Trey Anastasio with The Los Angeles Philharmonic
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Better Than...seeing Phish without its frontman
Having played everything from small bars to national parks, Trey Anastasio knows about performing before all sorts of audiences. When he said the Walt Disney Concert Hall was the best sounding room he'd ever played in, you know he meant it.
Before Phish heads back on the road this summer, their frontman/guitarist Anastasio concluded a four-date run in which he performed with orchestras in Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Denver. This tour was the first time that the 47-year-old had played with musicians outside of Phish or his usual backing band.
It was refreshing to see that, nearly 30 years into his career, he's willing to challenge himself musically. Anastasio has dabbled in the classical world since 2000, but before these shows, he'd only performed live with an orchestra a handful of times. Despite this, he commanded the room with the poise and confidence of an experienced composer.
Over the course of the night, Anastasio showed off his musicianship by taking the sold out crowd of a couple thousand on a highly unusual concert experience. Led by conductor Scott Dunn, the philharmonic performed the jam band's music with precision and ease, allowing for fans to let loose in a traditionally uptight environment.
Composer and Anastasio collaborator Don Hart was the unsung hero of the night. His arrangements gave songs like "Divided Sky" and "If I Could" an added dimension without losing their familiarity, while "Stash" retained the sing-along quality that has made it one of the most popular songs in the Phish catalog. The blend of precision and loose solos went over well with fans of both Phish and classical.
With standing ovations and wild cheers splashed throughout, everyone involved in the evening appeared to be having fun. Playing for two and a half hours is standard for the guitarist. But what made this night so different was that despite having only a limited number of rehearsals with his classical ensemble, the opposites combined forces to make for a memorable evening.
It takes balls for someone to play with one of the best philharmonics in the country, but with a fan base as loyal as Phish's, Anastasio could explore his appreciation of classical music in front of a supportive audience without repercussions.
See also: Can an Intelligent Person Like Phish?
Critical Bias: Hearing Anastasio perform with the Los Angeles Philharmonic gave me a newfound respect for the guitarist's musical prowess.