Trey Anastasio, Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA – 5/30 & 5/31
The Warfield Theater is one of the best venues in America. It's elegantly
decorated, the sight lines are excellent, the sound is top-notch, the staff
is usually friendly and helpful, and the well-stocked full bars are
plentiful. It's hard to tell that from the outside, however, as the venue
is in a slightly shady part of town. Storefronts and buildings in the area
are somewhat run down and many homeless people walk the streets. But after
the light security pat down, walk through the front doors into a
comfortable, intimate theater. There are no seats on the tiered, carpeted
floor, and the bars are located on the sides and in the back of the room.
Even the balcony offers great views and sound, although no alcoholic drinks
are allowed in the seating area up there. Once inside this venerable old
diamond-in-the-rough of a venue, we found an open area near the back of the
floor and sat down.
Before we knew it we were on our feet as the ten-piece band wasted no time
getting things off to a great start with the song Money, Love and Change.
Jennifer Hartswick's powerful vocals are a highlight to this tune. Everyone
was dancing instantly to the dirty groove and the floor heated up in a
flash. Plasma was up next which provided a mellower descending chord
progression with vocals sung in the open spaces where the band stops
playing. After a great Magilla that sounded full and rich with the horn
section, the band played a funky jammed out version of Push On Til the Day.
A mellow song, Flock of Words, and then the brief, horns-only, bongo-driven
shuffle of Noodle Rave Daddio followed. A few more tunes rounded out the
first set with a powerful Last Tube to close it out. It kept speeding up
and intensifying to amazing levels with Trey and Ray Paczkowski really
listening and playing off of one another adeptly.
Once back inside on the second night, we climbed the stairs and took our
seat in the balcony section. How could the band possibly top the powerful,
well-played, party of a show they played the previous night? We were about
to find out. Getting off to another energetic start, the band kicked things
in with a powerful one-two punch. The poly-rhythmic celebration and light
airy groove of Mozambique lead straight into the tight, fast funk of Simple
Twist Up Dave. The jam on this second tune worked itself into a high-energy
wall of sound that really went out there. Trey was shredding as the horns
pulsed the groovy refrain over and over until it all finally climaxed. Last
Tube was next and was the only repeat from the night before. Except this
night's version was much different.
Before the band began playing the song, a mystery guest strolled onto the
stage. He was wearing a hat pulled down low over his eyes, a baggy hoody
and pants, and a pair of sneakers. I couldn't see his face from my spot in
the balcony and I honestly didn't know who it was since no one introduced
him to the crowd. Then this guest ripped off a few signature guitar licks
with the fury, power, and tone that could only be provided by Mr. Carlos
Santana. The whole place erupted as the jam kept getting deeper and deeper,
with Trey and Carlos trading licks, smiling, and laughing the entire time.
The song The Way I Feel was next and provided a slower funky chord
progression for Trey and Carlos to jam over. And jam they did. The horn
section even left the stage for a large portion of this nearly twenty minute
jam to let Trey and Carlos do their thing. As the song ended, Carlos gave
Trey a hug, waved to the crowd, then quickly walked off stage.
A newer song called Cincinnati followed and was very impressive. It has
many different sections and elicits different feelings from the listener as
it progresses, eventually ending in a triumphant jam over power chords and
the catchy refrain of the chorus. Tonight's Zepplin cover of Black Dog
rounded out the set. While not quite as impressive as Dazed and Confused
the night before, the familiar rocker was a definite crowd pleaser.
Jennifer even changed the lyrics at one point to "I don't know but I've been
told, skinny little redhead ain't got no soul!" as she pointed at Trey. The
humor was great and the crowd ate it up. Trey promised a fifteen-minute
intermission and the band headed off stage for a break. I was amazed by the
power of these two guitar legends trading licks and jamming out together,
but was wondering how the band could possibly top what just went down.
As the second set began, the answer to that question became clear: Have
Carlos Santana sit in for the entire second set. That's exactly what
happened. The second set consists of four long, jammed out songs with
Carlos playing on every one. First up was Mr. Completely. The powerful,
fast paced song began with somewhat shaky vocals, but that was fine with me.
After the vocal section, the jam launched off into outer space for nearly
twenty-five minutes. Trey was giddy with excitement, jumping up and down,
smiling, and dancing. He and Carlos were doing really beautiful things in
the jam, developing themes and playing around with call and response. Next
the two guitar players began playing a lick that sounded strikingly similar
to the song Spoonful. It was actually a slow bluesy shuffle called John the
Revelator, and even featured some vocals from Santana. Carlos really owned
this one and happily took the wheel of the large musical ship, driving the
song with his powerful guitar playing.
Night Speaks to a Woman was up next and Jennifer Hartswick was wailing it
like she meant it. With the energy level being sustained at such a high
pitch thanks to the presence of Carlos Santana, the band really nailed this
tune. During the different breakdowns and instrumental launches into the
separate horn solo sections, Trey was ecstatic. At each break down he would
kind of point at the horn players and then do a little air drum fill along
with the drummers while looking over to Carlos as if to say, "Wasn't that
cool?!!? Did you like that section there??" Trey was beaming from ear to
ear like a happy child running with excitement from ride to ride at a fun
park. And the joy was infectious as the band took their playing to truly
amazing levels. There had not been a lull thus far in the evening as every
song had segued into one another seamlessly, and the streak continued as the
familiar riff of the jazz tune Caravan rang out. The full horn section gave
the familiar standard just the treatment it deserved. The jam intensity was
really pushed up and over by Carlos and Trey as they drove the music with
their exuberance. Carlos raised his arm from time to time and waved to the
horn players and everyone in the band had a smile plastered on their
A little more than an hour after it began, the non-stop barrage of sweet
sound ended. Trey introduced everyone in the band to the audience,
including Carlos who he at first jokingly introduced as Jimi Hendrix. As
everyone left the stage, the energy of the crowd increased in a wave of
boisterous cheering and applause. We were all appreciative of the truly
inspired performance we had just witnessed. This was one of those fleeting
magical moments that only happen now and then. Everyone recognized that.
The Warfield and Santana will always hold a special place in Trey and Phish
When the entire band minus Trey and Jennifer came out for the encore, folks
were a bit puzzled. But then the large band kicked into a hip-hop groove
and Trey and Jennifer emerged from either side of the stage rapping the
Beastie Boys cover of Root Down. The disco ball pulsed with light as they
took turns rapping out the lyrics with the help of note cards. Both
Jennifer and Trey were having a ball dancing around, throwing their hands in
the air, and just generally goofing. And after the jamming groovefest that
made up the night's show, a little humor mixed with hip-hop was just the
ticket to send the crowd home absolutely astounded and in high spirits. It'
s not everyday one gets to see Carlos Santana and Trey Anastasio trade hot
licks in one of the best little theaters in the country. This was truly one
for the ages.