Review: Phish @ Merriweather Post Pavilion

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Phish
August 15, 2009
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Columbia, MD

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

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35 Responses

  1. Man, I like the way you give proper respect when & where it’s due, but I’ve got to say that you are such a baby. For such a well written piece on what looks to have been a real blast of a show, the overall effect is kind of like, “Wah. I’m such a spoiled brat.” I honestly mean no disrespect. I am stuck at home while my friends log hundreds of thousands of miles doing the most absolute awesome thing in the world. . . Going to a Phish Show.

  2. Nice write up Luke, definitely agree with you on most of this. Lots of missed moments from the band, and very little if any real jams in the first set. Agree on that Oh Sweet Nuthin – probably the highlight of the show for me, as well as that 46 Days.

    And is it me or did Party Time kind of have the same groove as Lovelight? I just keep signing those lyrics in my head as they kicked into that song.

  3. great review and awesome photos.

    Thanks Luke, cause just looking at the song selection made me feel like this was a downer of a show. I do understand that shows can ebb and flow with energy from song selection, and am glad to hear about the highlights.

    I’m really hoping that Oh Sweet Nuthing makes it into a more regular rotation, and can’t wait to hear Party Time.

  4. Great review and I couldn’t agree more…

    To Phletch, dude, we pay good money to get to the show and into the show, it’s fair to expect a certain level of showmanship from the band. Giving a bad review isn’t “wah, I’m such a spoiled brat,” it’s fair, especially in the case of MPP. I went to all 4 nights at Red Rocks where they had the opportunity to bail on a night or two and still come out shining, but they didn’t do it. For the folks who could only make it to MPP, they lost out on a good show. Sure, going to a Phish show carries a lot more excitement than just the music, but the review above is about the music, and on this particular night, the show itself was average at best.

  5. maybe if the trustie punks down front would quit pelting trey and fishman with glowstix we would have got something super PHUnked. I know I saw Trey get hit atleast twice, dead on. One time I saw fishman get nailed it was a double shot. Lets have some respect folks. keep those damn things out on the lawn plz… I mean no one around me threw them. The people who chuck like 20 in the air at a time was pissing trey off I think. I may have been imagining things, but I thought I saw trey pick one up after a song in 2nd and fake like he was taking a drink from it… kinda implying “what the hell?”

  6. Once again, well done. Being honest and self-checking is critical for a scene such as this one. If everything is great, logic suggests nothing is. At first glance, yes the setlist is lacking to my taste. But often those gigs which dont “read” well are well played. In this case, all accounts indicate a (forbid!) off night…

  7. ..they were trying to pelt them with glowsticks so they would play some good songs. should have thrown a beer to get their attention (after all, they do take the tops of them so no one would really get hurt)

    and please, there is nothing better than your pupils dilated to the max, with the bundle of glowsticks separating apart, filling the air in an orgasmic burst of multi colored spectrums while you feel good about hood!

  8. Great review Luke… I haven’t listenend to it yet, but they played some tunes I really want to see live. That includes Let me Lie, if they’re going to slow it down that is. Oh Sweet Nothing needs to be a regular, I hope they kicked up the jam like Vegas 98′ this time. Time Turns Elastic is long and confusing, glad they didn’t give me that pee break at the Gorge!

  9. Pretty good review, but I was surprised that you didn’t mention how much fun the band seemed to be having. From where I was in the pavilion, Trey was smiling ear-to-ear for much of the show and clearly enjoying himself. Page also seemed especially engaged.

    Maybe it was because I was in the first 7 rows for Red Rocks and this show and could notice facial expressions, but it is clear to me that the band is having so much more fun playing now than they did in ’03-’04.

  10. I feel like I was at a completely different show than the author of this review. I thought it killed! I’ve been seeing them for the better part of 15 years, and I swear, tis was a solid show. Time Turns Elastic is EPIC. They haven’t turned out anything like it since Guyute. I think it’s Phish Terrapin! and to say 46 days is anything but an oportunity for Trey to rip is an insult!

  11. I actually agree with this review. Me, I thought the 1st set was a lot of fun. I dig the new tunes they played, and as fans of Page’s solo album, both my wife and I liked Beauty of a Broken Heart. And Party Time = great new tune. 2nd set was a bit off, particularly w/ Let Me Lie which kind of sucked the wind out of the place, but overall Hood and Taste were pretty solid, Alaska was fun, 46 Days had a great jam, and the encore was well played. Not a show for the record books, but not a terrible show by any measure.

