The show opened with Crowd Control, which is just terrible placement for this song. They played it fairly well but just not the way you want a show to start. But it did give people a chance to settle into what felt like an oversold venue.
After a typically fun Kill Devil Falls, the always awesome Sloth rocked the house for the first time since 7-31-03. This is definitely a song that most fans would definitely like to see in setlists more often and was a nice treat.
But keeping in what would be a theme of uneven choices all night, the weak Beauty of a Broken Heart sucked a lot of the energy built up during KDF and Sloth out of the crowd which was fighting pretty rough heat and humidity.
The quartet rebounded nicely with Axilla, a personal favorite, and a well played Foam. Yet instead of keeping the crowd dancing and grooving, Esther made a second appearance of the summer. I actually like Esther – the Clifford Ball version is absolutely gorgeous – but it just didn’t work here.
After Esther the band bounced back and got the crowd going again with a quick Ha Ha Ha and what turned out to be the gem of the night, the debut of the new Fishman-penned original Party Time. With nothing but those two words as lyrics and a free-flowing rock and roll jam, this song has great potential and had the crowd dancing more than any song without “Reprise” in the title.
In response to a group request, an over-much-too-quickly Tube kept things moving briefly but the first set finished with three songs that were played well but didn’t provide much energy or punch. And we’re to the point now with Time Turns Elastic where if you don’t make a run for the john when you see Trey reaching for that other guitar, you are standing in line for 10 minutes. I always wonder if the band notices the hordes of people that get up and head out during that song.
A much more serious second set opened with a nice Tweezer but it barely cracked the 10-minute mark and never really got going. There was a nice meld into a well-played Taste and Alaska, which is growing on me every time I hear it, had a very nice outro jam.
But the brutal Let Me Lie brought the second set to a quick halt. I understand that breathers during a set are needed and that the band has earned the right to play whatever they want. But that doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about it a little bit. Any song about riding and bike and taking your shirt off is going to bring a set to a stop.
When the opening notes of 46 Days kicked in I cringed by instinct. But they actually weaved it into a style of jamming we haven’t seen much of from the band this year. It was quirky and weird in a good way and is worth checking out.
I’m a complete sucker for Oh! Sweet Nuthin and think it would make a great addition to the regular rotation. With two appearances in six shows, it’s clearly one the band enjoys.
The show finished on a high note with a very nice Hood that was more precise and emotional than most played by Phish 3.0 and a predictable yet rocking Good Times Bad Times > Tweezer Reprise sent the crowd out with with a solid jolt of energy.
But overall the show felt uneven. For every high there seemed to be a low and every groove that got going was interrupted by strange song placement. This could turn out to be one of those shows that sounds better on disc where you can skip a few tunes and cherry pick your way though the high points.
August 15, 2009
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Set I: Crowd Control, Kill Devil Falls, The Sloth, Beauty Of A Broken Heart, Axilla I, Foam, Esther, Ha Ha Ha, Party Time, Tube, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Strange Design, Time Turns Elastic
Set II: Tweezer > Taste, Alaska, Let Me Lie, 46 Days, Oh! Sweet Nuthin’, Harry Hood
Encore: Good Times Bad Times, Tweezer Reprise