Review: Phish @ Chicago’s Toyota Park


The Curtain With hit next and seemed to finally engage the crowd with its hair-pin turns and soaring melodies.  I was thrilled to finally see a clean take, as the ill-fated Coventry attempt was the only other time I’d been able to catch this one.  The classic must have relaxed the band as they released up the latter portion of the tune with the patience and grace we’ve come to expect from these old songs.  The peak, while not overly explosive, was organic and powerful, showing the band’s ability to listen openly.

An oddly-placed Train Song made for a pleasant detour before a well-executed Gumbo.  Heavy Things was greeted with a huge cheer up front, but wasn’t a particularly stand-out pass through (is there even one?).  Time Turns Elastic started and was obviously going to close the set.  I find myself liking certain melodies and sections, but it doesn’t quite hit until the Quadrophenia-esque crescendo ending.  I see why Phish wants to push this as set closer though.


Backwards Down the Number Line kicked the second set off with the best improv of the night.  The band seems to be quite comfortable taking these new tunes out.  It must be nice to have some vehicles for improvisation not tied to past expectations and “3pic” renditions.  BDTNL dissolved into the fist Carini of the 3.0 era and was greeted with a huge crowd reaction.  Dark and rocking, this has always been a favorite of mine.  Carini softened into a well-played Gotta Jiboo that flowed into Theme from the Bottom.

Wilson followed and the crowd ATE IT UP.  Great song placement and made for a particularly audience-pleasing reaction when 2001 dropped right afterwards.  2001 eased into a rollicking Chalk Dust Torture whose improv was pure Phish3.0 – close to the vest and cleanly executed.  While more sterile than the mid-90s glory days, 3.0 improv is an improvement from the often-meandering loop-ridden playing in 2003 and 2004.


Harry Hood was up next and is always a treat to catch, even if it doesn’t fully take flight like some classic versions, and this was no exception.  It’s songs like Hood that are the crux of the biscuit, and why I fell in love with this band at age 10.  Songs like Hood are permanently ingrained in me, and Tuesday’s middle-of-the-road interpretation made the purpose of Phish3.0 unabashedly clear: these are great songs that need to be enjoyed in the live setting.  An on-point Squirming Coil was an ideal way to close the set of mostly classic tunes.  Page’s outro was particularly stunning, and Toyota Park erupted upon its conclusion.  Loving Cup was a predictable choice for an encore, but with Tuesday night curfew constraints was a fun way to send folks home.

This was not the greatest Phish show ever.  It was never going to be and that’s not the point (anymore?).  Phish3.0 is a rock band taking their show on the road for all of our collective enjoyment, a seasoned group of professionals trying to make music in the present yet always chasing the shadow of what once was.  There will be kinks to work out, and that is endearingly human. You always hear about the jams [, maaaaaaan] and the scene [, brah] and everything in between, but the songs themselves often get lost in the shuffle of the spectacle that is Phish.  There is a wonderful catalogue here that is being dusted off and taken out for another spin.  A death rattle? Perhaps.  Newb-city? By nature it has to be.

But that doesn’t matter…the band that has brought us all so much joy for so long is back at it and I, for one, am damn glad.




Head to Glide for a full gallery of Joel’s Phish photos

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22 Responses

  1. Nice review Joel.

    About Heavy Thngs, the recent Hampton version is pretty nice. Trey plays some really cool stuff on it.

  2. Nicely written Joel & I couldn’t agree more. As a phan from the mid-90’s I would have preferred to go to Gamehendge a little more or a few songs from “back in the day”, but everything played was well executed & I am glad to see them again. And my 9 year old son’s first Phish show was an experience he’ll never forget, in fact he hasn’t taken off the shirt I got for him yet.

  3. A death rattle? Really? This show might not have been stellar. But of the six shows I’ve seen thus far this tour, I’ve come away with no such conclusion, in fact I feel there is new life and new fire. I hope you get punched in the face for writing this.

  4. Who lets noobs write articles? Seriously, it must be hard not to get Phish.

    I agree it wasnt the show of the tour…

    (My 10th this summer)

    But you sound like a jaded noob.

