Monday, December 05, 2005

Live Review: Trey Anastasio in San Francisco

From LiveDaily:

Jim Harrington
liveDaily Contributor

Phish "Phans" and Deadheads are known to disagree on many things, most notably over which beloved act was the greatest in jam-band history.

Yet, both tie-dyed contingencies would thoroughly agree that Trey Anastasio (
tickets music)'s concert on Friday night (12/2) was a marvelous trip.

In his first Bay Area solo performance since Phish disbanded in 2004, the stellar vocalist/guitarist called upon two surprise guests to help him get his groove on during the first half of a two-night stand at the SF Weekly Warfield in San Francisco.

The capacity crowd was first stunned, and then ecstatic, as the guests turned out to be Grateful Dead drummers Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzmann. The percussionists joined Anastasio's new backing band, which is known as 70 Volt Parade, and helped deliver a fan-pleasing run through a string of Dead chestnuts.

It was appropriate that the collaboration happened at the Warfield, arguably the most important (still-existing) venue in jam-band history. Some of the greatest Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia Band, Phish and Anastasio shows have taken place at 982 Market St. It was also home to 2003's fabled guitar summit between Anastasio and Carlos Santana, which was captured for posterity on DVD, despite the fact that it really wasn't a great show.

Following a solid opening set by Virginia-based string-band the Hackensaw Boys, Anastasio and his seven-piece 70 Volt Parade initially focused on the bandleader's eponymous release of 2002. That initially seemed like a good decision.

Anastasio's latest release, "Shine," has been widely hailed by most critics as his strongest studio outing to date (including his work with Phish). That's just ridiculous. The pop-oriented CD is too polished and, well, "shiny" to suit the musician. He spends too much time trying to channel Beatles influences instead of relying on his own unique style. The CD is almost barren of the sense of humor, the curious arrangements and spiraling guitar work that made his best Phish recordings such a joy.

Fortunately, the new songs translated much better in concert. After a double-shot of "Anastasio" tunes--"Push on 'Til the Day" and "Night Speaks to a Woman"--and a great cover of the Rolling Stones' "Bitch," the singer began delving into his "Shine" material." From the tender lullaby "Sweet Dreams Melinda" to the anthemic title track, all of the new compositions worked marvelously.

As far as set lists go, Anastasio has long drawn a line between what he played with Phish and what he was willing to handle in his solo shows. He only occasionally stepped over that line on this night, performing "46 Days" (from 2002's "Round Room"), the Phish-concert-staple "Loving Cup" (actually a Stones tune) and the instrumental "First Tube."

Following a short solo acoustic segment, which didn't really work, Anastasio plugged back in for the Dead-meets-Phish portion of the show. Hart and Kreutzmann joined the singer and his crew for a sloppy, yet utterly enjoyable, run through "Iko Iko," "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad," "Eyes of the World" and "Casey Jones." (Anastasio must be very comfortable playing Dead tunes these days, having performed as part of the all-star Jerry Garcia celebration in Berkeley, CA, back in September.)

Fans could have listened to that makeshift ensemble all night. But, to be fair, things actually improved musically as the drummers left the stage and Anastasio's regular unit charged through "Money, Love and Change" and "Come as Melody." Things peaked in the encore as the otherworldly guitarist delivered a mesmerizing version of "First Tube."
Phans obviously still miss catching Phish in concert. But, on nights like this, it's hard not be hooked on Trey's new trip.

For a more personal account, check out Justin Kreutmann's blog


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