Phish – American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL 1/3/15 (SHOW RECAP)

Phish finished their third ever four-night run at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida Saturday night. With rumors circulating that the band plans to have a much lighter touring schedule in 2015, attending fans were treated to a complete show from start to finish, punctuating a solid multi-night run to welcome 2015. A special shout out is deserving for the venue, staff, and city of Miami. Upon showing up to the show each night, the venue perpetually projected Fishman donuts on the outside of the arena, complete with a running video of the band playing live with a looping groove sampled from a “Sand” jam. Inside, I noticed a montage of famous artists who had previously played the arena. Big Red (Trey) had a spot next to Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and several other high profile entertainers. The staff couldn’t have been more helpful or fired up for the festivities, and while some may disagree, Miami seemed to let Shakedown Street basically rage unimpeded for four days. The lasting feeling from this run was one of acceptance of the circus that comes to any city when Phish shows up. When coupled with some standout music, as much as many would’ve loved for the band to have once again graced the venerable MSG for their NYE run, Miami 14’-15’ was a success.

1. High Energy First Set. Last night saw solid song choice, placement, and a standout opener in “Maze” to kick things off. “Divided Sky” was also especially poignant as was another take on Phish playing “Plasma”, a song more regularly heard via the Trey Anastasio Band. The intensity of the playing and uniquely crafted set list was most welcome, especially when looking back at the previous night’s first set. Although the sloppiness in “Split Open and Melt” wasn’t music to everyone’s ears, at least Phish was taking chances in frame one. “Character Zero” at the end, which could’ve taken the place of “Suzy” at the end of set two, was also a great choice to get into the break.
2. Set Two. Seven song second sets seem to work for Phish in 3.0. The first and final songs of the set weren’t all that memorable, but the meat of the core five delivered. Improvisation was deep in “Down with Disease” and sprinkled throughout the next four songs. The five together formed a seamless thread. Looking back at the run, there were three very strong second sets, and regardless of where an individual might side for their favorite, last night’s set two was top notch.
3. “Down with Disease”. Easily one of the top versions in 3.0 Phish. The jam was interesting in that it almost sounded like it was about to fizzle not too long into the improvisational section of the song. But the band picked up on another strain and built something out of what could’ve been nothing. Approaching twenty-six minute this “Disease” covered a lot of ground and helped set up a theme through the next four tunes, all of which were well played and featured small, quality jams inspired by the groundwork laid in “Disease”.
4. Taking chances. If Phish ever becomes predictable, the magic will cease to exist. Listen to the first set from last night. It was fresh and unrehearsed. Even in botching “Spilt Open and Melt”, at least an effort to go somewhere new was made. “Disease” had it in spades, and brief excursions in “Light”, “Sand”, Sneaking Sally Through the Alley”, and “Hood” worked. This attribute of a Phish is as crucial as it gets, and it doesn’t take too much listening to Phish over the years to realize when chance taking is lost, shows often go uncelebrated by listeners.
5. A Complete Show. Up until last night there really hadn’t been a complete set played this run. With high energy, largely masterful playing to kick the show off, and some meaty adventurous jamming in the second frame, Phish delivered a full palate show on 1/3/15. Even the lone encore was a fit.

1. Sloppy “Spilt Open and Melt”. The tempo felt off and the welcome attempt at some psychedelic exploration didn’t really work. It was messy, although an argument can be made for taking chances outweighing the lack of coherence offered in last nights “Split”.
2. Random Set Two Opener. In theory, the song shouldn’t matter; it’s all about the execution. “Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan” sounded out of place from the first notes, but who knew, it could’ve been exactly what was needed for the band to loosen up and get ready to drop that filthy “Disease”. Nonetheless, individually, a six-minute excursion just plain felt out of place to kick off set two last night.
3. No rarities/bustouts over the whole run. For this show I think the lowlights certainly have strong counter arguments, just like this one. But it is surprising that over four shows there was nothing dropped that breached bust out ground. It’s no matter when the quality shared was as good as it was, but still, a tad surprising when looking at the past runs in this same building.

Overall, Phish played a solid four-show run in Miami. Night two was the only evening that didn’t have as much sparkle to it, although even there are some who would say the coupling of “Antelope” and “Rock and Roll” to close set two was straight fire. Three high quality second sets were offered. A memorable “Weekapaug Groove” went down that reminded fans of the early-mid nineties when the song consistently went off. New Years Eve also had a noteworthy “Tweezer” in there, and there were even two great first sets by modern Phish standards. Sure there were a few flubs, flops and inconsistencies shared over the run, but if those were never there, would the highlights shine so brightly? Be well and happy listening until the next show. Unless there’s a miracle, I’ll be looking forward to checking in on the scene (hopefully) this summer.

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