Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mike Gordon Experiments on "Spock's Brain" at Webster Hall

"Yo," Mike Gordon said simply into his microphone.  It was only a few minutes after the announced set time of 7:30, and the sold-out crowd had yet to arrive at Webster Hall.  Phans used to showing up 90 minutes after doors for Phish shows may have been surprised to find the set already in motion, but the important thing to remember was this wasn't a Phish show.  This was Mike's event, hot on the heels of the release of his fourth solo record, Overstep.  He kicked things off with "Tiny Little World," a pop/rock number that exists at the crossroads of They Might Be Giants and Spin Doctors.  He got a little nasty towards its end, but pulled out before things got too funky.  "Yarmouth Road" came next, and was met with a hearty cheer of recognition from the growing crowd.  From its start, the reggae ditty was more fully realized than its early Phish interpretations, with percussionist Craig Myers clip-clopping on the blocks as Scott Murawski turned out some Al Anderson-style licks.  A few minutes in, however, the tune hit a lull.  Mike and Scott turned their backs to the crowd.  It was a fake-out.  The two spun around, revealing their glowing light-up guitars, and breathed new life into the song.  When it was actually nearing its end, Todd Isler began to drum an outro.  Mike looked at him and shook it off, preferring to segue into "Caught Up."  Following the brief number, Gordon made an odd comment about moray eels, and generously thanked ATO Records.  In "Radar Blip," he unveiled a new bass effect that sounded like screaming, which wore off its welcome pretty quickly.  He switched to a resonator guitar for "Loon," with Murawski taking the bottom on acoustic bass.  Too much talking made the song hard to hear, especially when Mike's mic wasn't super-loud to begin with.  He picked up the bass again for "Are You a Hypnotist??," putting a late '80s spin on the futuristic Flaming Lips song.  Gordon closed with "Another Door," one of his Phishiest-sounding solo tunes, so it only made sense that this was the one they'd open up.  The jam kept blooming into different upbeat sections, eventually reaching its apex, which had the whole band hopping in unison (aside from Isler, obviously).  The Phans showed their appreciation with a brief precipitation of glowsticks.  
Gordon admitted that he was in "kid in a candy store mode" during the first set, as he tried out different instruments, pedals, and tunes.  The only issue with such an analogy is a kid in a candy store should have appeared to be having more fun.  But as just the third set of his 2014 tour, jitters and experimentation were to be expected.  He was more sure of himself in set two, and it showed.  Keyboardist Tom Cleary took lead vocals on "Pretty Boy Floyd," and tossed things back to Gordon for Phish rarity "Spock's Brain.  "Morphing Again" was a strange choice for a jam springboard, so its venture into improv felt more forced than organic, but it found its groove fairly quickly, with Mike revisiting the resonator for a bit.  It transformed quite nicely into the progressive calypso of "Mrs. Peel," which got a little dreamy towards its conclusion.  In Phish, Mike usually spearheads the most danceable moments, and the groove-hungry crowd were finally sated with the cheery "Face," with the projected video imagery evoking the Millennium Falcon going into hyperspace.  A darker, dirtier complement to the happy "Face," "555" followed, and really got the crowd moving.  "Long Black Line" was announced as the final song, and while it began with an earthy classic rock vibe, things got weirder and weirder as it progressed into alien territory.

It may have been the sense relief of completing his second show of the Overstep tour, but Gordon seemed the most comfortable during the encore.  He was almost a different person for "Voices," doing a silly sort of t'ai chi with Scott, and pointing in all directions at people in the crowd.  He may have been "uneasy in his skin" in the song's lyrics and for some of the show, but the encore served as his assertion that he's perfectly capable of having fun without his three Phriends.


SET ONE (1 hour, 6 minutes) -
Tiny Little World / Yarmouth Road > Caught Up / Surface / Radar Blip / Loon / Are You a Hypnotist?? / Another Door

SET TWO (53 minutes) -
Pretty Boy Floyd / Spock's Brain / Morphing Again > Mrs. Peel / Face / 555 / Long Black Line

ENCORE (13 minutes) -

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