On Friday, Trey Anastasio returned to The Beacon Theatre for his first of two solo acoustic shows celebrating the unveiling of the storied New York venue’s new Sphere Immersive Sound system. Touted by MSG Entertainment as “the world’s most advanced concert audio system,” the setup installed at the Beacon serves as a preview of the considerably larger-scale implementation due to be included in the new MSG Sphere in Las Vegas.
Considering the cutting-edge capabilities of the system’s 3D audio “beamforming” technology, a solo acoustic guitar show seemed at first like a strange choice for its debut outing. MSG Sphere EVP & COO Rich Claffey, however, was certain about the choice of Anastasio as the system’s official Guinea pig. “Trey Anastasio is probably the best rock star to debut something like this,” he confirmed. As MSG Entertainment advanced engineering SVP Stuart Elby explained, this type of performance relies on the intimate connection between the performer and the audience, on the purity of the sound delivered by the rudimentary instrumentation. In effect, with a solo acoustic show, the onus falls heavily on the sound system to deliver pure, clear audio to the thousands in attendance.
The system sounded like a resounding success as soon as Trey strode onstage. From the theater’s ornate entrance hall to the front of the orchestra to the top of the balcony, all the finer elements of each acoustic pluck, each pick slide, each fond memory rang out through the theater with stunning warmth and clarity.
After a mid-set rendition of “Strange Design”, Trey took a moment to wish the song a happy birthday, noting that he only knew its birthday because he wrote it just days before his first daughter, Eliza, was born. “I have no idea how old this one is,” he added before moving into “Theme From The Bottom”.
“Steam” proved to be particularly lively as the crowd audibly “shhhh’d” in place of the smoke machines that usually accompany the song’s Phish renditions. The first one seemed to catch an amused Anastasio by surprise: “Wait your turn,” he joked before restarting the song. “I need it, though. I need it.” Later, when the chorus of “shhhs” arrived on cue, Trey joked. “Beautiful. Immersive…”
Some amusing stories surrounded “Possum” (a favorite of his grandmother, who always thought they were singing “pasta,” not “possum”) before the Trey beckoned the crowd to “listen as she speaks to you” via 3D beamformed audio on “Water In The Sky”. That song’s line about “the everglades” prompted the night’s most amusing moment. Recalling Phish’s recent trip to Bethel Woods, the venue on the site of 1969’s Woodstock, Anastasio registered his official complaint about the long-publicized attendance numbers and the iconic festival.
After seeing the field on the compound where the original Woodstock took place, Anastasio was less than convinced that the space could hold hundreds of thousands of people. “No way there was half a million people in there. I’m sorry, like, I play a lot of concerts, I can usually gauge… I’m not trying to be sacrilegious here… sorry. But I just walked over the hill and I was like there’s no way in hell there were half a million people in that valley. It’s not that big. It’s like somebody’s backyard.”
He wound up doing some online research, he explained, and found a blog that used a GPS-based calculation to measure the number of people in a photo of Woodstock. That guy estimated that it was just over 83,000. The grinning, semi-sarcastic Trey then proposed that Phish’s turn-of-the-millennium festival, Big Cypress, with attendance numbers north of 70,000, may have actually had more attendees than Woodstock.
“For the record,” he concluded, “I am now officially making Big Cypress more important than Woodstock. Thank you!”
The show wound down with “Everything’s Right”, “Sample in a Jar”, “The Lizards”, and some shout-outs to Marc Rebillet and Succession in the quarantine entertainment category. As Trey walked back out for his encore, the cheeky gall of his comments about Woodstock seemed to make him blush slightly. He predicted what the Page Six headline might read on Saturday—”Guy From Phish Calls Bullsh*t On Woodstock”—before closing the evening with “Roll Like A River”, “46 Days”, and “More”.
Watch a video of Trey’s Woodstock story and check out the full setlist from the show below. Read a full recap of the Trey’s second night at the Beacon featuring an epilogue to Friday’s Woodstock banter here.
For a complete list of Anastasio’s upcoming tour dates, head here.
Guy From Phish Calls Bullsh*t On Woodstock – 8/19/22
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Setlist [via phish.net]: Trey Anastasio | Beacon Theatre | New York, NY | 8/19/22
Set: Blaze On , Back on the Train, Mercy, Brian and Robert, Sigma Oasis, A Little More Time , Bathtub Gin, Heavy Things, Free, Snowflakes in the Sand, Strange Design, Happy Birthday to You , Theme From the Bottom, Steam > Possum, Water in the Sky, Everything’s Right, Sample in a Jar, The Lizards
Encore: Roll Like a River > 46 Days, More
 Trey solo acoustic.
 Trey solo acoustic; first public performance.
 Trey solo acoustic; first acoustic performance.
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