Trey Anastasio | 02.23.10

One of the best things about watching Trey perform is how happy he looks doing it, grinning from ear to ear like an overgrown, dorked out kid.

 

Photos: Amy Burger

The Pageant, St. Louis

When the mother of all jambands, Phish, hit the road for its reunion tour in 2009 after a five-year breakup, eager “phans” gobbled up tickets, selling out shows from coast to coast, including a legendary stop at The Fabulous Fox Theater in St. Louis – the only small theater venue on the mostly arena/amphitheater and festival tour. Having attended that stellar show, my own admittedly waning interest in the band was rejuvenated; so it was with much anticipation that I looked forward to seeing my first Trey Anastasio show.

The Phish front man and guitarist extraordinaire has had a strong solo career both before and during the band’s hiatus, releasing eight albums (including 2009’s Time Turns Elastic) and touring extensively on his own. Saturday night, the Pageant was wall-to-wall with fans eager to capture some more of the magic and momentum Anastasio left them with on the Phish tour. It’s safe to say they were not disappointed.

“An Evening With Trey Anastasio and Classic Tab” showed Anastasio at his best, backed by a stellar band including a full horn section and female backing vocalists, rounding out the sound and creating a deviation from standard Phish fare. Classic Tab features original band members Russ Lawton (drums) and Tony Markellis (bass) who played on Anastasio’s first solo project, 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes, and longtime collaborator Ray Paczkowski on keyboards. The horn section consists of Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet and vocals, Russell Remington on sax and flute, and on trombone, newcomer Natalie Cressman, the 18-year-old daughter of original trombonist Jeff Cressman (who Anastasio noted is currently on tour with Carlos Santana).

Anastasio kicked off the nearly three-hour, two-set show with the upbeat, poppy “Shine” from his 2005 album of the same name, getting the crowd in the mood and anticipating some heavier jams. He quickly delivered with a trio of funky songs from his first, self-titled solo album including “Push On ‘Til the Day,” “Cayman Review” and “Night Speaks to a Woman,” with the horns in full effect. The vocal backings of Cressman and Hartswick added a great female dynamic missing from testosterone-driven Phish.

A heavy jam during “Valentine” showed off Anastasio’s cunning on the guitar and his knack for tight composition; but one of the best things about watching him perform is how happy he looks doing it, grinning from ear to ear like an overgrown, dorked out kid. His smile, like the grooves he lays down, is infectious.

The band lightened the mood for "Alaska," a newer Phish tune reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, and Latin-influenced instrumental “Mozambique” before tearing into a full-on jam of Phish fan favorite “Gotta Jibboo.” After the upbeat “Tuesday,” the rest of the band left the stage, while Anastasio stuck around for an acoustic mini-set of Phish tunes including “Kill Devil Falls” and “Backwards Down the Number Line” from last year’s release Joy as well as classics “Bathtub Gin” and sing-along favorite "Wilson" to close the first set.

After about a 20 minute set break, Anastasio and Classic Tab returned for a packed second set, opening with horn-laden “Simple Twist Up Dave.” The highlight of the set (and perhaps the show) was an absolutely sick version of “Sand” from Phish’s Farmhouse, with Anastasio shredding his solos and the rest of the band keeping up the pace. Set two ended strong with a cover of the Zeppelin classic “Black Dog” featuring Hartwick belting out powerful vocals, giving the song a sultry female touch, while Anastasio put his own spin on Page’s famous licks.

The crowd, worked into a frenzy, was left screaming for more; but only for about two minutes before they emerged from backstage for an encore. They kicked it off with the soulful and contemplative “Show of Life,” then Trey and company nearly blew the roof off The Pageant with show-ender “First Tube,” a killer “jamtronica” style instrumental from Farmhouse. By the end, Anastasio was wielding his guitar like a light saber, finishing with it high above his head.

The St. Louis show was the first on Anastasio’s tour to be streamed live for free on concert website iClips.net, a fact that perhaps spurred the band to really give it their all, playing to the cameras and thousands of fans at home the world over.

It was a rare treat to see a guitarist as skilled as Anastasio (Rolling Stone named him #73 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time) in such an intimate venue. It reminded me of 1992, when I was at the University of Missouri, Columbia and had the privilege of seeing Phish at The Blue Note on the Picture of Nectar tour, before they were too big to play clubs like that anymore. Anastasio has gone back to his roots on this tour and the result is pure perfection. | Amy Burger

Set 1: Shine, Push On Til The Day, Cayman Review, Night Speaks to a Woman, Valentine, Alaska, Mozambique, Gotta Jibboo, Tuesday, Kill Devil Falls*, Bathtub Gin*, Backwards Down The Number Line*, Wilson*

Set 2: Simple Twist Up Dave, The Birdwatcher, Drifting, Sand, Let Me Lie, Liquid Time, Money Love and Change, Goodbye Head, Mr. Completely, Black Dog

Encore: Show of Life, First Tube

* Solo Acoustic

 

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