Page McConnell - VIC Theatre - Chicago, IL 06.13.07

Phish keyboardist Page McConnell has kept a pretty low profile since Phish’s finale in 2004, until now. He recently recorded his first solo effort, and returned to the road for a short run through the East and Midwest. Like a phoenix, McConnell has resurrected his stage persona and masterful musicianship, while displaying leadership qualities uncharacteristic of his Phish role.
Backed by a steady group of musicians and former Phish lighting director Chris Kuroda, McConnell and band flowed through an extended set in Chicago at the intimate Vic Theater. Opening the night with "Stuck in the Middle With You", McConnell sounded fresh. His soft melodic vocals fit naturally into the song, and his band sounded tight. After "Stuck..." was an extended romp of "Back in the Basement" off the new album. This instrumental was hot. Sounding like a cross of MMW's "Bubblehouse" and The Meter's "Cissy Strut", McConnell bounced back-and-forth amongst his numerous keyboards and organ with ease. It was hard to ignore the infectious swing and slow funky groove. A somber back-to-back offering of "Maid Marian" and "Final Flight" concentrated on McConnell's beautifully textured vocals, and his surprisingly strong lyrics. Other highlights included the sets two closing numbers "Walk the Proud Land", and "Beauty of a Broken Heart." Both erupted into Phish-y jams that were enhanced by the intricate lighting provided by Kuroda. Similar to fellow Phish mate Trey Anastasio's formula, McConnell emerged solo for his encore and belted out stirring renditions of Phish's "Army of One" and "Strange Design." But unlike Anastasio, McConnell sounded fresh and wasn't trying to outstretch his vocal limitations, which Anastasio has been guilty of recently. Then the band reassembled for rowdy "Monkey Man" to close out the night. All in all it was a treat to see Page for the first time in over three years. His new material is solid, his band was tight, and seeing Kuroda work the lights brought back some great memories. - By Patrick Knibbs