Images by: Andrew
Words by: Scott Bernstein
Mike Gordon :: 3.1.14 :: Webster Hall :: New York, NY
Read Scotty's review after the gallery...
One of the many great aspects of Mike Gordon returning to the road with his five-
piece band after a near two-year hiatus is the opportunity to watch the bassist in the
role of front man. Gordon is more often than not quiet on the Phish stage, but at Webster
Hall in New York City on Saturday night he showed he's quite capable of fronting a band.
Despite the long layoff Gordon's ensemble didn't display any signs of rust as they worked
through a setlist packed with songs from throughout the last few decades of Mike's career
as well as a choice cover. Mike's role as front man was on full display as he
bantered with the crowd and led the band musically via both verbal and non-verbal
communication. He even used a talkback mic to deliver instructions to his band mates. The
usually quiet musician took an opportunity during the second set to thank the ATO Records
team who handled the release of Overstep - a rare instance of talking business on
Outside of the Phish bassist there may not be any big names in the group, yet it's filled
with top-shelf players who each impressed in front of the capacity crowd. Drummer Todd
Isler capably held down tight grooves, aided and abetted by percussionist Craig Myers,
that provided a full-on dance party throughout most of Saturday's two sets. Keyboardist
Tom Cleary showed a propensity to fill open spaces within the music without dominating, a
characteristic also displayed in Scott Murawski's guitar work. The five-piece spent lots
of time woodshedding the material they'd perform on their first extensive U.S. tour since
2011 and it showed.
There were surprises galore littered throughout the show. The band opened with the live
debut of Overstep track "Tiny Little World" and reprised the tune a couple of times
later in the evening. You can always count on Mike for interesting cover choices and on
this night the five-piece treated fans to an intriguing arrangement of the Flaming Lips's
"Are You A Hyponotist??." Gordon utilized a
resonator-like guitar for the debut of Tom Cleary's "Pretty Boy Floyd" as well as for the
debut of the mellow "Loon" earlier
in the night, which also saw Murawski pluck bass notes on an instrument that looked like a
Gordon dipped into the Phish catalog for the uber-rarity "Spock's Brain" and "555," which
the Vermonters debuted as part of the Wingsuit set on Halloween. Both arrangements
didn't stray too far from the originals, though each had a more rock-heavy feel in NYC.
Yet it was the extended arrangements of the Overstep tracks which stood out on
Saturday night. "Surface" in particular was delightfully jammed out and gave Murawski one
many chances to shine. Scott's tone during "Surface" was reminiscent of the MuTron-heavy
sounds Jerry Garcia utilized in songs such as "Shakedown Street" and "Estimated Prophet."
Before the tour Mike revealed "the band’s new repertoire will be augmented by hints of
secret synesthetic mad scientist gadgetry on and around the stage." Not only was the stage
equipped with a funky-looking moire backdrop, but there was also a a panel that spanned
the length of the rail in front of the stage that at one point lit up, almost like keys on
a piano. When pressed, the keys made sounds that gave those triggering them an ability to
participate in the jam. This bit of audience participation continues a tradition started
in the group's early days, when Gordon let fans use a Kaosillator to take part in the
band's improvisational excursions. At various points throughout the show, Mike and Scott
turned on neon lights within their guitars that flickered and changed colors, providing a
There were lots of smiles and high-fives exchanged as the capacity crowd filed out of the
venue around 10:30 on Saturday night, so Webster Hall could turn itself into a dance club.
Yet there was plenty of dancing going on within the room before its transformation.
Gordon's tour continues throughout the month and you'd be well served catching them when
they come to town.
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