Saturday, February 27, 2010
Trey Anastasio and Classic TAB
There were a few reasons why I didn't think I was going to make it to this show. I had been disappointed by a few Trey solo shows before, and with Eric Clapton on Saturday, I figured I could only afford one of the two. Boy am I glad my friend came through with a free ticket (front row center balcony) and I was able to go. It was by far the best Trey show I have been to. Classic TAB was a great band and the Ryman is always a memorable place to see a show.
This tour with Classic TAB is similar to when Trey set out on his own during the first Phish hiatus. There was a 3 piece horn section containing sax, trumpet, and trombone, along with bass, keys, and drums. Trey of course took on all of the guitar responsibilities. The first thing that stood out to me was Tony Markellis, the portly bassist, sitting in the back on a riser. What is this, a Panic show? He sat as still as a statue the whole time. His playing was adequate, maybe even above average, but not stellar enough that someone with some personality couldn't pull it off. The horn section included Russell Remington on sax and the occasional butt scratching yawn inducing flute solo, Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet, and Natalie Cressman replacing her father in the band on trombone. This element of the band added something that I hadn't seen at a Trey show before. Also adding back ground vocals, they basically doubled the size of the band and made the sound huge. Their parts in the songs were well composed, their solos were a welcome alternative to constant lead guitar, and they knew when to leave the stage while Trey did his trademark jams. Ray Paczkowski on keys was one member I recognized. His work with one hand on the B-3 and one on the Clav made the band sound extra funky. Russ Lawton was just a straight forward rock drummer, a far cry from the technical scientist that is Jon Fishman. And of course, Trey was Trey, although I must say he was more animated than I have ever seen him, even in his cocaine days. He was bouncing around that stage like a dreadie with a head full of molli. It was good to see him having such a good time, obviously feeding off of the crowd and the amazing building.
Some first set highlights were "Louise", "Stars Above", and "Night Speaks to a Woman", which included one of those aforementioned Trey style jams. It was long enough, but not too long and reached a huge crescendo. When he picked up the acoustic guitar for "Backwards Down The Numbers Line", I skipped out for a smoke, but upon my return, I was surprised to see the Del McCoury band joining Trey on stage. I was thrilled when they played two of my favorite old Phish bluegrass numbers "Blue and Lonesome", and the Del original "Beauty of My Dreams". Even if the "special guest bluegrass/country star" thing is a little tired, Trey and the Del band have played together before and obviously like each other and have great musical chemistry.
The second set was a little more Phishy, including a "Gotta Jiboo" opener and a long jammy "Sand", which where both more rocking versions due to the different drumming style of this show, but really just made me miss Page McConnell's singing. The set ending suite of "Sultans Of Swing" and "Black Dog" sent the crowd into a frenzy. "Sultans" has always been one of my top 5 favorite songs, and this band did it justice. Trey nailed the middle guitar solo note for note and the horn section equaled his efforts in the outro, killing that solo exactly. Jennifer Hartswick took the vocals for "Black Dog" to a new level, ending the show with a huge bang. "First Tube" served as the encore, being the first song Trey wrote with this band back in 2000. It was fun, I've always liked this song when Phish did it, but again this band rocked it out more.
I would like to take this chance to thank the Ryman staff for their diligence. I agree there where just far too many elbows leaning on the stage and the show couldn't have gone on for one more moment if that guy didn't put his shirt back on. I understand there should be a certain level of due respect for this room, and it's cool that you've been working here for fifty years, but aside from snuffing out joints and cigarettes, just keep the place free from riots and let the kids have fun. I've seen people get away with more debauchery on stage (Jesco).
I really am glad I made it to this show. I underestimated Trey and more so this band. My overall feeling was "why go see Trey when I can still go see Phish?" This was just completely different from a Phish show, as well as the Trey shows I've been to before. There was a sense of simplicity in the fact that there wasn't a huge light show, in fact it was just the house lights. There was also a kind of humility from Trey himself that I have never seen before. It was refreshing and a pleasure to see him have such a good time, almost enjoying his band and the show like a fan. I can't believe I was going to pick Eric Clapton over this. I'm still going to Clapton, but he's gonna have to bring it pretty strong to reach the energy level from this show.