Concert Review: Trey Anastasio Band – Charlotte, NC, February 26, 2010
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The name “Anastasio” means “resurrection” in Greek. Sounds fitting enough for a man who’s playing had deteriorated as the 2000’s, as well as his addictions, wore on, finally hitting rock bottom in December of 2006 with a drug arrest. These days Trey Anastasio has been living up to the meaning of his last name, living a sober lifestyle. He’s brought his old band Phish back, as well as his phenomenal Trey Anastasio Band side project. His stop at The Fillmore in Charlotte, North Carolina was the definition of resurrection.
If he wasn’t looking as though he was in a trance, he was dancing, grinning from ear to ear the entire night. His horn section (Jennifer Hartswick, Russel Remmington, and 18 year old Natalie “Chainsaw” Pressman) added a bright, at times fierce, mix to the music. Ray “The Funky Cow” Paczkowski on keys and clavinet provided funk with enough of a rock and roll sensibility. Drummer Russ Lawton and bassist Tony Markellis defined themselves as the thickest, steadiest sounding rhythm section in music today. This band is Trey Anastasio’s bungee cord, allowing him to consistently jump over the cliff at will, yet keeping him from hitting the ground. At it’s lowest, this show was bright with energy. On average it bubbled slightly beneath the surface with a ferocious, yet steady groove. Oftentimes it became volcanic, exploding with an intensity you don’t often see, especially for such extended lengths of time.
From the opening horn notes of “Shine” to the final notes of “First Tube,” the three hour show was relentless. His show never stuck to one style of music, exploring various genres while making them sound uniquely his. Songs like “Shine,” and “Peggy,” straight forward pop numbers, were brimming with a happy energy. The island-esque “Sweet and Dandy,” the calypso sounding “Mozambique,” the ballad-y “Sweet Dreams Melinda (“Went from Charlotte all the way to Savannah”), all sounding bright and joyous. Straight ahead rockers like “All That Almost Was,” and “Tuesday,” were Anastasio’s musical explosions, hitting loud peaks time and again. “Mr. Completely” was the more unique number of the evening, allowing Trey to conduct the band like an orchestra. Calling for key changes with a raise or lower of his finger (at four beats when I pull my fist down, thank you very much), he would call upon various members of his band to showcase their own talents.
Credit the horn section, particularly trumpet/vocalist Jennifer Hartswick, for adding to the evening’s insanity. She’s taken a center stage role in the band these days, whipping the crowd up into her own frenzy at times. This was never more evident during Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” Taking Robert Plant’s vocals, as well as shifting the sexual identity of the song from male to female, the Fillmore would go ballistic after every line she sang. For 18 years old, and sounding as though she’s been doing this twice as long as she’s been alive, Natalie Pressman impressed time and again. Russel Remmington might be the only man who could take a flute to a Trey Anastasio song and make it work.
If anything might truly define the band, it would be the moments when the horn section would leave the stage, stripping the sound down to four basic rock and roll instruments. “Gotta Jibboo,” and “Sand,” were prime examples of this band allowing Trey to create his own sonic chaos. Each of these numbers started with a thick, bubbling, heavy groove. There would be quiet, patient interplay between Anastasio and Paczkowski, eventually allowing Trey to create his own aural insanity. The jams would hit peaks, staying there until it seemed the Fillmore itself would implode.
If the night’s “First Tube” closer sounded slightly ragged, it still sounded good. Watching Trey bouncing up and down and dancing side to side during the closing jam was as much fun as the instrumental itself. He ended the night at the Fillmore waving his guitar around like a jedi lightsaber, flashing it side to side, jutting it forward, until finally raising it high over his head; taking the sound, the band, and the audience with it. If anyone had a time more awesome than the audience, it was him. Good for him, and awesome for the rest of us.
Burlap Sack and Pumps
Push On Til the Day
All That Almost Was
Sweet Dreams Melinda
A Case of Ice and Snow
Sweet and Dandy
Night Speaks To A Woman
Goodbye Head >
Show Of Life