Review: Phish Find Their Footing In Camden

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Guyute, My Sweet One and a rowdy, kicking 46 Days carried the band to the middle of the set, where Trey again stumbled, this time over Lizards, forgetting all the thoughts that he had thunk. But that didn’t stop him from shining on Wedge, along with Mike who kept filtering up through the mix at moments expected and unexpected to take a dominant role in the set. Trey prefaced a requested Tube with banter about Springsteen at the ‘Roo (“Tuuuuube!” and “Bruuuuuuuce!” admittedly sounding similar). The tune was instantly a dense, rolling force of funk, taking its time taking its shape, and bringing it home. The band leader then mumbled, “Might as well play this one now,” before letting in on a big, swirling, chaotic First Tube to close the first long set.

The second set opened under a rising full moon with a monster, groundbreaking Sand. Right from the start it was moving at a good clip, and quickly ducked low into a slick network of interlocking caverns. Trey and Page were piling up overlapping sounds on the left while Mike and Fish were holding it steady on the right – excellent music for cruising through the crowd, bobbing and weaving through the masses.

The territory was expansive, far more open than anything that had preceded it over the course of the week, and the band was laying down long, long sonic textures. Eventually they ended up in a funky rhythm groove under drenched pink lights, with throbbing organ and a heavy low end. What followed was a series of shifting, thematic jamlets and crazy synth effects, all building up to a colossal climax, a set of descending notes so distinct it could have been composed, repeated over and over, reverberating across the crowd. Truly awe-inspiring, the culmination of a week’s worth of energy and anxiety and joy given form. And then Trey played on the theme again between the early verses of the following Suzy, albeit in a condensed form – seemed like an audio image that may just resurface over the course of the southern leg of the tour.

A pair of fugues followed, Limb by Limb sounding specially good, with Fishman’s cunning, deft drumming shining out early on, and the syncopation becoming nothing short of mesmerizing later – a song that produced a lasting afterglow. After Silent in the Morning, Mike debuted Sugar Shack, but the elements didn’t quite click – quirky was to be expected, but Trey’s overly cartoony latin lead seemed out of place with the funk the rest of the band was dishing out.

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A short Character Zero rose quickly from throaty, phasey guitar into a rager before revealing Tweezer. The song bristled immediately, the drums exploding in colors complemented by Page’s keys – it’s amazing how quickly this band was able to get it back, how utterly electric and open the playing was, how far they had come in the single week between Fenway and Camden. Everything was locked up tight in a driving jam, every space perfectly filled as the quartet cultivated yet another distinct theme, this one carrying through the whole of the song – it was the ideal bookend to the Sand, especially as Mike began to lay down a barrage of shaking bass notes while Trey tore into the song with every increasing juice, powerhouse rock and roll plowing to the end of the set.

After a brief pause, the band returned, Trey asking, “You guys in a rush to go anywhere?” and then expounding on how great the tour has been so far and how they wanted to linger in the Northeast as long as possible. The extended encore began with Joy, a new song with the line “We want you to be happy,” which sounds far cheesier here than it actually was, followed by a really nice, welcome Bouncin’. And then the huge surprise of Antelope not just as an encore, but as the third song in the encore! It felt truly special, especially at the start as Fish led the charge from the playful intro to full blown rocking out. The tune stayed close to form, not stretching far over ten-minutes before the venue erupted in an ear-rattling Tweezer Reprise just shy of midnight.

From Tweezer to the Reprise felt a whole separate show, or like a third set, and the band buses headed south moments later, driving through the exiting masses who stopped and applauded and howled and cheered as they passed; headed south, leaving in their wake a path of aural, mental and physical mayhem. And huge, huge grins.

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7 Responses

  1. Nice review Dan.

    This was well worth going to work on about two hours of sleep. We had been talking about wanting Guyute for a few days and the Tube by request was a huge highlight, not too mention the obvious ones everybody is talking about (sand, Tweezer, encore). The video screens on the lawn had some incredible footage and editing too, which really added a lot. Trey’s jumping up and down pumping his knees at the end and getting chatty was fun too. Just a sweet night altoghter.

    But the real question is… who was that amazing band playing in the lot beforehand??? 😉

  2. I agre that it wasn’t my favorite start to finish–JB 3 was–but Sand and Tweezer are both two of the best tunes played, and I liked the Wolfman’s and Limb X Limb a ton too. Set I of JB 2 was probably my favorite single set.

    And that band by Shakedown with 2 drummers was cookin’; the one closer to the venue was definitely not.

  3. Usually you can count yourself lucky if you can say one of the songs was played the best you’ve ever heard. This show had four for me. Wolfman’s was face melting. Sand and Tweezer boiled up and bubbled. Despite the flubs, vocal and timing wise, this is my favorite of any show I have seen. As Leonard Cohen said, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

  4. This is a great review, man. This was the first show I’d seen since they’ve been back, and it was absolutely mind-blowing. You really captured what was so special about it in your review. I’m foaming at the mouth waiting for the Gorge (my next show), because if they are going to bring heat like this, forget about it!!!!

  5. Keep forgetting to thank Dan for using my photos in the review! So lucky my steady hand showed up for this show as I had great seats! Dead center is where you want to be to enjoy this new design from Chris Kuroda! Man has been KILLING it so far!

    Show was exactly what you wanted from a Camden gig! Firey from start to finish! Flubs aside, they get RIGHT back on track and really sound focused, happy, and determined to just KILL 2009!

    What a summer so far, I plan on taking TONS of pics in Red Rocks! So excited!

    Thank you Dan, thank you Hidden Track, and THANK YOU PHISH! =D

    -Jeff Volckhausen
    [email protected]

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