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Trey Anastasio Band, Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA- 11/29

Photo by John Patrick Gatta

Without being under the microscope and the high level of pressure thrust upon him as a member of Phish, Trey Anastasio just went about his business and had as much fun as the other members of his Band (aka TAB) during their show at Pittsburgh’s Stage AE.

Oh yeah, and the sold out crowd had a helluva good time, too.

Not surprisingly, the 24-song, nearly three-hour setlist pulled from Anastasio’s solo career, recordings with TAB and days with Phish. An inspired threesome of “Corona,” “Sand,” which featured a solo by trombonist Natalie Cressman, and “Valentine” opened the show. (On a side note, while it seemed odd to perform “Valentine” on the same night as “Shine” since there’s a similarity between the two numbers, I’ll probably never ever get tired of hearing the latter song.)

The beginning of the first set gave a strong indication of what to expect for the remainder of the night. Despite this being the second date of the fall tour, the band members played with all the tightness of being together months on the road. No travel fatigue. Just enthusiasm and smiles all round.

Keyboardist Ray Paczkowski reliably offered bright colors to the songs, with a particular highlight coming during his contributions on “Last Tube” and “Cayman Review.” Saxophonist James Casey upped the funk element during his “Cayman” solo. Original TAB members Tony Markellis (bass) and Russ Lawton (drums) provided a bedrock solid rhythm section.

Set for TAB’s upcoming 2015 album, “Bounce,” transitioned into a whirling dervish of energy, and should have ended the first set. That was one of the only missteps of the night.

During the second set TAB debuted “Speak to Me.” On this song Anastasio used his new “toy” – a clapping pedal, which he enthusiastically demonstrated on a couple occasions.

It held its own with other highlights including “Liquid Time,” “Last Tube” and “First Tube.”

Finally, there’s Jen Hartswick. One third of the magnificent horn section, she offered a spacy trumpet solo on “Plasma,” and later, rapped during the cover of Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood” and found her inner Robert Plant on the encore, a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.”

Plotting out the arrangements so that they focused on the talents of everyone onstage, Anastasio established that TAB’s functions best due to the sum of its parts and each of the seven musicians is unified in their contributions.

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