Trey @ The Pabst Theater, 2.18.10
Posted 4/14/2010 by cal
What can you say about a band whose first songwriting effort yielded
Trey walked out, jumped around like a kid, pumped his fists. It was
gonna be a big old love fest tonight.
"What's Done" was the second song, and already, it was as if Clapton
circa '74 (they used to call him God) was standing up there, albeit
toxin-free and in complete control.
Hearing "Push On 'Til The Day" for the first time in over four
years...when we thought there might never be any more Phish, this was
the first song that made that prospect seem tolerable. Tonight, it was
an old friend I hadn't seen in forever, but we both still remembered the
"Let Me Lie" just does something to me. It has that askew
knowing-innocence that only Trey and Tom can evoke. I can't read
anything into it. I can't dissect it. Just feels good.
Ray's best solo of the first set came in the tour debut of "Sleep
Again". It must be weirdly comforting for Trey to sing those words now,
as if they've come true.
"Birdwatcher" was like being transported into a speakeasy, sparking the
party portion of the show. "Valentine" didn't blow me away, although I
did spend part of it in line for a toilet. "Cayman Review" was solid,
and "Gotta Jibboo" extended the drinking motif...Trey appeared to be
chomping at the bit, but as the horns backed away, Ray took the reins
for a while, leading to a keyb/gtr/bass/drum jam not really like Phish
at all, but still...Red. The horns returned for the first of many
instances throughout the night when the seven-piece ensemble locked into
a single-minded groove with the unnerving determination of a Terminator
and the pulse of a heart attack.
"Sultans Of Swing" figured to be the set-closer, but we were treated to a
solo acoustic interlude. This manner of "Bathtub Gin" at the first
Bonnaroo was a heartbreaker, not knowing if or how we'd ever hear it
again. Now Trey with the acoustic is a plain celebration of the new
reality. He just makes you smile until it hurts. I'm a fan. Never
expected "Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan" or "Backwards Down The
Number Line" but this little showcase only served to remind me how much
these songs have already become complete Phish songs to me.
At setbreak, I had my first internet community>actual human
interaction experience. SillyWilly and albert walker look nothing like
their avatars. A flurry of Phish banter that made my head swirl (and
Will's as well, I do believe). A couple of cool cats from the coolest
gathering place in cyberspace.
It was Jim's birthday, after all. So naturally, he called the second
set opener: "Curlew's Call". The band was in the zone from note one.
"Sand"...Why must Trey deprive the Phish audience of this nugget of
grand blues funk?
Because it's just better with the horns, folks. Classic TAB=not
experimenting, just locking in; that's how "Sand" was created.
Trey keeps a jam going exactly as long as he wants; no Fishman to end it
early (just sayin'). To sustain the kind of intensity that brewed up
in this jam takes something beyond mere musicianship; to harness it and
bring it all back around to a point of closure takes the will of a
superhero. Harrowing, and absolutely perfect.
Let's say in 1999, the "symptom" was a lack of direction, and the
"cause" was drugs. Maybe today, the symptom is the fear that the jams
won't work without the drugs. Then the stated goal of "Sand" is a
rousing success now just as it was then; it just reflects a healthier
I just love the main riff of "Night Speaks To A Woman". I'm back at
Bonnaroo 2002. I'll be back in twenty minutes or so.
Trey and Ray engage in a raging battle. Trey toying with a harmonic
variation on the main theme is pretty insane. The climax is as
unexpectedly perfectly timed as the best "Harry Hood"s.
"Goodbye Head" is the TAB "Time Turns Elastic", except everyone seems to
like it much better for some reason. I'm easy, I love 'em both. This
is a brilliant composition, impeccably nailed tonight in all its
reverse-"Kashmir" glory. It slides gracefully into "Words To Wanda";
getting this and "Let Me Lie" in the same show is kind of a full-circle
moment for me. I just remember feeling like these two tunes blew away
almost all of the non-Marshall songs on Bar 17/18 Steps, and
where are those now?
"Money Love & Change". You'll have to excuse me for a spell. I'm
back at Alpine Valley 2001.
Phish 2.0: Trey trying to turn Page into Ray. Phish 3.0 + Classic TAB:
Trey having his cake and eating it, too. These musicians SO commit to
the groove, and to Trey as commander-in-chief. He rallies them into
this fury of sound, and they return to the main theme in the end because
it just couldn't have gotten any more intense in that room.
Breather: "Small Axe". "All That Almost Was" feels more like a
celebration of what is and what will be.
I'll be pretty shocked if I ever hear a version of "Spin" that tops the
one from the Vic Theatre in 2006, but I'll always get a little freaky
feeling when I hear the song now because of that night. The song proper
ends in a whirlwind crush of guitar, and the jam is a totally separate
animal. Trey slowly, deliberately unsheathes the lightsaber and just
slays the Wampa. There's no one else on that stage.
A virtual Johnny Ramone strum-fest through "Tuesday" as the horns have
their way ends the set. The encore is a repeat of New York's two nights
earlier, and also exactly what I'd hoped for: my first live "Magilla"
of any kind, and after a heartfelt tribute to everyone in the band,
"First Tube". I could get this every night and never get too much of
it. Guitar aloft, screeching, a huge grin on the axeman's face, the
crowd in rapture.
Ultimately, the same way I feel after every TAB show: it's not Phish,
but Trey still takes me to places nobody else can.