Trey Anastasio at Pabst Theater
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It was a rare treat for a sold-out house full of Phish fans to see Trey Anastasio perform in the intimate confines of the Pabst Theater Thursday night for his first Milwaukee show in almost five years. Grinning from ear-to-ear, Anastasio appeared to be enjoying himself most of all, as he led Classic TAB through a marathon three-and-half-hour show.
Pulling from the same pool of songs he’s played on other stops of this tour, which comes on the heels of Phish’s successful comeback in 2009, Anastasio stayed on point for most of the night, deviating only for the first set closer, where he performed a solo acoustic medley of Phish songs like “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan” and “Bathtub Gin.”
But for the most part, the band stayed in its comfort zone, taking only a handful of opportunities to embark on extended noodling, never digressing into the kind of extended super jams that leave you wondering, “Wait, what song was this again?” Perhaps the funkiest excursion of the night, “Sand” started off as a rolling baseline groove that eventually developed into series of continuous climaxes built on the frenetic energy teased by Anastasio’s guitar.
As expected, the horn section brought a much richer, fuller sound to the band’s repertoire. Reconfiguring the arrangements after slimming down to a three-piece, and replacing trombonist Jeff Cressman with his 18-year-old daughter Natalie, has added a new sense of swagger to TAB classics like “Gotta Jibboo” and the Dire Straits cover, “Sultans Of Swing.”
Anastasio seemed genuinely enthused throughout the show as he wanked away, wearing his goofy guitar o-face. It was clear that he was feeding off the crowd energy, which seemed to hit its peaks and valleys, especially as the second set continued to drag on. Perhaps this is why Anastasio wasn’t his usually chatty self. He only addressed the crowd to introduce the rest of the band just before and the final song of the encore, “Last Tube.” But the music spoke well enough for him.