Trey Anastasio and his band have just wrapped up one of their most creative tours in years. This incarnation made up of regulars Russ Lawton (drums), the great mentor: Tony Markellis (bass), Cyro Baptista (percussion), Ray Paczkowski (keys), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet, vocals), Natalie Cressman (trombone, vocals) and James Casey (saxophones, vocals). From the first shows at the King's Theater in Brooklyn, NY it was apparent that not only had the band had been practicing new material from October 30th's Paper Wheels, and songs from Traveler, but also deep classics and shared Phish/TAB songs. The addition of "MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris, made more famous by Donna Summer, the ironically titled "Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think", by Guy Lombardo. CSN's "49 Bye Bye's" as well as the introduction of "Dazed and Confused" from Led Zeppelin and "Soul Rebel", by Bob Marley. This tour was by all standards traditional when it comes to TAB, it fit in a tight spot between Phish Summer and Phish Holiday, but what it included was two amazing shows at Las Vegas' Brooklyn Bowl over Halloween weekend. And to some surprise aside from Vegas Dancing Girls during the elongated "MacArthur Park" Encore on Halloween night, the shows were pretty regular, at least for this tour.
The shows I got to take in and enjoy were the Fox Theater shows in Oakland, CA. Immediately one feels the energy of the venue's amazing facade and architecture and the contemporary yet antique vibe that omits from this Oakland music hall always adds to the show. I noticed from the beginning of Friday's show that this band was playing as unit more so than ever before. The shared responsibility that once lay square on the shoulders of Big Red himself were being evenly accepted by all members. Let's state the obvious, Phish is one thing and TAB is another. But coming off a HUGE summer where Trey found himself playing the Fare Thee Well shows and piloting one of the best Phish Tours in years it soon became apparent that this intoxicating energy was contagious to the Fall TAB Run as well. Trey played loosed and funky and took songs that at times two dimensional, allowed them to evolve into a tangible musical piece. I credit his band because they are a very well picked group and heavily talented and as lucky they are to be in Trey's Band, he is lucky to have them, This being said the back and forth between Trey and Paczkowsksi was cavernously deep during the first set "Cayman Review", other highlights included a beautifully executed "Greyhound Rising" and new-comer to the band, Marley's "Soul Rebel" that eased into a true to TAB original and fan favorite"Gotta Jiboo".
The horn section was tight and the vocal backing provided by Cressman, Casey and the ever-present Jennifer Hartswick made for beautiful harmonic builds some of which stood out the most during the new material from the album Paper Wheels.
The 2nd set of the show was pure bliss as Trey led them through a fun "Alaska" and then the upbeat and groove laden "Alive Again". The last five songs of the show were filled with jams, Lawton and Markellis holding it down with a strong rhythmic beat, the laid a foundation for a run of great tunes. "Shine", "Clint Eastwood" and the soul piercing "Dazed and Confused" sung by Hartswick finished the set. It was raucous, off the chain so to speak, smiles were shared between fans and passed back and forth from the musicians to the crowd. The encore was special in that Trey mentioned that Phish's booking agent was in a local hospital fighting cancer and he dedicated "Show of Life" to him. The beautiful song that Anastasio nails vocally always carries so much meaning and this time it came with no exception. The end of the show was "First Tube" and this is exactly what I love about this band. Trey has created a very strong catalog of music that they can pull from on any given night. The 2nd night during the weekend run in Oakland finished with a 4 song encore, it was a wicked cherry on top. In the past there have been TAB shows that seem rushed and sometimes forced. These shows and the tour as a a whole felt the exact opposite. TAB operated as an organic unit, with beautiful jams, rockin' funk laden jams that peppered a setlist that called on all members of the band to step up and help carry the load. This symbiosis allowed Trey to play more free and when you unleash a guitarist with the skill set as deep as Anastasio what you get nothing but top tier mastering, and great shows. In this case it turned out to be an amazing tour and so as I look forward to seeing Phish play again soon, I cannot wait to see what Trey, and TAB have coming down the line.
|Trey Anastasio Band LE Oakland Run poster by The Bungaloo|