ray Paczkowski. Next up a Trey Band debut of George Harrison's What is Life sent the crowd soaring into nostalgic bliss. While the band kept true to original form on this tune, its good-natured feeling kept the dopamine pumping hard through our brains. A zesty Tuesday put the first set in the books, and we found ourselves amped up wandering through the angelic theater once again.
Second set took off with a horn heavy Curlew's Call, as the band continued through their retrospective on Trey's solo work. Into an epic Plasma the crowd was deeply entrenched in the goings-on. As everyone was amply loose, and swinging, Kings Theatre seemed to transform into another time, a forgotten place, reminiscent of the roaring twenties with contemporary tunes. One could easily transform themselves into the theatre of yesteryear, with its smoke-filled vaudevillian madness. As the set seemed to fly by at a moments notice dancing to the band's stellar jams, all of a sudden a bust out of Dazed and Confused tapped into our collective psyche like a shot of B-12. Jennifer Hartswick took lead, and her exceptionally powerful vocals easily carved out her place as the night's MVP. The band took a bow with a vigorous Push On 'Til the Day, capped off with Trey frenetically dancing like a madman on a musical mission, spreading the message of the Helping Friendly Book like he only knows how.
In his preeminent side project, an impeccable ensemble of musicians accompanies Trey, and each accentuates the grand vision put forth on stage. With several years behind them, and only a handful of lineup changes, this band truly gels as one, with Big Red as the shining centerpiece. Including a horn section that would fit right in at a New Orleans second line, to a New York jazz club, or an all out funk infused bonanza, Trey Band offers a unique sound that diverts wholly from Phish, and significantly from the jam sphere at large. In a discussion with a complete newb to the scene that experienced the show, he remarked perfectly that while the music was playing he felt contemplative about his life; not in the normal anxious way one often goes about such things, but in a meditative, positive light, and while the band carried on, he felt an overwhelming sense that everything will be okay. In a nutshell, Trey and his cohorts brought us much joy on Saturday night, evidenced by all of our melted faces as we exited the venue.
And against all odds, trials and tribulations, we are experiencing what could easily be dubbed "The Year of Trey." Through practice and patience in the lead up to Fare Thee Well, Trey not only applied his newly electrified approach to playing in those five magical shows, he took his panache with him through the most legendary Phish tour in a generation, and now on the road with Trey Anastasio Band. Even from afar, one can see that Anastasio's spirit is simply infectious, and as he continues to soar through the stratosphere on this fall TAB tour, it's apparent that whatever he's got is contagious. When he is humming, so do those around him. So as TAB continues this journey with Halloween weekend stops at Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas, get on board for a priceless experience before the Trey train passes you by.
Words: Russell S. Glowatz
Photo: Michael Stien from July, 22 2015