21
Feb
11

Trey and TAB show review: The Palace Theater 2/19/11

“I have a few friends here tonight,” said Phish frontman Trey Anastasio at the Palace Theater in Albany last Saturday night. If by “few” he meant close to 3,000, he was right on. Smoke is still visible from the smoldering crater where the Palace once stood, thanks to Trey, along with his 7-piece band (collectively known as TAB, for the Trey Anastasio Band). They razed the venue to the ground on Saturday night, enthralling the sold-out crowd first with an acoustic set comprised of nearly all Phish songs, and then an electric set that was, well – electrifying.
Trey made a couple of references to being “home,” (he did spend some time in Albany during his drug court appearances and community service tasks in 2008) and if home is where the heart is, it sure rang true on Saturday. Trey looked truly excited and grateful to be playing a relatively intimate show with his die-hard fans, pumping his fists and smiling ear to ear after every song.
The crowd sang along jubilantly during the first set, with the opener “Free” setting the tone, and groovy acoustic versions of Phish songs like “The Wedge,” “Prince Caspian,” and “Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan” followed. But the most poignant moment of the entire show, for me anyway, came during “Backwards Down the Number Line,” which as a Phish song features prominent backing vocals. During Trey’s acoustic version, which he introduced by saying he wrote it during his stay in Albany, the audience provided the backing vocals (with perfect timing, I might add). In essence, 3,000 crazed Phish-heads weren’t just singing along with Trey – we were jamming with him. He sang his part, we sang the backing part. It created this amazing feeling of intimacy, of connection to the artist. And it continued with the next song “Limb By Limb,” which featured a couple of back-and-forth vocal verses between Trey and the crowd; again, it was an incredible thing to be a part of. The most interesting reworking of all the Phish songs Trey performed that night was Guelah Papyrus, a weird little jazzy tune. Trey changed up the timing and structure of the song for his acoustic version; sometimes in the grand scheme of Phish, Trey’s individual ability gets criticized because his songwriting now isn’t anything like it was 20 years ago. But to rearrange an older song like Guelah into something fresh and interesting is a testament to how talented the man really is. The last four songs of the set saw other members of TAB filter on to the stage. Vocalists/horn players Natalie Cressman and Jennifer Hartswick joined Trey for the sappy but beautiful Wading in a Velvet Sea, which Trey dedicated to his longtime songwriting partner Tom Marshall, seated in the crowd; then keyboardist extraordinaire Ray Paczkowski joined the others for the older Trey solo song Black; and for the last two songs the rest of the band appeared – Tony Markellis on bass, Russ Lawton on drums and Russ Remington on sax and flute. They did a great version of the relatively new Valentine, and then closed the first set with an amazingly different version of The Devil Went Down to Georgia. Trey introduced the song as a “klezmer blues” song, referring to that fast-tempo music usually heard at Jewish celebrations. It was unclear what he meant until the song began – the fiddle part in the original song was covered by the horn section, and it truly did sound like klezmer music (see the video at the bottom). The crowd went crazy and we were all pumped for the electric set after the intermission.
And that set began with a bang – the grand horn-driven funk of Money, Love and Change whipped the crowd into a frenzy of dancing, as Trey and the band jammed it out for a good 10 minutes. After the straight-up blues of Done Did It, the band presented a rearrangement of the Phish tune Ocelot; it was an interesting version with the added horns, but overall it didn’t add much to the original version. Then TAB pulled a crazy cover out of their bag of tricks, taking on the Gorillaz’ Clint Eastwood. The band played it perfectly, with Hartswick easily handling the rap portions – the crowd went bananas. A scorching Night Speaks to a Woman followed that, with another extended funk-rock jam that pushed the energy level to the limit. The Toots and the Maytals song Sweet and Dandy came next, a cool reggae tune that was fun to hear, followed by the Five Stairsteps’ Ooh Child, a somewhat boring version of a somewhat boring song. Going back to the reggae sound, TAB played the very rare Trey/Phish song Windora Bug, a quirky treat to hear. The other two highlights of the set were Sand and Push On Til the Day; TAB laid down a great groove for Sand and jammed it out extensively, while Push On brought the energy level to a new high, reaching a huge climax at the end of the long jam segment and sending the crowd into apoplexy.
The encore was Cayman Review, a solid funky tune that ended the show with the same enthusiasm as it began. All in all it was a fantastic show, and TAB seemed to be having a ton of fun, reflected by the singing and dancing of the audience. It’s the vibe of a Phish show in a much smaller setting, creating a whole new experience.
This show gets 4.5 out of 5 stars!

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