Magical. Breathtaking. Special. One-of-a-kind.
Those were some of the adjectives to describe the evening most of us had Saturday in Los Angeles. The venue, as Giuseppe III would explain later was “the greatest sounding room I’ve ever been in.” He meant it. Every facet of the Walt Disney Music Hall was designed to please the ear. And please it did. The outside of the building placed you in a Stanley Kubrick film, while the inside brings you back to the modern era with music at the forefront, and on this day the occasional wookie to your left. The audience was a mix of tuxedos, summer dresses, and sport jackets — concert t-shirts all covered in button downs. The small beverage stands overwhelmed with schwilly Phish fans as lines looped the inside hallways.
The ushers hurried us to our seats, and despite the early warnings of a hard start time, the show began about 15 minutes after 8 o’ clock. This was a good thing as the venue was only 75% full and a few close friends were stuck in traffic, or as we in LA call it, the 10-110 merge. The LA Philharmonic received a rousing ovation before a note was even played, something I’m sure they aren’t accustomed to in this setting. Trey Anastasio with a grin all his own was greeted with loud roars and the set began with “First Tube.”
Right out of the box you could tell this was going to be a memorable night of music. Music we’ve all heard live and dissected numerous times (some as many as 20), yet on this evening it would be appreciated in a way we haven’t before. The set stayed true to the three shows before it, except for the encore, with the crowd-clap-pleasing “Stash” (and awesome trombone arrangement), and a song not given the proper treatment by Phish in “Goodbye Head.” Re-teaming the opening of “My Friend, My Friend” with “Guyute” was a great move by Trey for this Symphony rendition. In Phish, “Guyute” has been one of the tunes some call stagnant in 3.0 (except for Utica). The LA Philharmonic put a stop to that, if just for one night. Dare I say they polished up the pig? The timpani sounded great on this song, while the flute traded licks with Trey’s electric guitar throughout other songs in the set.
Before the set break Trey joked about his time in Phish and his “back in 15 minute” speeches — this time he assured us it would truly be as described. No longer than 10 minutes. Maybe 8 minutes. None in our crew put a stop watch to it but we all agree it was longer than ten so even the Orchestra version of Big Red tends to stretch time.
The second set was where everyone got TTE’d, but in this ear’s opinion, it was for the best. “Time Turns Elastic” is clearly a song not meant to be played at a rock concert as we found out in 2009-2010. Yet with an orchestra, one as awesome as the LA Philharmonic, it’s an entirely different ball game. The song’s three distinct parts were given the full treatment and when Trey brought in the vocals of “In and Out of focus” it was inspirational to watch our guitar hero see this project come to fruition. After the delightful “If I Could” with Trey’s acoustic bouncing off the walls in just the right ways, the secoond set closed with “You Enjoy Myself.” YEM contained some sweet trombone playing instead of the usual Mike Gordon bass bombs, as the crowd acknowledged after his solo. Amongst the jam Trey even weaved in his signature tease of the “Streets of Cairo.” The song ended as it normally does with a vocal jam — Trey captivating the audience and vocals sounding as good as one can remember. Although joked about, it is rooted in truth that Trey could not have reached those notes in Phish 2.0. For the three shows previous, Trey and his selected orchestra had done a Beatles’ Medley of “Golden Slumbers” but for the tour closer in LA they opted not to (perhaps because of the late start time), instead performing just “The Inlaw Josie Wales.”
The magical night ended just before 11pm to standing ovations, roses, and a just engaged couple still smiling/making out in the front row. Fans exited the ‘best sounding room’ Trey has ever played and continued their chatter about the uniquely arranged music they’d just witnessed, while others were asking which Summer tour shows they put in for mail order. Maybe at those summer tour stops, “Stash” and “Guyute” can be appreciated in an entirely new way now. Maybe so, maybe not….
Download a great sounding source of this performance here from our favorite stealth taper SG (thanks, SG!), or stop over at bt.etree.org for the supreme sounding FLAC files from the night…
Here are some of my iPhone video grabs:
(click the play button next to the link to watch ALL the videos in the post as a playlist)
The stellar videos below come courtesy of our friend Tree who had some front row seats:
Trey Anastasio w/ LA Philharmonic March 10, 2012
WATER IN THE SKY
BRIAN AND ROBERT
LET ME LIE
TIME TURNS ELASTIC
IF I COULD
YOU ENJOY MYSELF
Encore: INLAW JOSIE WALES
Thanks Tree for the photos and videos from the show!