Trey Anastasio soars with delight at House of Blues

A review of Trey Anastasio and Classic TAB at the House of Blues on February 12, 2010

, Staff Writer

<div>After a lengthy bout of touring in 2009, including their own Halloween  festival in California and a four-night New Year’s run in Miami, Phish has opted  to stay off the road until June. The large gap in between tours has allowed the  band’s members to focus their attention on various side projects. For guitarist  Trey Anastasio, that means hitting the road with his solo band, Classic TAB. On  Friday, Anastasio hit the House of Blues for two sets of joyful, bouncy music,  including a few well-known Phish tunes for good measure before a jam-packed  soldout crowd. <br />&nbsp; <br />The first set kicked off with “Shine”, brought in by an  impressive intro by the band’s three-piece horn section. Of note was Natalie  Cressman’s performance on the trombone: at only 19-years old, the petite girl  pulled a huge, brassy sound out of her horn the entire evening, and even joined  trumpet player Jennifer Hartswick on backup vocals throughout the night. Cressman’s real moment of glory came towards the middle of the first set, laying  down a confident and resonant solo in “Mozambique.” The daughter of original TAB  member Jeff Cressman, she’s got the chops of a player well beyond her age, and  hopefully this tour will bring her more opportunities to develop her playing as  time goes on. Truly, TAB’s horn section (which also featured saxophonist Russell  Remington) has been a boon for the group throughout this tour,&nbsp; flawlessly  playing through melody lines and complementing Anastasio’s solos with small  musical quips from time to time. Add to that the foundation of Classic TAB’s  lineup – Russ Lawton (drums), Tony Markellis (bass) and Ray Paczkowski  (keyboards) – there was just loads of individual talent on stage that made for  many stunning moments when fused together.<br />&nbsp; <br />Anastasio’s guitar playing  was, of course, the driving force of the band. The best moments of the night  were when he took the helm, guiding the band through extensive bouts of  improvisation. Of course, there wasn’t the meandering, exploratory jamming that  defines Phish’s playing, but that isn’t what Anastasio’s band is about. “Night  Speaks To A Woman” captured everyone’s attention, and as he brought his solos to  peak after peak, the dancing became increasingly infectious, and soon there  wasn’t a still body in the house. “Alaska”, a cut off of Joy’s bonus disc, was  met with cheers, having been performed by Phish a number of times last year.  “Let Me Lie”, found on the same record, was likewise a welcome addition to the  setlist. <br />&nbsp; <br />While the first set was certainly enjoyable, things really  got going after the setbreak. “Sand”, which has become a TAB staple, was an  early highlight. Immediately the audience launched into a frenzy of dancing,  singing along and stomping around. High-fives flew, and everyone was locked in  to what the band was doing. The horn section left stage, allowing Anastasio and  his rhythm section to open the tune up a bit. He guided the band into a funky  texture before stepping back front and bringing the song to its climax. “Goodbye  Head” was an interesting sort of interlude – a lengthy composed piece that wove  through a number of different musical characters, marked by some fairly  intricate rhythmic work. The band soon transitioned into “Gotta Jibboo”, another  Phish tune. After closing out with a soulful “Dragonfly”, the band came back on  for a fiery encore. <br />&nbsp; <br />Anastasio took the stage, explaining that he had  been saving the first song “for a Friday night”, and immediately launching into  Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing.” The brass section took responsibility for the  song’s trademark guitar line. Anastasio paid appropriate homage to the song’s  original guitar solo, while adding his own flavor to it, and the wind section  was allowed to shine one more time, playing a perfect note-for-note rendition of  the famous solo that closes out the song. “Sultans of Swing” would have been  enough, but Anastasio decided to give the audience one more present, busting out  “First Tube”, which he explained was the first song he’d written with Tony  Markellis and Russ Lawton, both original members of the band. The band was  clearly ecstatic as they brought the show to a close: Anastasio was jumping all  over the place, looking back to smile at his bandmates, who themselves were  having a great time. It ended the show on a high note, and left everyone  completely satisfied. <br />&nbsp; <br />So no, there’s no Phish tour for another four  months, but with Anastasio’s band delivering solid performances night after  night, the blow has been eased significantly. The man is clearly overjoyed to be  touring with the group, having a ball every night, and this translates into  fantastic performances. With bassist Mike Gordon starting a solo tour in just a  few weeks, it’s going to be pretty easy for Phish fans to get their fix until  the quartet reunites for their summer tour.</div>
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