Conducting his band largely through leaping, Trey Anastasio wrapped his band’s 13-show fall tour Saturday at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium, the purple-chandeliered venue he opened in 1999.
With the earnest eagerness of a school kid at band camp, Anastasio on Saturday dusted off several Trey Anastasio Band oldies – like the poppy “Pigtail,” the bluesy “Dark and Down,” and “Land of Nod” – and displayed some promising gems from his new effort, “Paper Wheels,” his 10th solo album.
The first frame’s tempo-shifting “Lever Boy” highlighted the 51-year-old guitarist’s songwriting cred, with morsels like “a torrent of syllables all swirl around / as I try to decode a particular sound.” The inane, 2006 “Let Me Lie” that followed seemed to evidence the progression of his songwriting, with its too often repeated chorus “gonna take my bike out / gonna take my bike / gonna ride it slowly,” triggering a mass surge for the sold-out house’s restrooms.
The fantastic new “Bounce,” which saw Anastasio’s longtime bassist Tony Markellis thumping a mad bass line in a rare stroll outside the pocket, holds big promise if it ever sneaks into the Phish rotation.
Anastasio, captained his six-member band through a big band swing number and a full-blown jazz odyssey. Where the previous night’s covers dominated, Saturday’s covers – George Harrison’s “What Is Life” and The Band’s “It Makes No Difference” – were less dominant. Still, Anastasio’s endlessly fun take on Gorillaz’ “Clint Eastwood,” with golden-throated trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick’s resonant wailing, pretty much ignited the night’s hottest dancing, as did her bellowing encore “Black Dog.”
Anastasio, clearly in the best space of his career, seems to relish his solo work. With the stability of pocket protectors like Markellis and since-the-beginning drummer Russ Lawton, Anastasio appears giddy to expand his songwriting, singing and signature guitar jams. Slung with his trusty koa hollow-body Languedoc, Anastasio certainly didn’t shy away from guitar-god jamming this weekend at the Fillmore, but he also was happy to share the spotlight with Hartswick, baritone sax player James Casey and the gifted Natalie Cressman, whose steamy trombone jams often pulled her bandleader deeper into the jam.
“We are all here. Thank you for that,” Anastasio said to close out the second set. “Thank you all for being a part of it.”