Phil Lesh & Friends :: 10.20 :: Glens Falls Civic Center :: Glen Falls, NY
If there ever was an ideal setting for it to happen, this was it. If ever there was ideal timing for it to happen, it was now. And if ever there was a man who could save the face of the gigantic pond that he created – the same one which eventually sent him to sleep with the Phishes – it could only be him. Trey Anastasio, former Phish frontman, has been out of the spotlight for the past eight months and finally got his feet wet again this past Saturday with the help of his friend Phil Lesh. This was his first stage appearance outside of a one song guest spot with the Dave Matthews Band this summer at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Rumors ran wild for weeks that The Bad Lieutenant would return to the stage at the Glens Falls Civic Center, the site of Phish’s historic Halloween ’94 concert where they played the entire White Album by The Beatles. It made perfect sense. Since his very public arrest last December for drug possession and driving under the influence, Anastasio has lived in relative peace and quiet in Saratoga, NY, only minutes away from the Civic Center.
Phil Lesh and Friends has recently been touring the country with a new lineup of Jackie Greene, Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm), John Molo and Steve Molitz (Particle). After a rather forgettable show Friday at Mohegan Sun Casino, I just could not allow myself to miss Saturday. Within five minutes of parking across the street from the venue I spotted Phish lyricist and lifelong Anastasio friend Tom Marshall picking up his tickets at the box office. Moments later, I ran into Phish archivist Kevin Shapiro and struck up a conversation. Both realizing what was on deck, bubbling with excitement, we briefly exchanged pleasantries and prepared to head in. Game on.
As I entered the venue, which is a typical, Northern NY, medium-sized hockey arena, I could only think of Halloween 1994. I could only think of Anastasio, and what he had created like a mad scientist, only to be killed by his creation in the end. Or so we thought. Or so it might have been.
Within moments of glancing around, IT appeared – The Languedoc, one of Trey’s custom made guitars named for its creator, Phish soundman, Paul Languedoc. It sat on the guitar stand on stage, the very spot it held almost thirteen years ago this Halloween. That alone was enough to ignite the first spark of what would surely prove to be an epic night.
As the band hit the stage, Anastasio looked out into the audience. Dressed in a comfortable tee shirt with his patented long sleeve Henley underneath, he simply smiled. “Alabama Getaway” kicked things off with “Pride of Cucamonga” following. After “Friend of the Devil” and “Deep Elem Blues” one of the first set highlights was “Deal” where Anastasio really seemed to settle in and shake off the months of dust that had been accumulating on his shoulders, taking charge with a confident, soaring solo that was the first time in a long while I’ve managed to close my eyes, smile uncontrollably, and hear the familiar tone I grew up with.
Welcome back, Big Red.
Several other things were also apparent in the first set. Anastasio had all eyes on him, and whether it was intentional or the energy of the moment, he seemed to be three times as loud as anyone else in the mix. The undeniable example was the set closing “Bertha.” When Anastasio stepped up to sing the line, “Test me, test me / Why don’t you arrest me?” the place absolutely exploded. Trey got a good laugh out of it, too. I don’t know what else to say except that it felt good, and I can only imagine how it felt for Anastasio.
The second set was typical Lesh, bobbing and moving, high and low, dark and light. They opened with Anastasio’s “Shine,” and whether you think it’s a pop tune, a disaster or just cheesy, on this night it managed to shine bright enough to nearly melt the ice under the floorboards. One felt lucky to simply be watching Anastasio sing it again, especially complimented by a fierce guitar solo. A rather ballsy “Viola Lee Blues” > “Cumberland Blues” sandwich morphed back and forth into one another after each verse, and featured some very good playing from all. Newcomer Jackie Greene, rumored to be sick, seemed to fade out of existence in this set. Not that many even noticed. All eyes were on one man.
“Dark Star” enveloped “Wharf Rat,” a song I later learned Anastasio was dying to play this night, and featured Campbell and Anastasio trading solos like the professionals they are. Also prevalent were the underlying themes of arrest, jail, judges and the like that Lesh incorporated into the setlist construction. On this night, nothing seemed accidental. Like the three-headed snake, “Help” > Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower” to close the show. Each member played with reckless abandon, especially Anastasio, who dug-in as if there was no tomorrow. It’s also worth noting that Phil Lesh was named honorary mayor for the day, in which his first act was to issue a full pardon to Anastasio.
I’m not going to say this was the best show I’ve ever seen, but it sure felt like it. Public humiliation and disgrace turned into praise and adulation. Anastasio seemed to be shedding his winter cocoon, reemerging into the public eye with new bravado and an attitude that maybe even he forgot he had in him the last few years. Most importantly, he let his guitar do most of the talking. Whatever your stance on things, one thing was clear from the Glens Falls performance – Anastasio is clean, healthy and ready to once again take the plunge into music. With the one place that he often feels most comfortable, the place he finds sanctuary: the stage, taken away from him for so long he seemed genuinely at peace during this performance. After drowning in the pond he created, on this particular evening, Anastasio went from sleeping with the Phishes to rising like the redheaded Phoenix we all know he is. Welcome back Trey, we’ve missed you.Phil Lesh & Friends featuring Trey Anastasio :: 10.20 :: Glens Falls Civic Center :: Glen Falls, NY
Set 1: Alabama Getaway, Pride of Cucamonga, Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Deal, Bird Song, Bertha
Set 2: *#Shine, Viola Lee Blues > Cumberland Blues > Viola Lee Blues > Cumberland Blues > Viola Lee Blues, #Plasma, Unbroken Chain, Dark Star > Wharf Rat > Dark Star > Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower, Donor Rap/Intros
Encore: Box Of Rain
*First time played / #with Christina Durfee
JamBase | New York
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