Seeing the Trey Anastasio Band is not the same as seeing Phish, and Saturday night’s sold-out show at the Palace did not come close, though there were plenty of similar elements.
For one, it’s the same energetic crowd that stays on its feet the entire show. And the band opened with a Phish tune — First Tube — and front man Anastasio carries the show with his guitar.
But Anastasio doesn’t lead the group into meandering, often circular, jams that leave behind any remnants of the song. He nearly did on a few, and single-handedly created exciting moments, but it lacked the X-factor that Phish brings to its gigantic events.
While the comparison has to be made, it’s not fair. This is Anastasio’s solo project, offering excellent music with interesting elements. The band cooks with a great sound, and Anastasio seems to enjoy it as much as anyone in the theater.
Midway through the first set, they played a beautiful, ballad-like “Traveler,” the title track to the band’s latest release, about falling and floating, which Anastasio simulated with an air-lifting guitar solo that brought the band to a decent height, as well. You got the feeling at the beginning that he would take off on this one, and indeed he did.
They launched the second set with Phish’s “Gotta Jibboo,” which sounded great. Anastasio let his band fall into its own pocket without him. While he pulled them most of the night, the band got going here, this time pushing Anastasio to create one of the best moments of the night.
The band had a bright, light feel, even on the heavier stuff. Three horn players added some heft to the foundation of the sound. While they each got a solo here and there, they weren’t essential to the core sound, or even for coloring, which was carried deftly by drums, keys, bass, percussion, and Anastasio out front.
It’s a pleasure to watch Anastasio support his young band members, particularly when Jennifer Hartswick or Natalie Cressman took solos on tunes like “Louise” and the slower and happy “Alaska,”
On “Pigtail,” also off the latest CD, Anastasio settled into a slow, cool solo — the kind where he raises his head and stares into the distance — holding long and bending notes that repeated a melodic riff that he continued to slice in half until he reached an unsliceable size.
Anastasio can dissect a melody with his guitar and rip out little nuggets you didn’t know were there. He did this on “Shine” and “Sand.”
The band pushed straight ahead all night, delivering a great groove — sometimes straight and powerful, sometimes with a Latin feel or reggae or funk — but they always sounded good, generating a cool platform for Anastasio to do his thing.
To the credit of the audience, they stood throughout every moment, the slow and the fast. This happens with no other audience outside the jam band world, at the Palace or anywhere else — in fact, people these days complain when anyone stands at concerts. So kudos to Saturday night’s fans.
Sure, the Trey Anastasio Band is not Phish, but for Phish fans who can’t tour with the band — besides college kids living on loans, who can? — it’s always good to see Anastasio do his thing between tours. Saturday night was the end of the tour, and fans should now have a decent dose to last them for a while.