The Scene: The night started off as I expected it to. As we crossed the street toward the Denver Center for the Performing Arts a little bit after 7, people were descending on the place from all sides and scalpers held tickets high in the air, eager to rip off fans who had lost out on getting tickets through the authorized channels. As we neared Boettcher Hall, I started to notice something I wasn’t expecting; all around me, people were looking very dapper. Fans of all ages were dressed in suits, dresses and I even saw a top hat or two. Maybe I should have figured this would happen, but it was a major shift from Phish and Trey Band shows where flip flops, ratty t-shirts, baseball hats, and patchwork clothing is pretty much the norm. Don’t get me wrong, there were casually dressed folks running around, but on the whole, the crowd was looking very good last night.
Trey Anastasio & The Colorado Symphony: At the advertised start time of 7:30, the Orchestra was still tuning up and allowing the late comers to make their way to their seats. But, when the lights went down at about 7:40, and Trey Anastasio and the Colorado Symphony eased their way into “First Tube,” there were still a ton of empty seats in the house. It was a huge shift to hear Trey’s guitar dancing on top of the lush orchestration provided by the Cellos, Violas, Timpani, French Horns, and a variety of other instruments, but once we all settled in and got used to the change, the music took us places that the four men of Phish simply aren’t capable of.
An early highlight came in the form of “Water In The Sky” as Trey and his acoustic guitar really seemed to become a part of the orchestra as opposed to standing out as the featured soloist. The songs loping rhythm was accented by the orchestra and Trey seemed perfectly comfortable as he wove an open tuned solo seamlessly into the mellow arrangement. While his electric Languedoc did make several noteworthy appearances throughout the performance, the tone of the acoustic guitar seemed to blend better with the acoustic instruments of the orchestra and outside of one minor flub early in “Divided Sky,” Trey seemed right at home playing it.
Though the crowd was very well behaved throughout the night, they didn’t let that dampen their spirits as they kept up Phish’s audience participation traditions on songs like “Divided Sky” and the first set closer “Stash.” The cheer that went up during the silent jam in “Divided Sky” was nearly deafening and startled several of the members of the orchestra, but later, when the crowd erupted with staccato claps during “Stash,” I clearly made out several smiles in the sea of instruments. It may not have been the music they were used to playing, or the crowd they were used to playing for, but when all was said and done it was clear everyone on the stage enjoyed the experience.
Though most of the conversation around these orchestral shows will surely focus on the music, I have to say that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Trey sing as well as he did last night. He seemed to hit all the notes effortlessly and I even detected some well trained vibrato at times. While “Guyute” was performed without lyrics, “Brian & Robert,” “Let Me Lie” and second set “If I Could,” allowed Trey to showcase his voice, and I for one was thoroughly impressed as he turned in stunning renditions of all three tunes. As an audience we too got to showcase our vocal abilities as we took the chorus of “Stash” as our invitation to join Trey in a duet of sorts and the words “maybe so, maybe not,” floated around the room. The ear to ear grin on Trey’s face showed that he approved.
After “Stash” and our vocal contribution to it faded away, the lights came up for a 20 minute intermission that allowed us all to stretch our legs, refresh drinks, and digest some of what was going on in the beautiful room. A pre-show warning not to be late for the second set was heeded by the crowd, most of whom were back in their seats when the lights went down and Trey and the orchestra took off into an epic 30 minute “Time Turns Elastic.” Originally written as an orchestral piece, the song built to several crescendos and though Trey’s Languedoc stood out garishly at times over the beautiful arrangement, he used a combination of pedals to get an almost classical guitarlike sound out of the instrument late in the song that proved it belonged in the mix. While it was a thrill to hear this composition as it was intended to be played, I hope that it stays in concert halls like this one and doesn’t make it back into the Phish rotation any time soon.
Another Phish opus, “You Enjoy Myself,” closed out the second set and though it didn’t quite build to the peaks that Phish is capable of taking it to, it was great to hear a fresh take on this old tune. There were no trampolines and while there weren’t even any lyrics, the horns filled in perfectly as a Trombone took the “Boy, Man, God, Shit,” segment to the delight of the crowd. The rest of the horns joined in for “wash Uffizi drive me to Firenze” and the place erupted again before Trey put down his guitar and wandered out onto the lip of the stage performing an unamplified, solo vocal jam as the music faded away behind him.
After a brief encore break, Trey returned to the stage to thank the orchestra, conductor Scott Dunn, and the man behind the scenes, Don Hart who was responsible for all the arrangements that we heard throughout the performance. The ensemble then took us all off to Abbey Road with the famed triptych of “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End.” It was not yet the end however as Trey grabbed the acoustic one more time for an intricate show closing version of “The Inlaw Josie Wales” that put the perfect coda on a great evening at the symphony.
Whether Trey does this kind of thing again once in LA, or a hundred more times in the future, it was a truly memorable and unique experience. A great room, great fans, and great music made for a pretty amazing night that won’t soon be forgotten . . . and if it is, they made an announcement before the show that it was being recorded. Let’s hope that recording sees the light of day sooner, rather than later!
Set 1: First Tube, Water in the Sky, Divided Sky, Brian and Robert, Goodbye Head, Guyute, Let Me Lie, Stash
Set 2: Time Turns Elastic, If I Could, You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Golden Slumbers > Carry That Weight > The Inlaw Josie Wales
 Trey on acoustic.
 Trey first on acoustic, then electric guitar, before returning to acoustic.
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: N/A