Supporting their latest live album MOODOO, George Porter, Russell Batiste, and Brian Stoltz, along with Page McConnell in tow, rolled into Higher Ground to finish their brief but inspiring four night marathon tour. The Vermont stop on this tour was very appropriate as the live album they were supporting was recorded last November at Burlington’s Club Metronome where McConnell made an impromptu surprise sit-in worthy of an official release. For this tour Page was officially at the keys and had obviously put in a great deal of practice time as he fit in with the band intimately.
The show kicked of with “Most Events Aren’t Planned,” one in which Batiste and McConnell have frequently played as Vida Blue bandmates. Afterwards the band dipped into some of it’s own classic PBS live material with “Name Up In Lights” followed by “Storm Is Brewin’.” If that was not enough to bring the audience into the N’Orleans vibe, the Cissy Strut jam that came out of nowhere would seal the deal. Later on in the first set the band played another Vida Blue staple, John Lennon’s “Instant Karma.”
After a long set break the band returned with one of Page’s instrumental Phish compositions, the fan favorite “Cars Trucks Buses, “ as the crowd went nuts. Later on in the set they paid tribute to the recently departed Richard Wright by playing the Wright penned Pink Floyd classic “Us & Them.” The band played it with a passion that wrung every note to the bone. It was after this song that I saw Phish bassist Mike Gordon run past me and out the door. It seemed obvious what that was about when a couple songs later Gordon came out to play second bass to the legendary George Porter. The band ran through some deep N’Orleans funk with Gordon thumping along, his head bobbing to the filthy sounds, keeping both themselves and the crowd deeply satisfied.