With a few more spots left in the parking lot than during Phish's two
day visit to Atlanta last summer, Trey Anastasio led his new 8-piece
organization to the stage towing his signature Languedoc guitar and wearing
an immeasurable grin. The band settled in, and dropped into "Wee Wee Hours",
a late night bar room sing-a-long style song that only Trey could make
catchy. This was the first performance of the song all tour – the first
since Trey and Company's visit to the Atlanta's Fox Theater in March. Next
up on the menu came "Push On Till The Day". Probably my personal favorite of
the recent Trey tunes, this one has the capacity to be either a four-minute
radio song or a launch pad for twenty to thirty minute improvisations.
Think "Weekapaug Groove" with an entire song's worth of lyrics. After a few
horn-based numbers and a cover of The Band's ballad "It Makes No Difference",
came "Last Tube". The latest in the series of "tube songs", this one had the
danceable funk that fans of Trey's "older work" had come to here. With its
recently added lyrics and impressive start/stop improvisation, "Last Tube"
clocked in at around 16 minutes, and kept me bouncing for the first ten
minutes of set break.

The second set got off and running with "Mr. Completely". A nickname for
Mr. Anastasio, maybe? Nickname or not, this song alone 'completely' blew
away the entire first set. After running through the verses and main
progressions of the song, the band turned towards a darker, groove-driven
path. While drummer Russ Lawton and bassist Tony Markellis dug mercilessly
into a driving, monotone beat, the 4-piece horn section added maddening
crescendos and decrescendos comparable only to the sound of a train ripping
through the lawn of the amphitheater. About 12 minutes in, Trey hopped
behind his keyboard, causing me to mentally prepare myself for some
two-finger trance action. I was immediately proved wrong. A departure from
past keyboard jaunts, Trey was all over his board, adding detailed textures
to the music and at times exchanging some nice interplay with keyboardist Ray
"Mr. Completely" stretched well beyond 30 minutes, and after some horn-less
space, segued into "First Tube". This one woke up half the lawn and got
everyone moving again, but seemed to fizzle out before ever really taking
off. The flute-heavy "Every Story Has a Stone" came next, and proved to be
one of the more well-composed of the new songs. Haunting lyrics aside, this
tune blew on effortlessly and really had some shining moments – most
noticeably when the horn section waltzed around the stage in a sort of
dance/march ritual that made even Trey stop and stare. After "Stone", Trey
took a minute to thank the people of Atlanta for always being so open and
receptive of his music. Then he turned everyone's attention to the birthday
boy of the night – lighting Guru Chris Kuroda. Even though Kuroda's birthday
celebration took place on a completely different date in 99 at Phish's Deer
Creek show, you couldn't help but cheer for the man who is so much a part of
the Phish/Trey experience. After birthday solos from everyone, including a
silent light solo from Chris, Trey rallied the troops and burst into a set
closing "Sand". The beautiful instrumental "At the Gazebo" provided the
night's only encore. As wonderful as this song will sound at my wedding, it
just doesn't have the fireworks desired to end a show.

The new band sounded quite tight for having only played
together a few weeks, but their overall sound and direction as a band just
simply isn't big enough to fill large amphitheaters and arenas. Kudos to
Trey for continuing to write some of the freshest music out there, but for
maximum results I have two suggestions – call up some old friends or
stick to the smaller venues.