Much more than a rehash of what Phish had been recording in the time leading up to the band’s 2000 hiatus, singer-guitarist Trey Anastasio’s first major solo album, released earlier this month, folds elements of soul and swing into the jam-rock equation for an exciting new hybrid.
That doesn’t change the fact that even on a very good night, as was the case at the Greek on Wednesday, a Trey Anastasio show, for all its impressive attributes, remains only almost as good as any Phish show.
The Vermonter, sporting his trademark closely-cut red beard, has surrounded himself with a motley-looking, nine-piece backing ensemble (all but one also hail from the Green Mountain State) including five singing and dancing horn players, two percussionists and an organist.
The extra bodies take Anastasio’s highly inventive guitar work out of the spotlight somewhat, but they also helped to introduce a range of vibes and styles that had eluded him in Phish. As might be expected, less than half the songs played were taken from his new album; some were brand-new compositions the band learned during tour rehearsals a couple weeks ago.
“Push On ‘Til the Day,” an album cut that came in the first of two hour-plus-long sets, was an exercise in funk that stretched into a rousing jam. The soulful “Money, Love and Change” smartly approached R&B territory, while “Alive Again,” the lead radio track from “Trey Anastasio” (Elektra) and the final song of the first set, featured an extended middle with plenty of calypso flavor.
The unreleased “Sand,” during which Anastasio uttered some strange chants and other vocal noises, opened the second half in mellow style, though the syncopated rhythms of follow-up “Mr. Completely,” complete with frantic red and yellow stage lights, brought a new level of energy to the production, which played to a three-fourth’s-full house.
The swampy funk of “Cayman Review” set the crowd dancing and swaying in the aisles and featured Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista playing a washboard. The extra-long “Last Tube” opened with a bass-and-drum exchange similar to Frank Zappa’s “Dinah Moe Humm” and continued happily into an indulgent, crowd-pleasing jam that briefly included two flutes.