Venue

Trey Anastasio Band at the Ogden Theatre, 1-29-14 (photos, review)

The Trey Anastasio Band’s spring tour kick-off at the Ogden Theatre bodes well for fans of the persistently peaking guitarist.

 

Flanked by a deep horn section and tight rhythm, Anastasio dazzled the Ogden on Tuesday and Wednesday, unleashing new tunes like the funky “Bounce,” the acoustic “Silver Smoke,” and the melancholy “Pulsing Days” that likely will find homes in the Phish rotation. The Vermont musician is on a tear, both technically and creatively. (For the Phish Halloween show in Atlantic City, Anastasio’s Phish debuted a 12-song album of new material, dubbed “Wingsuit,” revealing a band and bandleader at an inspired, innovative apex.)

Since sobering several years ago, Anastasio has elevated his Phish and solo projects to new heights, but without the sustained, look-at-me-I’m-a-rock-god solos that defined his early career.

While those untamed stretches of 40-minute guitar jams from the late 1990s were undeniably spectacular, today’s Trey is more of a team player. He elevates those around him. He often plays just enough to bring out the best from those sharing his stage. But rest assured, it is his stage.

Witness Wednesday night’s “Night Speaks to a Woman.” A subtle waka-waka from Anastasio culled chunky riffs from Vermont keyman Ray Paczkowski, layered with relentless bombs from the Buddha bassman Tony Markellis, who anchored center stage on an elevated platform, immobile except for dancing fingers. Trombone player Natalie Cressman joined trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick – a longtime TAB anchor – in not just melodic and rhythmic brass but bellowing, soulful vocals.

“Night Speaks” closed an introspective first set but sparked Anastasio, who came out blasting for the second set. James Casey, the ever funky tenor saxman who fuels the urban grind for the Brooklyn outfit Lettuce, stepped up in “Alive Again,” elevating the song’s hurried cadence. Old-school Anastasio took over “Simple Twist Up Dave,” finally finding that slack-jawed flow and teasing his signature climactic peaks with that surging apprehension that keeps many a fan swaying.

A fun cover “Clint Eastwood” by the Gorillaz – who borrowed the title from Clint’s “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” utterance: “Yeah kid, I got sunshine in a bag” – saw Hartswick handling the tune’s mad rhymes with aplomb, mirroring her bombastic trumpet with lines like “Who you think is really kickin’ tunes.”

Anastasio fired up his hair-flopping, leg-kicking chirping with a solid “Last Tube” and set closer “Push On ‘til the Day,” an ode to his raging party days. Despite his puppy-at the-dog-park bounding and explosive jams, he metered his off-leash roaming, allowing his huddling horn section room to riff alongside. He worked his vivid noodling into occasional nooks but it was mostly, Cressman, Casey and Hartswick delivering the punches.

Proving there’s no escape from Broncomania – even in hazy hall of a laser-lit, late-night jamfest on Colfax – the crowd started a surprisingly eager “Let’s Go Broncos” chant before the encore.

Hartswick, displaying her inspiring pipes, showed up the chant with a moaning cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” mirroring her recent “The Ocean” encore with The Motet at the Fillmore.

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Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.

Kit Chalberg is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.