Trey Anastasio and Classic TAB hit NYC’s Terminal 5 on Tuesday night for a high-energy show that featured a seriously reinvigorated Big Red. Read on for my review and round-up of photos, videos, and downloads…
TAB has always been a forum for Trey to tool around with various solos and effects pedal pyrotechnics, so there were certainly moments of long-winded guitar wizardry throughout the band’s three-hour plus workout. But I was surprised at how well this version of TAB really gelled as a cohesive unit. Compared to previous versions of TAB, the latest iteration is much more of a true collective than just a backdrop for Anastasio to unleash the guitar hounds. Throughout the night, Trey nicely allowed the other players to shine. The biggest standout to me was Jennifer Hartswick, who not only showed off some killer trumpet chops but also tore up the vocals on a raucous cover of Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” Natalie Cressman (on trombone) is the newest and youngest addition to TAB. She really nailed a few key solo sections, and at one point, got a nice shout-out from Trey who pointed out that she’s the band’s first second-generation member (daughter of former TAB trombonist, Jeff Cressman). It’s hard to believe she’s only 18 years old; she’s got some serious chops.
Overall, I was also struck by the sheer funkiness of Trey’s interplay with keyboardist Ray Paczkowski, a key highlight on a number of the longer improv-oriented tunes like “Gotta Jiboo,” “Nights Speaks to a Woman,” and “Sand.” For these longer jam vehicles, the horn section would exit the stage and let the quartet play around with the funk for some nice, long stretches.
Another one of my first set highlights was the outro for the new tune “Liquid Time.” I don’t love the lyrical sections of this tune, but something about the major key tone and simple melody lines in the outro really caught my ear. I could see Phish stretching out the end of this song into some cool territory.
Of course, the night wasn’t all big-band TAB. Towards the end of the first set, Trey performed a solo acoustic section where he let loose on some classic Phish tunes in stripped-down, “unplugged” format. With the looseness, the intimacy and the audience interplay, the acoustic section felt almost like a campfire sing-along. It was clear the man was having a blast and really taking in the energy of the Terminal 5 crowd.
Set II kicked off with a killer version of “Sand,” and the energy didn’t let up until the mellower “Show of Life.” But the second set was definitely dominated by the two big cover tunes, “Sultans of Swing” (Dire Straits) and “Black Dog” (Zeppelin). For the second solo section in “Sultans,” Trey stepped aside to let his horn section take the lead, and they nailed pretty much every one of Mark Knopfler’s memorable notes and worked the crowd into a frenzy.
After a powerful second set, they finished off the show with a nice two-song punch of an encore. First up was the band’s take on Phish’s jazz rarity “Magilla,” which they turned it into a true jazz tune by making full use of all the horns. And after Trey did a round of band intros, they tore into a fiery “First Tube” to close out the night with a serious bang.
Overall, I didn’t really have high expectations going into this show, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I think the most significant part of the show was seeing how much Trey has been re-energized as a guitar player. His playing was spot-on with nary a flub, and he played with an intensity and focus that I just haven’t seen in a while. It makes me really excited for what happens when he takes this freshness back to Phish this summer.
Trey Anastasio and Classic TAB 2/16/10 @ Terminal 5, NYC
Push On ‘Til the Day
All That Almost Was
Night Speaks to a Woman
Brian and Robert*
Sample in a Jar*
Show of Life
Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits cover)
Black Dog (Led Zeppelin cover)