With a Revamped Band, Mike Gordon Goes over the Top at CapJune 29th, 2015
Mike Gordon – Capitol Theatre – June 27, 2015
With much of the jam world’s eyes focused on Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday night, a Mike Gordon show at the Capitol Theatre somehow felt a little bit under the radar, if that’s possible. Returning to the historic venue for the first time since Phish played there in 1992, Gordon and his revamped band gave the jubilant crowd plenty to keep them occupied with two stellar sets of jam-friendly music. After a warm-up opening of “Long Black Line,” the bassist led the band through a highlight-reel first set featuring standout versions of Gordon originals “Andelman’s Yard” and “Horizon Line,” the Phish rarity “Spock’s Brain” and two covers turned inside out. With the addition of Robert Walter on keyboards and John Morgan Kimock on drums, the band felt less like a spin-off side project and more like a high-quality jam-band hybrid: Walter utilizing his innate sense of the groove to get the crowd dancing, Kimock adding a daring ability to both follow and lead through uncharted passageways, Scott Murawski displaying a veteran hand on lead guitar and Gordon adding his unique Mike Gordon–ness to the low end.
While the Cap’s standard light projections often keep the crowd staring at the walls, Gordon’s stage production was an immersive trip on its own, perfectly enhancing the music. While the band took left turn upon left turn in “Andelman’s,” the lights paired colors in equally interesting combinations. During a space-funk version of Fiona Apple’s “Sleep to Dream,” a geometry lesson of shapes illuminated the band, adding cosmic effects while the audience’s front row played sound effects on a giant interactive “keyboard” at the front of the stage. When the band seemed to hit a particularly ecstatic climax in a jam, LEDs in Murawski’s and Gordon’s guitars lit up like the metaphoric light bulb signaling a Eureka! moment inside your mind. Toward the end of the first set, Gordon took his group and audience deep into the Flaming Lips’ “Are You a Hypnotist?” while tie-dyed fractal tunnels appeared on the backdrops, providing a mass hallucination just in case.
After a short break, Gordon and company returned for a second set that opened with a dark “Surface” and followed a set-list script but seemed to spend more time meandering and exploring through high-level jamming. The band flexed their collective muscles through multiple levels of improv, awakening all sorts of ghosts in the Cap’s walls. Late in the evening, Luke Temple made a surprise appearance, adding indie credentials by singing along to Gordon’s cover of his Here We Go Magic tune “How Do I Know,” which pushed the show over the top, if it truly needed the extra boost. Temple returned during the encore for his “Make Up Your Mind,” Gordon and Co. perfectly at ease playing backing band, adding a groovy oomph and maybe helping earn a few new Here We Go Magic fans along the way. The night-ending “Sugar Shack” felt superfluous after the preceding show, but Murawski’s lighthearted playing provided a welcome return to ground for the crowd.
—A. Stein | @Neddyo