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Mike Gordon Shares New Toys at Webster Hall

March 3rd, 2014

Mike Gordon – Webster Hall – March 1, 2014

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During his sold-out show at Webster Hall on Saturday night, Mike Gordon explained that he was like a kid in a candy shop thanks to all the new toys he had at his disposal. Some of them, he said, were the new songs off his recent release, Overstep, and others were the new visual technologies employed throughout the two-set show. The former included a first-set “Surface” with a syncopated-jam section and a show-closing “Long Black Line” with a long improvisation that settled on many themes between Gordon, guitarist Scott Murawksi and keyboard player Tom Cleary. The latter included light-up guitars and a set of oversized “keys” that front-row audience members got to “play” during one jam like some interactive exhibit at a children’s museum. While all of these toys were great to hear and fun to look at, it was clear watching the Phish bassist guide his solo project throughout the night that the band was one big plaything for Gordon.

Gordon not only got to satisfy his polymath urges, but he also got to be the frontman, banter included. So when there were some technical difficulties, Gordon tried to explain moiré patterns to the audience (which were employed on the arty walls onstage), quickly dropping into a homophone tangent about moray eels (acoustic or electric?) before flipping that into the more traditional thank-the-label thing. The set list with its myriad jams and straight bouncers zigzagged with equal dexterity. And the highlight cover of the night was
a rendition of the Flaming Lips’ “Are You a Hypnotist?”—a perfect fit for the band with its bass-driven, off-center melody, building the song out of bird whistles, keyboard electronica and ambient guitar.

The second set was anchored by three powerful jammers: “Morphing Again,” off 2008’s The Green Sparrow, began with a country bounce before a beautiful, full-band major-key jam took hold—while “555,” a new Phish song, went the opposite route, Murawksi leading a darker funk-rock excursion with a distorted-wah tone—and the aforementioned set-closing “Long Black Line.” But for the Phish fans in the room, the surprise of the night was a bust out of “Spock’s Brain,” a long-shelved rarity filled with prog-rock twists and changes that seemed to fit right in for Gordon and his band. The crowd ate it up as they had all night, clearly thankful that Gordon is the kind of kid who shares his toys with others. —A. Stein