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