Review: Trey Anastasio at Boettcher Concert Hall with the Colorado Symphony, 2/28/12

Categories: Last Night, Phish

022812_trey_symphony-1.jpg
Eric Gruneisen
Trey Anastasio with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra last night at Boettcher Concert Hall. More Trey Anastasio with the CSO photos.


TREY ANASTASIO @ BOETTCHER CONCERT HALL | 2.28.12

The soft, beautiful and, at times, elegant side of Phish's musical catalogue shone last night as frontman and songwriter Trey Anastasio took the stage at the Boettcher Concert Hall backed by the 65-piece Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Outside, fans dressed in suits, ties and flat-brimmed baseball caps mingled with friends over cocktails and joints until the ushers rang their bells signaling the fifteen-minute warning. Slowly the crowd climbed the various staircases to their seats in the beautiful auditorium.

As you'd expect from a symphony hall, every noise is detectable. After Anastasio took the stage to ear-piercing whoops from the crowd, it got so quiet that you could hear chairs creaking on stage and Anastasio stepping on one of four pedals he had in his array -- itself a major departure for a man who layers loud effects over his playing during Phish's electric concerts.

022812_trey_symphony. Colorado  Sympony-14.jpg
Eric Gruneisen
Trey Anastasio with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra last night at Boettcher Concert Hall. More Trey Anastasio with the CSO photos.

Denver is stop three on a four-city tour for Anastasio, who has been playing occasional one-off shows with symphony orchestras for the past ten years or so. The song selection hasn't changed from night to night, and is mostly a blend of Anastasio's highly composed, highly technical epics with other sweet, slow tunes that often are overpowered with the energy and crowd of an electric show.

Songs like "Let Me Lie" became tender ballads, with the sweeping fills of the orchestra adding to the emotion behind Anastasio's wispy and heartfelt words. "Water in the Sky" was given the full Nashville treatment, with Anastasio slowing the country-ish tune down to a mosey on the acoustic guitar backed by a brushed snare drum and the entire string section. The only thing missing were the Jordanaires singing background and Lloyd Green on pedal steel guitar.

"Brian and Robert" went from being a sweet, calming pause of a song during a wild three-hour plus Phish concert to a beautiful ballad that belonged in the ending credits of an Oscar-nominated drama. And "If I Could" sandwiched between two half-hour long numbers in the second set was nearly as beautiful as the album version with Allison Krauss singing backup.

022812_trey_symphony10.jpg
Eric Gruneisen
Trey Anastasio with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra last night at Boettcher Concert Hall. More Trey Anastasio with the CSO photos.

But what was most impressive to hear with the full symphony were the takes on the beloved Phish masterpieces. "Divided Sky" felt natural being played by the massive orchestra. Though anastasio's guitar work is still central to the song, his role was much more subdued in this setting, letting the orchestra outline and expose melodies that get lost when it's just the four members of Phish playing the song.

Anastasio reworked the songs "My Friend, My Friend" and "Guyute" into one piece several years ago, debuting the reworked version with a youth orchestra. Recordings have circulated since, but they did no justice to how amazing the music is played by a live orchestra. The violins and flutes created floating melodies that told the story of Guyute the ugly pig's journey in place of the lyrics that usually accompany the music. In another time, the song would have made the perfect musical backdrop for a demented mouse's acid trip ala Disney's Fantasia.

022812_trey_symphony12.jpg
Eric Gruneisen
Trey Anastasio with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra last night at Boettcher Concert Hall. More Trey Anastasio with the CSO photos.

"Stash" closed out the first set with a taste of Phish's humor and levity thrown in by the crowd for good measure. Though no doubt warned about it, the orchestra still seemed surprised by the perfectly timed synchronized clapping by the audience as well as the sing-along "maybe so, maybe not" lines at the end. The crowd sounded great, though, and it put a huge smile on Anastasio's face.

Second set opened with a thirty-minute "Time Turns Elastic", Anastasio's most recent attempt at longform songwriting. The song was written initially with a symphony orchestra in mind, and was scaled back for Phish's 2009 release, Joy. Unfortunately, the song has taken some time to latch onto fans, and the song has become a bathroom break tune in the three years Phish has been playing it live.

022812_trey_symphony_01.jpg
Eric Gruneisen
Trey Anastasio with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra last night at Boettcher Concert Hall. More Trey Anastasio with the CSO photos.

But filled out with an orchestra, the song's true form emerges. Although still somewhat overdone, "Time Turns Elastic" has room to stretch out and breathe with an orchestra playing the melodies instead of the song relying on Anastasio to carry it. But despite being a pretty song, it still seemed to drag through the first section, livening up only after a brief archtop jazz guitar interlude from Anastasio.

