The Duo/ Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon with the Duo
I was pretty excited to find out that Marco Benevento and Joe Russo would be touring alongside old friends and bandmates Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon. Then came the announcement that they would not only be playing in Nashville on July 16, but at the Ryman.
All of a sudden it became some of the most exciting news of the summer.
After skipping the band’s first performance at Bonnaroo due to the disappointment of its moniker as a Superjam, I was eager to see what they sounded like.
First Marco and Joe would go at it alone as The Duo. This pairing of old friends and talented musicians has been something of a phenom on the touring circuit for the last few years. Their brand of heavily experimental, technical music either hits a nerve as incredibly impressive, or seems uninteresting and pointless. I tend to go with the incredibly impressive. As they rocked the walls of the Ryman, I think even they were shocked by the warm receptiveness of the Nashville Sunday night crowd.
With everyone warmed up and ready, Mike, Trey and The Duo came out strong with “Sweet Dreams Melinda.” In contrast with the 70-Volt Parade show from the Ryman the previous year, this band focused on utilizing everyone, not justTrey Anastasio’s guitar. Marco Benevento seemed to move to the front of the band’s sound with swirling, psychedelic keyboard work. Stylistically he is like a sponge, capable of soaking up everything around him and then spinning it into his signature sound.
Also, there is no doubt that Joe Russo is one of the premiere drummers around. He fueled his partner’s keys with innovative beats and precise timing alongside the quirky Mike Gordon. The “Goodbye Head” that segued into The Who’s “Who Are You” found the band in perfect stride.
Then, the moment that made the night incredibly special.
Marco and Russo exited the stage, leaving Trey and Mike, seated center stage with a banjo and acoustic guitar. These two old friends have been sitting around playing back porch tunes for over 20 years, and as a special treat they decided to share with us some of their favorites. The set started off with a great rendition of Doc Watson’s “More Pretty Girls than One.”
The two musicians loosely traveled through the material, occasionally stumbling a little but never once lacking in excitement and reverence for the opportunity to share something special with the magical venue and fans. Jimi Hendrix’s “You Got me Floatin” may have been the best cover of the stripped down set, had it not been followed up a few songs later by Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again”.
Joined again by Benevento and Russo, the band broke into a Duo song, “Something for Rockets.” From this point on, the rest of the night would be filled with powerful electricity.
Even the polished trophy track “Shine,” from Trey’s last release, sounded great with the presence of Joe, Marco and Mike.
All in all, this band has a ton of potential. Phish fans should be happy that Trey has come back around, and that Mike Gordon was available to pick him up at the bus stop. There is definitely not a shortage of jamming, or a willingness to explore. Hopefully this will not be a summer tour, and then fade away. I wonder what the Fall holds?