reCAP :: Trey Anastasio Band :: 2017.04.15
Words by Chad Berndtson
Photos by Scott Harris
Phish has been back for eight years now, triumphant and consistent in its 3.0 installment, and at least one pleasant byproduct is that its members seem to have found an ideal balance between time spent on Phish and time spent on other creative pursuits, not least the side projects that have stayed on radar (or at least close to radar) for a decade or more. One of those is the Trey Anastasio Band, or TAB, which, don’t look now, just kicked off perhaps its busiest-ever year, with a lineup that’s been in place for some time, more or less a collaborator or two. The long-since-sold-out two night tour opener at the Cap this weekend proved that the appetite for TAB is as full and piqued as ever — as if there was any doubt.
As Phish and Trey geeks know, the Cap is a special room for TAB; it attempted to play there in 2008 — four years before the official re-opening, denied because the building was deemed unfit for a rock concert — and then again in October 2012, delayed (twice!) by superstorm Sandy. TAB finally did get there in January 2013, for two nights, and this was its first trip back since, with the crowd no less adoring, the dancing no less giddy, and the fun factor not a smidgen diminished.
TAB’s second night was markedly different from the first in terms of song selection and overall setlist composition, but still a winning mix of originals and covers. The first set favored tunes from 2015’s “Paper Wheels” album but also showed impressive range, sliding in favorites by The Five Stairsteps (“Ooh Child”), Ana Tijoux (“1977”), The Band (a tender “It Makes No Difference”) and Bob Marley (“Small Axe”). In the second set and encore, we’d also get the Charlie Daniels Band (“The Devil Went Down to Georgia”), Jimmy Webb (“MacArthur Park”) and Led Zeppelin (“Black Dog”).
But it was in the classic TAB originals where the band dug deep, with shining versions of “Money, Love & Change,” “The Way I Feel” and a fun ’n’ lumpy “Ether Sunday” (stopped so Trey could grab a sign for the song in the audience) carrying the day. All three of those tunes leveraged TAB’s orchestral bigness — you felt the size and variation within the group, from the horn section of Jennifer Hartswick, Natalie Cressman and James Casey, to keyboard mainstay Ray Paczkowski, a musician with a natural feel for when to be aggressive and when to lightly color and shade.
They all do that, really. To call TAB a well-oiled machine at this point isn’t to call them composed or predictable — there’s a comfort level among these collaborators and with the vision of their namesake, that allows for a much bigger playground of possibilities than an 8-piece band might imply. The X-factor in this installment might just be old friend Cyro Baptista, an on-again, off-again member of TAB who adds delectably adventurous percussion and is one of those players who just seems to “get” the unexplainable in what Trey’s after. But again, that’s all of them; TAB is a mischief maker’s clubhouse and a collection of players that deeply adore and trust one another. It shows in every note.
The Capitol Theatre Photo Gallery
Photos by Scott Harris