  12. Could not have been put better. Everything in this review is straight on correct. I saw all four shows and was so discouraged by the song selection of Merriweather. No flow, well played individual songs and ‘Time Turns Elastic’ is like listening to Meatloaf conducting a jam band orchestra. I love the new Phish. They are playing so well. This show was just not a good one. Once again…..love Phish…..loved my four day run…..by far the worst show of the four….deal with it.

  13. I have to disagree about Time Turns Elastic. They jammed the hell out of that song! It was a highlight for me, and almost entered a “Merriweather Jam” territory, until they came back into it and finished it. Also, there was an insane psychedelic jam somewhere in 46 Days, that again entered a separate “jam” territory and really melted my already withered brain. You might have also mentioned that the previously played Nuthin’ was seriously flubbed, but this version was incredibly tight. I may be a little partial because I had fantastic seats, but the band is clearly having a ball playing together again. Trey is especially really taking care of business, and this show was light years beyond the one they put on five years ago to the day. Welcome back, Phish!

  14. i thought it was a great show. i saw the last 4 of early summer and the last 4 of late summer. when trey reaches for that other guitar for time turns elastic you should go to the bathroom, oh yea and keep on going out of the venue. phish can play what they feel like playing. they look happy and sound great. ive seen well over 100 shows……they dont have a song i dont like. people that nitpick song selection should not go see phish, and they wont even be missed.

  15. by the way, stealing time from the faulty plan is a killer song…..it was one of the highlights of the show for me

  16. great, fair review- you put it well. sound on the lawn was non existent until about song 6. experienced tapers were bitching. the crowd was totally blah, other than the “louder” chant & it was hard to get into this show.

    second set got better, but the show never flowed after the lame-ish start. it had its moments and songs i know a lot of us wanted to hear, and they sounded good, but it was certainly by far the worst show of the last 3 and the 12 i’ve seen this year.

  17. Can’t get enough TTE and absolutely love Let Me Lie…play and sing it sometime on your acoustic. There is plenty of energy and emotion in that song. I am sorry if anyone felt ‘deflated’

  18. I had fun once the volume got turned up.

    i got a text during the 1st set in MD from a buddy on green crew at red rocks and shoreline.

    he said green crew picked the setlist that night and axilla was for him (before they played it).

    just tryin to help

  19. Review is right on. Show was played really well, but setlist was pretty weak, or at least hit and miss. Merriweather is not the worst venue, but sound IN Pavillion (R – Loge) was worthless. Another east coast venue. Pack em’ in and ring the cash register. Traffic gettting into the place was a bear, all to end up parking in a lame garage full of keystone cops.

    Show Rating – 7.5
    Venue Rating – 6.0
    Lot Scene Rating – 4.0
    Traaffic rating – 4.5

  20. I thought it was a pretty great show. Highs and lows, great flow. Breakouts, a debut, a very ITish 46 Days. This review really gives a very very different experience than what I had. To each their own but, do yourself a favor, download this one and judge for yourself. It’s hot.

  21. So much complaining and criticism….I listened to this show off the download and it sounds great. Crowd Control is a fine opener…glad to see the band mix things up. Plus, they NEED to play some of their lesser-played songs and develop them live. Kill Devil Falls, Stealing Time, and others need to be played, plus, not every Phish show has to be a trancendental experience. There is nothing wrong with them playing a bunch of songs and putting on a great, sort-of-normal concert. I guess it’s their own fault for setting the bar so high, but come on, it’s still not like every other big tour where the songs are the same every night (and no, just mixing the order and playing the same things doesn’t count…Hello DMB)

  22. Have you gone back and listed to that FOAM? Well played my ass. Butchered to all hell is more like it.

    Only up to that point in listening…but man, that was a rough one.

  23. I actually think this review is fairly solid. I have been to 38 shows since 1994. Some epic shows too, Alladin, NYE 95, Clifford Ball, too many to list. I had 3rd row for this show. The band was totally enjoying themselves. Trey was way into it. I hated the song selection, but I think they played really well. The Foam was butchered. But some of the new tunes, Kill Devil, Stealing Time, the last 5-10 of elastic, they just ripped it. But everytime they got going they then killed the energy with a poor song choice. The second set was very disappointing eventhough again, the 46days was masterful work by the band. It was a letdown, but I loved seeing them anyway and thought what I heard was played with passion.

  24. This article reeks of amateur rock journalism. Is the author really on staff for Glide, or was this some sort of hippie outreach program? Either was the prose stinks and the points are, well, pointless. I would hope in the future Glide would hold it’s reviewers writing ability to a higher standard, especially for such an important, albeit underground rock and roll reunion.

    P.S. – The pictures are beautiful.

  25. I think anyone who was in the parking lot knows that choice of Crowd Control had everything to do with the crazy amount of law enforcement patrolling. They even had a police chopper flying around!

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