Trey Anastasio Band delivers sonic adventures to Vail

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to the Daily
Trey Anastasio Band plays for a packed crowd at the Ford Amphitheater Saturday night.
Kimberly Nicoletti/Special to the Daily

It felt a little like Vail Snow Days rather than the start of the summer concert season after Friday’s snowstorm, but the Trey Anastasio Band heated up a packed (and bundled up) crowd Saturday night at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.

Though it’s the second summer of full-on concerts after COVID-19 halted live events in 2020, coming out of a pandemic just doesn’t seem to get old. Taking a forced break made everyone — artists and audiences alike — even more appreciative, and hungrier, for live music. The electricity was palatable from the second the band took the stage.

TAB got the crowd grooving from the start — and kept it going till just after 10:30 p.m., barring a short break — with “I Never Needed You Like This Before.” From there, they launched into “Mozambique,” ushering in a warm carnival-like vibe into the chilly mountains. As each horn player stepped out for a solo, the audience showed plenty of enthusiasm.

The first half continued with a Dead-like groove through “Cayman Review,” where Anastasio, the horn section and keyboardist Ray Paczkowski shined. The set morphed into a rhythmic Phish cover of “Steam.” The variety continued with a little Calypso vibe through “Drifting,” and a drum jam.

Even Anastasio was stoked after “Undermind,” signaling to his bandmates something like a “yeah!” by drawing his fist back toward his hips. And it wasn’t just because the band was nailing it; that magical something took place on Saturday night, where Anastasio gets into a zone, becoming so one with the music that it flows through him in a trance-like state. Yet, he’s still able to communicate with the crowd, and the crowd feeds off the music in a symbiotic state. After “Undermind,” the packed pavilion and lawn let out such a loud roar that there was no way TAB was leaving the stage for a break. So, what’d they do? They cranked out “Rise/Come Together” and “…And Flew Away.”

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Percussionist Cyro Baptista started the second half with a fun little washboard solo leading into “Party Time,” then “Blaze On.” The energetic set continued with rousing rhythms like “Burlap Sack and Pumps,” mellower grooves like “Spin” and “46 Days,” jazzy tunes like “Magilla” and incredible melodies like “Plasma.”

TAB ended the night with a spectacular version of “Shine” and “Ghost.”
Kimberly Nicoletti/Special to the Daily

The night ended with an extended cloud-swinging crescendo, compelling the crowd to lift their arms in the air in pure exhilaration. It was an upbeat dance party with intense sonic journeys that could’ve gone all night.

“They brought it,” said Stephen Galvin, after the show, and indeed, they did.

Phoenix residents Galvin and his wife of nearly 40 years, Shelley, have been following Phish and TAB around the nation for about 15 years. They were originally Deadheads, and Phish didn’t immediately strike a chord with them in the 1990s, but in the 2000s, the music — and the live shows — captivated them.

Their adult daughter met her husband at a Phish show, so he fit right into the family scene. About two weeks after the young couple got married, they met their parents and other friends at Madison Square Garden last month, April 20-23, to make up for the 2021 four-night New Year’s stint postponed due to the surging Omicron variant. The newlyweds joined their parents at Saturday’s Vail show. Stephen Galvin said he loves meeting people at the shows and doesn’t want to come off as “this is going to change your life” when he meets newbies, but shows are a bit akin to a spiritual experience, albeit with psychedelic underpinnings.

“You never know what you’re going to get, but you know you’re gonna have a good time when you come,” said Shelley Galvin. “There really aren’t any bad songs. It’s a big dance party.”

“What’s great about Trey is you’re going to hear things — sounds — you’ve never heard before. That’s what I call ‘creativity.’ It’s always different. There’s always a surprise, even for us,” said Stephen Galvin. “How ya gonna explain it? Ya gotta be here.”

Anastasio took the stage again for an acoustic encore. He spoke for the first time, first commenting about “tuning a guitar in 30-degree weather in the mountains of Vail, tiny wires against the tips of my fingers.” He then told the story of how Carlos Santana took Phish under his wings on a 1992 tour, which stopped at Ford Amphitheater. He thanked Santana from the depths of his soul for taking the relatively new band all over the world. But in Vail, Phish went a little rogue; he walked on stage while Santana played and held his vacuum up to the mic.

“It was mortifying after a whole tour of kindness (on Santana’s part),” Anastasio said, adding that he wrote a song about the event, which he didn’t play Saturday night (because he couldn’t remember it — the only boos from the crowd that night), but he sang the lyrics, which include “‘the snow fell in Vail Colorado when Phish played the vacuum and ruined your set.’ That was right here … and when I say right here, I mean right here, on this spot.”

TAB ended the night with a spectacular version of “Shine” and “Ghost.” It was a great introduction to a summer full of outdoor shows (hopefully ones we won’t need winter coats at) this summer at Ford Amphitheater.

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