Trey Anastasio Band came to Austin to kick off a four-day Texas run, the longest string of Lone Star State dates in his career — Phish included.
TAB has turned in consistently strong performances on this tour, and Texas heads were ready for some Trey. Austin City Limits Live is one of Austin’s premier venues, and there was some chatter before about what Texas had in store. Some hoped for acknowledgement of the legendary Tweezerfest gig at Dallas’s Bomb Factory (where Trey will perform on Sunday). Some wondered how long it would take for Trey to mention being born in Texas. One cynical fan was heard complaining that Trey had never been the same since 11/15/96’s “m show” and longing for a John Popper sit-in in Austin. Spoiler alert: that one didn’t happen.
The band took the stage at 8:30 and dug in, highlighting Trey’s later-era compositions, arranging skills and gave him some room to cut loose with some type I jamming. The first set of the evening was dominated by high-energy renditions of standards, while the second added some introspective elements.
First up was “Everything’s Right”, one of Trey’s uplifting, modern day anthems. The song has produced several notable Phish jams, and set Trey up for some fretwork while percussionist Cyro Baptista held down the percussion with flippers. Following was a quick version of “Mozambique”, that introduced trombonist Natalie Cressman, trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick and saxophonist James Casey in rapid succession. A quick run through “Sometime After Sunset” led into “Camel Walk.” The beloved Phish classic works well retrofitted for TAB-style funk and the crowd was quickly “moving to the beat of the sound,” and included a lead from keyboardist Ray Paczkowski.
Attendees waiting for Trey to talk about being born in Texas ended their brief wait, as he reminded the audience that he was born in Fort Worth before praising the venue. He’s right that it’s a great room and hopefully this will herald more frequent Texas appearances.
Trey kept things lively with “Love Is What We Are” under a reggae-color themed light show and across “Gotta Jiboo”, which featured the first lead where Trey really dug in, eventually building to a long feedback sustain section. The band pivoted quickly to their well-received big band arrangement of Page McConnell’s “Magilla”, before wrapping up the first half of the show with tight versions of “Alive Again”, “Set Your Soul Free”, and “First Tube”. “Alive Again” was typically down n’ dirty, while “First Tube” brought things to a triumphant close, as Trey went full rock star/guitar hero mode, windmilling around power chords to contrast with the glitchy, main guitar melody. “First Tube” was preceded by an aborted start into what sounded like “Drifting.”
The second set kicked off with “Money, Love and Change”, one of the earliest TAB standards and a song which highlights Hartswick’s strong backing vocals. Trey dug in for the solo, phrasing things a bit more expansively as he frequently does in the second set, giving the number a latter-day Eric Clapton vibe. Next up was “Cayman Review”, another early TAB standard that featured some fun Trey/Hartswick interactions. “Undermind” was greeted warmly by the crowd and earned its spot as a fun dance number, with Baptista and drummer Russ Lawton highlighting rhythmic subtleties in a way that is impossible without two percussion players. “Alaska” followed, with its barroom piano vibe and a bluesy Trey lead that contrasted with the more ethereal, anthemic “Valentine”. Trey provided “Friend” next to serve as an emotional grounding to the more light-hearted work that surrounded it. His Ghosts of the Forrest material has proved strong, as the album’s material held its own amongst tunes easily twenty years older.
The band got going with fun tunes again via “Blaze On”, before an a capella reading of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. This placement almost felt linked to “Friend”, highlighting the wistful vibe of the former. Trey followed up with Gorillaz‘s “Clint Eastwood”, a cover so well-known that audience reactions makes it feel like a TAB radio hit. The evening stayed high energy with “Burlap Sack and Pumps”, which featured duet action between Trey and Casey, one of the improvisational highlights of the evening. Finally, Trey introduced the band and commented again on how much he liked the room, something no one in the crowd would dispute. He brought things to a close with “Rise/Come Together”, another of his modern-day uplift anthems.
The encore opened with another a capella number, “Parting Glass”, which was about one a capella number too many. Then Trey shut it all down with the pensive “A Life Beyond A Dream”, a song already owning frequent closer status with The Phish From Vermont as well. The song is one of several standout GotF track and will likely be sticking around for some time.
In short, TAB did what TAB does. Though no one was probably won over, anyone who went in wanting a fun evening with high-energy playing certainly left happy.
It came to light the following day that Baptista was actually suffering from a severe case of the flu during the show and was rushed to the ER after its conclusion. According to a Facebook post from Trey Anastasio, Baptista will have to sit out the show in Houston in order to recuperate.
The tour rolls on as scheduled with another show in Houston on Saturday night, followed by two more Texas shows in Dallas and San Antonio before heading to New Orleans, LA for two nights at The Civic Theatre. Tickets and a full list of dates are available on Trey Anastasio’s website.
Setlist: Trey Anastasio Band | Austin City Limits Live | Austin, TX | 1/24/20
Set One: Everything’s Right, Mozambique, Sometime After Sunset, Camel Walk, Love Is What We Are, Gotta Jiboo, Magilla, Alive Again, Set Your Soul Free, First Tube
Set Two: Money, Love and Change, Cayman Review, Undermind, Alaska, Valentine, Friend, Blaze On, Somewhere Over the Rainbow , Clint Eastwood (Gorillaz), Burlap Sack and Pumps, Rise/Come Together
Encore: The Parting Glass , A Life Beyond The Dream
 a capella
Trey Anastasio Band – “First Tube” – 1/24/20
[Video: Kristen Reilly]