The band came out of the gate slowly with the apropos Back On The Train and found their groove one song later with Runaway Jim. The first heavy hitter of the night came in the form of a rippin’ Split Open and Melt. The Melt jam was extremely focused but potent – a killer combination. The second place finisher for MVP of the run (thusfar) – Chris Kuroda – has a marvelous batch of fancy toys that he used to help guide the boys through jams. Kuroda has taken his work to the next level – a scary thought at times – with the additional of the innovative new Mach III fixture.
Now it’s time to talk about the clear standout of the first two shows and current winner of our MVP award – Page McConnell. McConnell has been far more assertive in every song than he was over first twenty years of Phish, adding beautiful colors to jams and well-thought out new accents to old songs. The Chairman of the Board’s solo album may have sold less copies than William Hung’s Hung For The Holidays, but it contained a few gems that would sound great in Phish’s rotation. Last night, the band debuted that album’s single – Beauty of a Broken Heart – in the middle of the first set and it sound fantastic. Trey added some nice Wah work to the bustling beat the rhythm section provided. We can only hope that the improv-heavy Back In The Basement and Heavy Rotation find their way into the rotation as well.
The Vermonters mixed up the tempo throughout the first act, but band and audience are still trying to figure out the flow for these marathon sets. Halley’s, Reba and Antelope all were tight and fierce and the boys nailed the ending of Antelope – a segment that gave them all sorts of trouble over the years.
The crowd seemed more energetic after a good night of sleep – for most – with concise versions of PYITE, Gumbo and the first post-hiatus version of Guelah Papyrus getting the biggest reactions. PYITE contained the only train-wreck segment of the evening when Trey lost his footing in one of the “Landlady Runs” and the band never recovered. Mike and Trey pulled off the “Guelah Dance” with ease and you can tell the members of Phish are all in really good physical shape. Me, on the other hand, I didn’t realize I needed to train for a marathon before attending these shows. My body is sore in all sorts of places I didn’t know I could be sore in after dancing the night away.
The second set started with the last cover to make the regular Phish rotation – Rock and Roll. Rock and Roll fits in the category of Loving Cup and 2001 – covers that Phish has made their own. Trey finally unleashed some machine-gun riffs during the Velvet Underground cover that helped whipped the crowd into a fury. The energy didn’t let up with a tight version of Limb By Limb that led the way to one of the evening’s most exploratory moments – Story of the Ghost. If anyone questions whether the band was enjoying this reunion, you should’ve seen the smiles on the guys’ faces when they were working their way through Ghost. Even ol’ Mike Gordon had the “bliss face” kickin’.
The rest of the second set was full of high-energy jam vehicles with the exception of Prince Caspian. Piper slinked its way into Birds of a Feather for the first transition of the weekend. Birds contained some of the best improv of the night filled with blistering peaks and valleys. Mike’s Song was old-school style without the F jam that usually led into Simple. I Am Hydrogen sounded beautiful as always and Weekapaug was all over the place. The third part of the Mike’s song suite twisted and turned through dark and light themes before an epic release that featured inspired playing by Trey.
After a ragin’ Zero the band returned to drop their always entertaining cover of The Beatles’ A Day In The Life. Something felt a little off during Friday’s show – a great show in its own right, but last night the band took the training wheels off. All felt right in the world as the quartet found their footing. Phish returns to the stage tonight for the final show of the run. I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves for this one.
Set One (via Twitter):
Back On The Train, Runaway Jim, Brian & Robert, Split Open & Melt, Heavy Things, Punch You In The Eye, Gumbo, Reba, Mexican Cousin, It’s Ice, Halley’s Comet, Beauty Of A Broken Heart*, Guelah Papyrus, Lawn Boy. Run Like An Antelope
* first time played, Page solo song
Rock & Roll, Limb By Limb, Story Of A Ghost, Piper > Birds Of A Feather, Wolfman’s Brother, Prince Caspian, Mike’s -> Hydrogen -> Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero
Encore: A Day In The Life