"You Enjoy Myself," a number that many consider to be the epitome of Phish due to its heavily composed first section and free-form jamming second half, closed out the second set. Though it was a half-step slower than most versions, the buildup of the first section was bolstered by the wall of sound of the twelve sections of the orchestra and the eventual buildup screams of the crowd before dropping into what can only be described as orchestra funk. Muted horns played dirty funk lines over the disco-sweet string parts and the lead trombone player got a huge round of applause after taking over the role of Mike Gordon's bass solo. Though one or two people stood up to dance, most people opted for the funk-out-in-your-seat approach.

022812_trey_symphony5.jpg
Eric Gruneisen
Trey Anastasio with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra last night at Boettcher Concert Hall. More Trey Anastasio with the CSO photos.

Anastasio closed out the show appropriately with two numbers, starting by giving "Golden Slumbers" a most proper treatment. After all, if you've got a full orchestra behind you it would be a shame to not cover at least one late-era Beatles tune. The night closed out with Anastasio sitting down on acoustic guitar one more time for a tear-jerkingly gorgeous version of "Inlaw Josie Wales" backed elegantly by the strings.

Page down for the setlist and critic's notebook


Location Info

Maruti Gourmet Coffee

12200 E. Cornell Ave., Aurora, CO

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
8 comments
Justin Phillip Bartels
Justin Phillip Bartels

I thoroughly enjoyed playing this concert. I know some may view it as a stuffy crossover orchestra performance, but getting crazy at an contemporary popular music show performance it's not a big deal to get loud during the show, that's the reason we have the series, DeVotchka 2 weeks ago was pretty nuts too, I will say that's Trey's show was probably the loudest it's ever been in Boettcher, which is pretty freaking insane, my ears were going nuts, it might have been worse than when I was standing next to the monitors at the techno club back in college.

There were a couple of people sitting behind me that got me a little peeved during the quiet section only since there were some mics rolling on stage recording portions of the show, and someday it might be a little annoying to listen to playback of quiet sections and hearing whispering talking bit going on, but if the mics weren't rolling it wouldn't be an issue. The loud applause throughout the show makes it a great live concert.

Everyone digs their favorite band, my favorite unfortunately, the lead guitarist is dead, but I would have dug the chance to play with Frank Zappa, playing with Trey was amazing though.

Justin - Trumpet CSO 

tele-mon
tele-mon

Great Review. Such a fun night, and glad that 90% of the crowd got it; dressed the part, and understood what STFU means at a classical performance. The other "flat brimmed" portion needed to curb their enthusiasm. Yeah, we and the band all know what that song is too, thank you. Your n00bness only gets worse when the tune gets to a quiet part, and you have to be the first person to scream (unfortunately the song is not over, guy). But an inspired night, and hopefully more of the croud will support our symphony again! See you in Commerce City again!!!

CariniHadALumpyHead
CariniHadALumpyHead

Incredible show. I'm a huge phan and it was nothing short of a treat to see Trey performing with the CSO. Trey is a genius and it showed last night. Great, great time. I hope he continues this type of tour again. Now, we think about Summer plans! Thanks Trey, much appreciated you and the entire CSO last night...

Jason Hornyak
Jason Hornyak

Great article Boyd. I felt the same way!

I was a bit nervous going in about the behavior of the crowd, but when the conductor and many of the orchestra members couldn't help but explode with smiles whenever we would erupt (divided sky pause exemplifies this), I realized that they were digging it as much as we were. How often do you think these great performers get such a recognition from fans as rabid as us? You could tell they really dug the fact that we all KNOW and LOVE this music so much and we can't help but show our appreciation for it. Some of the audience noise was inappropriate, but a lot of it really added to the energy and fun of the performance.  Watching trey give looks to the Trombone player and the Percussion section after the audience went wild for them as to say "yeah? what'd you think of THAT!" was really cool.

oh... and the spinner in the back during If I Could put a smile on my face and I exchanged many knowing looks with my neighbors that said: "we may be wearing suits, but we know where we come from"

it was a beautiful performance, moved me to tears a few times... and the fact that our nerd drug rock band music can so easily and beautifully translate to a medium and style that is hundreds of years old really says something about it. hear that panic fans? the best your band can do is host a drunken acoustic sing along. PHISH IS CULTURE'D  ;)

Avayaman2000
Avayaman2000

Caught the performance last night with the LA Philharmonic...exquisitely amazing show indeed...ear candy at its best!! Would expect the CSO was just as fabulous. PS. No reason to bag on Panic though...what's up with that?

Pavonismons
Pavonismons

I think it was a great review Jason.  I couldn't agree more with everything you said.

Jason Hornyak
Jason Hornyak

 i thought about them very hard.

it was an orchestral performance led by a Rock Star.  it was a cross over performance... which means a cross over attitude should be expected.

were you there?

Now Trending

Denver Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...