    Dont quit your day job

  5. Also, Brian (Post #4).. no they didnt.

    07/29/03 Post Gazette Pavilion, Burgettstown, PA
    Set I: Daniel1, Camel Walk, Gotta Jibboo, Cool it Down, Scent of a Mule, Fee> Timber> When the Circus Comes to Town, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Golgi Apparatus
    Set II: Crosseyed and Painless> Thunderhead, Brother, Harpua2> Bittersweet Motel, Harpua2, I Fooled Around and Fell in Love3 4 5> HYHU> Harpua2, David Bowie
    Encore: Farmhouse

  6. one of the worst reviews i’ve ever read. not one of the best phish shows i’ve been to out of 187 but come on, this is utter BS what this guy wrote. go back to listening to blink 182 on your i-pod kid….

  7. Nice review Joel. However, “noob” should never ever make it into a professional piece of journalism. Save that for the douchebags that have something to prove.

    Been seeing shows since ’96 and I agree with most everything in your review. Well said.

  8. they did not play paul and silas on 7/29/2003. was there. they play daniel saw the stone which u may be confusing for paul and silas somehow. agree with the review. was not the best ever but was well executed. was very happy to see them and not disappointed

  9. You gotta love free speech! I think the review was correct in saying that this show was average. I have seen over 100 shows and I think the funny thing about being a long time Phan is that I probably will NEVER see the best show ever and the expectation is something stupid to chase in my own opinion. Creating lofty expectations will only leave you unsatisfied. Imigine if you had these expectations of yourself from day to day…you would be miserable about 70% of the time and I don’t care who you are. We are human beings! Phish is a band of 4 guys and man do they bring it for 4 guys plugged in and playing their instruments! It is the true definition of a band!

    This show was hardly the death rattle though and I think that these words are just the negative after-thoughts of unreal expectations for the Phish Toyota Park performance.

    Enjoy it while you can people! Phish could decide to call it quits tomorrow.

  10. Harry hood was very poorly executed trey was trying to go somewhere w it that just never took to life. Great show ok review. I’ve never really “enjoyed” a heavy things before tuesday but treys noodling was great.

  11. love the trey and mike pic, joel, and some great points in your review, although this being my first “curtain with” and “carini”, i may have gotten more out of it than most. i think a lot of you people commenting are missing all the positives in the review, including the essential point that 3.0 blows away 2.0 in terms of creativity as well as technicality, even though it might pale compared to certain periods of 1.0. the biggest problem with 3.0 is all the phishier-than-thous coming out of the woodwork; you don’t need 200+ shows under your belt to give your opinion about music, people.

  12. Good review, Joel.

    I don’t know why people have to be mean. Afterall, Phish is about GOOD vibes, right?

    Interesting setlist. I really think some of these new songs will become staples given the3 band stays together. If they didn’t keep playing new songs, and all we heard were “classics” or covers, the shows would get old. I’d probably stop going to see them.

    Let’s all just be thankful that they are back, and on top of their game. I could see this going for years the way they’re playing now.

    Let’s hope so.

  13. What was uninspiring was the number of idiot fans that were at this show. People wasted and falling all over each other, barely listening to the music, just there to party. Hey that’s fine, and I can deal with it, but when the young crowd near the stage thought it was great to start throwing glowsticks at the band…pretty lame in my opinion. The band was throwing it down early in the second set, but I was up close, and the onslaught of glowsticks clearly rattled the guys.

    I was at Redrocks a week and a half before this show, and It was one of the best crowds I’ve ever been a part of. People stood in awe of their favorite band having the time of their lives, and everyone was really upbeat and respectful of one another. The BS behavior that I wittnessed Tues night was hard to handle, and it really had an negative effect on the show.

    Glowsticks = LAME (at least throw them at each other and not the band!!!!)

  14. i have been a bit of a phish fan for about the past 8 years but have really turned up my liking for phish just this year. alpine was my first phish experience (both nights) and i am very thankful to have the opportunity to sit 5th row center for my first show! what an amazing time! toyota park was my 2nd phish show and i have to say, it was a drunken party but it has enthused me even more about the band. i hope they stay together and keep touring because i am a new phish concert go’er and i am ready for more! i was up front for a while but had to get out a little after 2nd set, i pushed up front for Carini and boy was it worth it!

  15. it was my 71st show, my first being 4/1/92

    They are missing a lot of que’s, but it is great to see them on stage again

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