Live review: Mike Gordon at the Boulder Theater - Reverb

Mike Gordon at the Boulder Theater, 3-14-14 (review)

Mike Gordon’s musical menagerie Friday at the Boulder Theater sure didn’t seem like a “side project.”

Side projects are hobbies. Downtime diversions.

Well known for anchoring the deep end of Phish for the last 30 years, Gordon’s solo work is often billed a side project. But Friday night, Gordon prodded his cohorts – Max Creek guitar king Scott Murawski, percussionist Craig Myers, drummer Todd Isler and keyman Tom Cleary – into realms well beyond the casual jam amongst pals. With several songs featuring multiple bridges gapping sudden tempo shifts, the band displayed a technical prowess usually seen after decades of collaboration.

See photos of Mike Gordon’s 2010 stop at the Fox Theatre below:

Caroming between classic rock, reggae, calypso, pop, folk and ambient dance tunes, Gordon’s crew displayed the nimble prowess of a venerable band, accustomed to lock-stepped meandering and screaming crescendos. Gordon and Murawski are a mighty duo, with the latter’s laid-back, unpretentious style opening doors for Gordon’s booming riffs.

Gordon’s reggae-tinged “Yarmouth Road,” which has found footing in recent Phish shows melded well with Murawski’s Little Feat-esque “Willow Tree.” The rare “Spock’s Brain,” which has been absent from Phish’s rotation for more than a decade, was a boisterous adventure, with Isler’s hammering on the crash cymbal supporting the explosive tune.

The sold-out Boulder Theater was draped in both an aural and visual tapestry thanks to a simple yet compelling light show. Offset, backlit panels behind the musicians created an earthy tone and an intimate space. Murawski’s and Gordon’s guitars glowed in one of the coolest light displays ever, bouncing with the rhythm. The olfactory hues were obviously green, considering this was Boulder.

The sensory overload was augmented by the diversity of the tunes. Gordon’s latest album “Overstep” – his fourth solo studio effort – is a wild ride lacking a central, unifying theme, unlike his previous efforts, where often overly-wrought songs began to blur into each other.

The ethereal, ambient “Ether” in the second set was so utterly different than the shape-shifting, acoustic-to-electric “Different World” it followed. The Malian “Angatta” – from Myers’ Vermont-based band Barika – saw the percussionist culling psychedelic waves from his kamel n’goni. Cleary’s “Pretty Boy Floyd” revealed a fun interplay between Meyers’ electrifying stringed gourd and Murawski’s guitar.

Murawski, whose subtle, sublime touch makes him a perfect fit with Gordon’s leading bass riffs, opted for David Byrne over Phish frontman Trey Anastasio for “Cities,” playing the big-jacketed sideways vibe over Anastasio’s apex-hunting, anthemic approach.

Like 40-year-old Max Creek and the latest iteration of Phish – known as Phish 2.0 – the emphasis is group interplay over one rock star. It’s a cooperative approach that elevates all over one, and creates a larger, fuller sound. That sound rang true Friday night, with Gordon more in a supportive role, urging his colleagues into grander designs.

Mike Gordon setlist:

Set 1: Dig Further Down, Yarmouth Road, Willow Tree, Angatta, Spock’s Brain, Pretty Boy Floyd, Long Black Line, Rhymes, Face
Set 2: Different World, Ether, Meat, Another Door, Peel, Hap-Nappy, Mrs. Peel, Say Something, Cities, Tiny Little World
E: Barton Hollow

Follow our news and updates on Twitter, our relationship status on Facebook and our search history on Google +. Or send us a telegram.

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

Share: