Last night, Trey Anastasio continued his brief solo band weekend run with a memorable outing in New York City’s Central Park, marking his first-ever show in the iconic urban oasis.
The show was initially billed as a performance by the Trey Anastasio Trio, the stripped-down, throwback lineup of Trey, bassist Tony Markellis, and drummer Russ Lawton that was revived earlier this year when regular Trey Anastasio Band keyboardist Ray Paczkowski was sidelined after receiving emergency brain surgery. The Trey Anastasio Trio went on to complete Trey Anastasio Band’s scheduled spring tour while Ray was out of play, and they had so much fun doing it that they scheduled another couple Trio dates—Thursday in Charlottesville and last night in NYC, the only two 2018 TAT shows booked as TAT from the start—surrounding their headlining set at Levitate Music & Arts Festival tonight, originally booked as a Trey Anastasio Band show but later re-billed as the Trey Anastasio Trio.
Well, as luck would have it, Ray Paczkowski, The Milkman himself, recovered from his surgery quicker than expected and was back in time to join the Trey Anastasio Trio for their entire performance in Charlottesville. The Central Park show followed suit, with the Trio performing as a quartet—the lineup often known as Classic TAB. For those keeping track, Levitate will be the 13th scheduled Trey Anastasio solo band show of 2018, and all but one of them (their slot at the multi-band “Concert for Island Relief” on January 6th) will have been played by a different lineup than was originally booked. But while Trey’s solo band lineup has gone through a number of unexpected changes this year, each iteration has played remarkably, highlighting the skillful fluidity of this outfit and its leader. It doesn’t matter who Trey brings along for his solo performances. Whether it’s TAB or TAT or Classic TAB or just a microphone and an acoustic guitar, Big Red puts on a hell of a show.
The Central Park quartet performance started off the same way as Charlottesville with “Blaze On”. “Cayman Review” followed, with Trey humorously giving a nod to TAB’s Jennifer Hartswick, whose backing vocals and trumpet solo normally highlight the tune. “Everything’s Right” came next, and saw the band test the waters with some melodic rock improv. After a pause came “Heavy Things”, first performed by the original incarnation of the Trey/Tony/Russ trio (prior to its Phish debut) on 5/4/99. The tune suffered slightly from some sound issues for Trey and Ray. However, the brief hiccup allowed the crowd a moment to appreciate the rock-solid, unrelenting rhythmic foundation being laid down by Russ and Tony on “Heavy Things” (yes, you read that right) and throughout the night.
The high point of set one followed with a fast-paced “Gotta Jibboo” featuring an extended stretch of funky improvisation highlighted by a big solo from the Milkman. “Party Time” followed, with Trey dedicating it to his Phish bandmate, “Mr. Jon Fishman,” and noting his excitement for their impending tour. After a “Miss You” breather, “Sand” brought the set to an emphatic close.
The sunset began to paint the West Side sky with a marvelous pink-orange glow as the band returned for set two with “No Men In No Man’s Land”, which they took for an extended ride before segueing into “Ghost”. The Phish-heavy start to the second set continued with a wild rendition of “Camel Walk” injected with a shot of raw energy by this Classic TAB lineup. As the sunset over Central Park grew in intensity, the band began a tender “Dark and Down”, a strong, cool breeze sweeping across the concert field as Trey sang. “Soul Planet” came next, followed by a funky “Steam” jam. “Undermind” got the call next, followed by a thrilling set-closing rendition of “Push On Til’ The Day” that saw Trey build tension before unleashing a hair-raising solo.
When Trey returned for the encore, he did so alone with an acoustic guitar, playing through solo renditions of “Waste”, “Strange Design”, and “More”. Between songs, he spoke about his mom, an NYC native who was in attendance at the show, and how thankful he was that she let him come to the city from New Jersey to take guitar lessons as a 14-year-old. As Trey noted, clearly amused, the building he in which he took his lessons was located on Central Park South—meaning he was literally looking at it from the stage across the park as he spoke, guitar in hand. “My head is exploding right now,” he joked, summing things up to his mother, “Thanks for letting me come to the city to take guitar lessons in 1978.”
He also reminisced about fond memories of walking through the city in those days, jokingly “admitting” to his parents “I bought a fake ID” and adding “that’s the worst thing I’ve ever done” with a wink and a smile. Finally, Russ, Tony, and Ray rejoined the stage to close out the show with spirited runs through “Alaska” and “First Tube”.
Trey could not hide his excitement throughout the evening. While he may have shown a couple signs of rust, you could hear him working out the kinks as the night went on. By the time he hit that “Push On Til’ The Day” solo, he seemed to be in mid-tour form—a fantastic place to start as the “main event,” Phish’s summer tour, approaches on July 17th. For a full list of upcoming Phish dates, head here.
Below, you can watch a selection of fan-shot videos and check out a full gallery of photos from Trey Anastasio’s quartet performance at Central Park SummerStage below courtesy of photographer Andrew Blackstein.
“Waste” [Solo Acoustic]
Setlist: Trey Anastasio Trio + Ray Paczkowski | Central Park SummerStage | New York, NY | 7/6/18
Set 1: Blaze On, Cayman Review, Everything’s Right, Heavy Things, Gotta Jibboo, Party Time, Miss You, Sand
Set 2: No Men In No Man’s Land, Ghost, Camel Walk, Dark and Down, Soul Planet, Steam, Undermind, Push On ‘Til the Day
Encore: Waste , Strange Design, More, Alaska, First Tube
 Solo Acoustic