Live review: Mike Gordon @ the Fox TheatreBy Jason Blevins | November 15th, 2010 | 1 Comment »
Biting his bottom lip and bobbing his gray-mopped dome, Mike Gordon both filled and fueled eclectic grooves on Saturday at Boulder’s swollen Fox Theatre. The bubbling bassist who anchors the deep-end for the jamazonian Phish showed Saturday he can easily captain his own ship. So long as the destination remains open ended.
Veering void of purpose or theme, Gordon plucked country and ambling blues alongside exceptionally gifted Max Creek guitarist Scott Murawski in “Walls of Time.” He quietly supported ethereal dreamscapes carved by pianist Tom Cleary, whose “I Miss My Mind” proved a highlight of the largely lyrically bereft show. The typically enabling Gordon shined in frequent bass solos, carried complex vocal harmonies and fortified trance groove in “Down to the Nightclub.”
Yet still, the ever-present Phish shadowing his sound proved he should keep his day job. The entire night emulated his Vermont jam-band roots, with tight and multiple changes and dizzyingly knotty progressions that thrilled the Phish fans who packed the sold-out venue. For ears peeled to Phish, there were songs that sounded like everything, while strikingly sounding like nothing. Murawski, who can subtly mirror Phish leader Trey Anastasio without actually stealing riffs, negotiated elaborate segues while sustaining ascendant jams, a-la “Big Red.”
The show’s apex found percussionist Craig Myers manning a cora for the African bluesy “River Niger,” sandwiched, Phish-style, in between a splendorous, expanding version of The Beatles’ “She Said, She Said.” Gordon learned how to unfurl such layers of overlapping richness from his quarter-century with Phish, where he admits he plays a mostly supporting role.
His nascent solo career –- his frequently flaccid third solo effort “Moss” just dropped –- provides him control of the spotlight. And as can be expected of a pillar in the increasingly collaborative, four-headed beast that is Phish, Gordon readily shares his moments of brilliance with his bandmates. The reggae-tinged, doo-woppish “Intensified” allowed all five on stage plenty of room to roam and romp. Show-closer “Dig Further Down” saw each musician layering muted dollops of improvised creativity on top of the other, building a multi-dimensional jam.
Gordon can be a strange bird. So it didn’t seem all that off when he repeatedly talked about “one hand in his pocket” while raising the other for high fives. But when he floated the first notes of his ecstatically embraced encore, it became obvious he actually was giving a nod to Alanis Morrisette with a first-ever “Hand in My Pocket.”
Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.
Joshua Elioseff is a Boulder-based freelance photographer and regular Reverb contributor. Check out his website.