Phish fans may be lured into believing these solo projects from the various members of the on-hiatus group would offer little new music to truly get excited about. Keyboard player Page McConnell and his great new group Vida Blue would kindly beg to disagree. On their new “Vida Blue” (Elektra) album, McConnell and his awe-inspiring partners (Oteil Burridge on bass and some vocals, Russell Batiste on drums) have crafted some truly remarkable compositions that draw from various musical influences, most notably progressive rock, electronica, funk, soul, jazz, heavy rock and, at this sold-out HOB affair, even a flash of punk.
The two-hour Vida Blue (named for the A’s/Royals/Giants pitcher of the 1970s and ’80s) show was a mix of most of the ambitious tunes found on the album, plus a very healthy dose of familiar cover songs (John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy,” Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter,” etc.), which helped keep the room’s energy percolating.
Despite the flashy skill surrounding him, McConnell remained star of this show. With five different vocal microphones at his disposal, the bearded Vermonter sang (in a typical jam band sort of lazy voice) and played a wide variety of keyboard-based instruments, including one synth that was running through a guitar amplifier for a truly remarkable six-string imitation, complete with very convincing wah-wah pedal usage.
Phish bassist Mike Gordon was a surprise guest for the show’s last few songs, including a crowdpleasing and rocking rendition of the Phish jam “Cars Trucks Buses” with the unusual sight of Gordon playing guitar.