Trey Anastasio Band @ Riviera Theatre, February 27
On Sunday night, Trey Anastasio and his Trey Anastasio Band rolled through Chicago for a sold out show at the legendary Riviera Theatre. The site of TAB’s Chicago debut in 1999, the Riv was an ideal setting to catch the band’s 2011 return to form. The first set was mostly Trey solo acoustic, and began with the 3.0 staple Backwards Down the Number Line before settling into a great acoustic arrangement of Theme from the Bottom. While surprisingly heavy on new Phish material, the acoustic segment also featured great takes on classics Gumbo, Halley’s Comet, Dirt and The Wedge.
[All photos by Joel Berk]
Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman came out to sing backup on a breathtaking Let Me Lie, an interesting slow arrangement of Water in the Sky and Wading in the Velvet Sea before the rest of the band came out and launched into Heavy Things. The tune, also slightly rearranged, gave keyboard player Ray Paczkowski his first moment to shine of what would be many. Liquid Time and Hey Ya! closed the full-band acoustic portion of the show, but the group wasn’t done yet and launched into a ripping electric Push On ‘Til the Day to close the opening stanza.
The electric set began with the TAB-turned-Phish tune Gotta Jibboo, which got the crowd going right off the bat before launching into a horn-driven version of Ocelot. Ocelot, with its horn parts sounding reminiscent of Allen Toussaint’s arrangements on The Band’s The Last Waltz, worked way better for me than it ever has as a Phish song.
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The one-two punch of classic TAB numbers Cayman Review and Burlap Sack and Pumps worked the crowd into a frenzy, and then Jen brought the fucking house down with her take on Gorillaz’s Clint Eastwood. Money Love and Change kept the energy up before Small Axe gave the audience a chance to catch its breath. Up next was a great take on The Devil Went Down to Georgia. Long on my list of “great classic rock tunes I never need to hear again in my life”, TAB’s version absolutely worked for me with the horn section tackling the fiddle parts in a manner Zappa’s ’88 band would be proud of.
Night Speaks to a Woman and Ether Sunday gave Hartswick more time to shine, at first on vocals and then with an incredible trumpet solo, before a ripping First Tube ended the set. Not wasting any time, the band quickly returned and launched into Dire Straits’ classic Sultans of Swing. Giving the horn section more time to shine, they performed the well-known second guitar solo flawlessly with parts that again sounded like Zappa’s amazing ’88 horn arrangements.
After a few years of seeming to not be sure what to do with his solo band, and lineups that didn’t quite get there – it seems TAB has found its rhythm for the first time since the big-band TAB years of 2003 and 2004. The band is big enough to create a huge wall of sound that the guitarist is clearly looking for, but small and lean enough to muscle its way through most any material thrown at it.
Set 1: Backwards Down the Number Line, Theme From the Bottom, Farmhouse, Gumbo, Kill Devil Falls, Halley’s Comet, Dirt, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Wedge, Let Me Lie, Water in the Sky, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Heavy Things, Liquid Time, Hey Ya!, Push On ‘Til the Day
Set 2: Gotta Jibboo, Ocelot, Valentine, My Problem Right There, Cayman Review, Burlap Sack and Pumps,Clint Eastwood, Money, Love and Change, Small Axe, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Night Speaks to a Woman, Ether Sunday, First Tube
Encore: Sultans of Swing
Notes: The first set was Trey solo acoustic except “Let Me Lie” through “Wading” (Trey acoustic with Jen and Natalie) “Heavy Things” through “Hey Ya! (Trey acoustic with full TAB), and “Push On” (electric TAB). “Wading” was dedicated to Tom Marshall.
[Setlist via Phish.net]
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