Page McConnell, Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR 7/11
I started my festival weekend a little early with Page McConnell's new touring
band. Making the two hour drive up to Portland after work on a Wednesday for an
evening with the Chairman of the Boards was a commitment that none of my friends
were willing to make. Their mistake.
The "Heavy Rotation" opener went to a place that quite frankly I didn’t
think this band would be capable of. McConnell's keys combined with Adam Zimmon’s
guitar created a swirling vortex that took the crowd by surprise with its sheer
intensity. The volume of the crowd response also was unexpected and it was obvious
the band had the same reaction. Page was literally at a loss for words, saying
“Thanks. We’re really excited to be playing music in this great roomfor you.”
"Close to Home" was one of two songs from the new album that I really
wanted to hear. I was also psyched to hear the Vida Blue tune "Final Flight."
And following that slow number with the chooglin’ instrumental "Back in the
Basement" proved to be an awesome one-two punch for my taste.
The "Strange Design" encore was to be expected from following the setlists,
but the second number was still up in the air to my mind. "Cars, Trucks, Buses"
threw the crowd into one final frenzy as those who came to see Phish songs were
sent home smiling.
McConnell and Zimmon led the way and clearly share a very nice chemistry. The rhythm
section of Rob O’Dea (bass) and Gabe Jarrett (drums) was solid if not spectacular.
It’s really the keyboard and guitar stylings of Jared Slomoff in the background
that holds things together when they get way out there.
Don’t get me wrong here, some of the tunes were a little sappy and slow, but in
the grand scheme of things this was balanced out by the fact that the extended jams
were so solid (yet loose). I suppose I don’t know why other people go to shows,
but I thought it was to witness something new every night: risk taking and walking
that thin line between form and formlessness. In that regard I can’t understand
how any live music lover wouldn’t enjoy Page’s new band.
The Aladdin Theater holds 620 people, and it was probably 75% full, but I’d say
95% of those in attendance walked away happy judging by the post show buzz outside.
The other 5% were people that wanted to hear "Tela," "It’s Ice"
and the like. To those I say move on and the appreciate the man for what he’s doing,
not what he’s done.