Who says being a rock music fan is easy?
Well, actually, it is for the most part. But when a legendary musician appears on the same night as the Patriots are in a playoff game, allegiances can be tested.
Surely, Trey Anastasio and the State Theatre didn’t plan it that way. And the fact that some in the crowd occasionally had one eye and/or ear to their electronic devices for game updates probably added a memorable touch for fans keyed into the communal vibe that the leader of the band Phish brings to his solo tours.
His current band, sometimes known as TAB, is an impressive octet, including the leader. They spread across the stage with the swirling green cover from their latest CD Traveler as a backdrop. Banks of multi-colored lights added to the spirited scene.
The band’s three horns and extra percussion gave many of the best tunes of the show a jazz/funk base from which guitarist Anastasio, keyboardist Ray Paczkowski and various horn players could take flight.
“Cayman Review” led things off and it wasn’t long before audience members were following Anastasio’s sung advice to “shake that thing all over town.”
“Pigtails” featured some strong polyrhythms, thanks to the interplay between drummer Russ Lawton and Cyro Baptista, who played multiple percussion instruments throughout.
Some of the newer songs had more of a pop veneer but were still effective.
“Scabbard,” with its catchy vocal chorus, featured the leader on acoustic guitar while “The Land of Nod” had a sort of march-of-the-robots feel to it.
The ballad “Frost” included some wah-wah guitar to good effect.
The group even engaged in a little swing-style jazz before James Casey nearly blew the doors off the place with a baritone sax solo during “Burlap Sack & Pumps.”
Anastasio played a lot of guitar and really made it wail and cry, especially on some of the slower tunes.
The 90-minute first set concluded with the insistent instrumental power of “First Tube.”
A newspaper deadline precluded coverage of the rest of the show, but TAB was still playing long after the Patriots season ended. Good music on a tough night.
Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.