Trey and 70VP in Chicago: As Expected

P1010224As I strolled to my seat to catch as much of the opener as I could, I knew that this show would be hugely different from any other Trey-flavored show I had attended in the past. I had read some of the reviews, with some serious mixing of some serious emotions, so I really did not know what to expect myself. I knew that it would be different, but I guess you’re never sure until you really get there. And, rather depressingly, this show was not even close to sold-out and full. But yet (of course), there were still people beggin’ for extras out front…


The show began with Drifting, which is probably my favorite TAB song from his past life. I was eager to hear differences, but unfortunately there was really no new territory to be explored here. After warming the crowd with something familiar, he launched into the very unfamiliar, Dark and Down. The crowd didn’t know what to do with themselves, and I noticed this on several occasions throughout the night. Invisible invoked a similar reaction, although I actually remember liking the melody to the song.

“I’m going to play an Oysterhead song now,” says Trey to much applause before launching into Oz is Ever Floating. This was interestingly arranged with the new band, and I was actually pretty impressed despite a Trey flub or two. Air Said to Me doesn’t really stick out in my head right now, but the next few songs were really strong.

Burlap Sack and Pumps could only be called one thing—disgusting (in the best way possible). The song is hugely slowed down from the original TAB incarnation, so it’s really not even recognizable. In its most basic form, the new BSaP is pretty much a Phish Black-Eyed Katy in disguise, so I definitely think that this has potential to become a stronger, more instrumental center to Trey’s new shows. Night Speaks to a Woman was pretty strong as well, but I still feel that Jennifer’s vocals don’t do much to boost but rather distract. I just really don’t know how much I enjoy the backing vocals by the ladies; to me, this is way too indicative of Trey’s move into totally unnecessarily chartered territory. Think of The Police. When did they decide that Sting needed backup singers? More on Sting in a moment…

After Night Speaks (I believe), Trey told us how the entire last two minutes were a complete déjà vu. Interestingly enough, I was about to have a pseudo déjà vu that will definitely stick with me for a while. More on that in a moment, too…

To close the first set, Mr. Completely was hugely explosive and a very solid ending. The other new songs played during the first set don’t really standout in my mind, as they probably won’t fully standout until I actually download the show. Also, as mentioned before and elsewhere, Trey was playing in-between sets to keep the crowd happy, so I knew we had something to look forward to during setbreak.

“As I said in New York, I usually go backstage and play guitar, so I figured I would just play guitar out here…Just pretend like there isn’t a show going on, remember, this is the break…”

Mexican Cousin began to much crowd laughter (in the good way, I think). Mexican Cousin has to be one of the most ridiculous songs written for the Round Room album, so I think everyone was super surprised to see this played by Trey acoustically. It just seemed funny, but I liked it. I actually thought it was great. Next, there was a couple Trey acoustic standards (The Inlaw Josie Wales, Get Back on the Train) and a couple non-standards (Birthday Boys, Love that Breaks All Lines) before Trey stopped to tell a quick story.

Earlier in the day, just completely by memory, I was thinking of how much I loved the Phish song, Strange Design. It seemed to be one of those songs that they didn’t play all the time, but it’s definitely one of my favorites. Trey started in on a story about how he wrote this song late one night in 1994 (maybe) when he was feeling very alone, and he never had the courage to sing it live. “Page was kind enough to sing it for me, but I think I’m going to play it now if that’s okay,” laughs Trey. I just remember thinking how random it was that I was thinking about this song. I didn’t even know that Trey wrote it, I thought it was a Page song. It was just a very cool moment for me, and something I will remember for a long time.

Bathtub Gin was a nice treat, and Trey brought out Matisyahu for No Woman, No Cry. This was pretty cool, as we didn’t show up early to catch his set. I’ve obviously followed a lot of the hype surrounding this guy. Hell, CNN just did a piece on him. He really does sound pretty good. He started beat-boxing an ending jam that sequed nicely into 70 Volt Parade returning to the stage to finish the song full-band style. It was very solid, and definitely one of the highlights of the show.

The second set was definitely strong, and again, it’s easy to pinpoint exactly what made it strong versus what slowed the crowd down. Push on Til the Day, Caymen Review, and Goodbye Head > First Tube were all pretty sweet. Like I said, this venue was nowhere close to full, and something about me just hates to see that at shows.

The flow of the show just kept getting lost in the new stuff. This was to-be expected, but it still left a lot of wondering exactly where the bathrooms were and if there was anything else to drink besides Budweiser products. Now, I listened attentively to all of the new songs, and I’m in no way saying that I’m a fair-weather fan. But, these songs just weren’t impressive to a half-full show with no idea what to expect.

Once I started writing this, I started thinking about this show more and more. I really enjoyed the show and it was definitely worth the price of admission. It’s important to really understand that this is not anything close to Phish. Hell, this isn’t even that close to Trey Anastasio Band of the past few years. It’s Trey chartering a path through his Neil Young and Crazy Horse phase. Think The Police and then Sting. Totally amazing, mind-blowing, genre-bending, and totally unique music that blows the music world away, only to be replaced by expectable, understandable, solid rock music where every song ends with a guitar solo. To me, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It’s just something we have to expect and accept. Therein lies the challenge…

Plus, after I started writing this, I realized that there really wasn’t a huge amount to really “analyze.” It’s Trey. Why try and figure out what the hell Trey is trying to do? I bet he doesn’t even know. He’s just going with his flow, and he’s picking up everyone he can as he goes. I don’t know that he’ll keep me as a fan of the new stuff, but you can imagine that he’ll continue to work as hard as he always does to make 70 Volt Parade as meaningful to him as it needs to be.

Check out our Flickr gallery of the concert photos here. Yeah, we were sitting far away and we really don’t have the camera to support that lack of light. It’s good enough. Also, check out some of the other galleries of the recent Trey shows on Flickr here.