I’m going to write this review a bit differently than I would normally write it. Since I’m reviewing two shows, I’m going to compare them a bit and talk about what I liked better in one over the other.
First off, the Hartford shows on June 17 and 18 were awesome. They were both a ton of fun and featured some great songs, great playing, and great fun from the band. Going completely on memory, my favorite of the two was the second night. I felt the band had more energy to their playing. They seemed to have fewer problems with the sound system. They also seemed to be having more fun. The crowd also had more energy and it was reflected in the band’s playing.
The first show seemed disjointed. It seemed that the band didn’t know where they wanted to go with each set. I remember one standout moment after the great Down With Disease > Sand when they were jamming out Sand and it seemed as though Trey decided he wanted to play The Horse>Silent in the Morning. The segue seemed abrupt. Compare that with the segues of the second night and it’s night and day. The segues of the second night were patient and smooth. The first show also had Farmhouse come in and kill what energy existed after a great Guyute. While on its own, that Farmhouse was awesome, it took the set to a standstill. The band could have tore it up with the Mike’s Groove that followed had they not dropped, as one person put it, the “clusterfly song”. What should have been a raging set kicking off with Party Time ended up falling apart with that Farmhouse.
On the other hand, the first set was strong, though there seemed to be some sound problems during Divided Sky, which were worked out during the setbreak as the guitar techs were on stage the entire break, which seemed extended. Esther and When the Circus Comes were played for Cirque du Soleil, which was taking place across the street. The Walk Away had a HUGE jam that was completely unexpected, about as unexpected as the song itself. Sugar Shack had a nice jam that was also unexpected. While there wasn’t a ton of flow to the set, each song was strong on its own.
Now when the second night came along, the place was full of energy from the first notes of Fee straight through the last notes of the second (yes, second) Tweezer Reprise in the encore. The first set was full of energy, especially with Possum, Moma Dance, Julius, Reba, and Cavern. While Julius saw some flubs from Trey, who had a hard time with the lyrics, Reba was played with absolute precision. Possum, which doesn’t usually excite me, was loaded with energy that had the entire place bouncing. It also featured the new song Summer of ’89. It started out slow, but was a great ballad. I think this one may take some time to grow on me in the live setting, but it was a pretty song.
The second set was full of segues and flowed absolutely perfectly. The Light>Billy Breathes was beautiful and then the Tweezer>Theme from the Bottom was patient and perfect. The place went nuts when they started Harry Hood and the transition to Wading in the Velvet Sea was beautiful. That song made my wife particularly excited, though I also love that one. The only part that I was a little surprised about was the Stealing Time set closer. I was hoping for something bigger, like a YEM after such a great set.
Then came the encore. I was expecting YEM. It would have put a nice cap on the show, but Trey started playing Sleeping Monkey and then paused to tell a story about a sign someone had the night before. The song concluded with an audience singalong and the band started Tweezer Reprise, which was particularly energetic. The second they finished, Trey says they’re gonna play it again because they didn’t in Hershey. They start it up again and the crowd blew the roof off the place. They had even more energy than the first. Everyone walked out on cloud nine talking about the encore. Rarely is the encore the highlight of the show. In this case, it was more than a highlight. It was the theme.
As you can tell, I greatly enjoyed the second night the best. The Walk Away and Sugar Shack from the first night were my favorites from that night, and I always love a good Horse>Silent. Aside from the encore, the highlight of the second night were the segues of the second set and Reba from the first set. Tomorrow I’ll do it all over again at Great Woods (aka the Comcast Center) in Mansfield, MA.