With each passing minute the energy in the room continued to build. This was a crowd that was well satiated in terms of what they had seen thus far in the weekend but had not yet experienced the “big jam.” As the improvisation hit a peak, with Anastasio delivering one quick and beautiful riff after another, the crowd went apeshit. Those aforementioned Phish fans that follow the band for the improv were finally seeing the wide-open “Type II” jamming they had been waiting for. Between the perfect sound, Chris Kuroda’s intense psychedelic lighting schemes and the masterful improvisation, I looked around to see mouths hanging wide open everywhere you looked as the band hit peak after peak.
The crowd reaction to the first peak was intense and pushed the band to continue peaking the jam. There were high-fives exchanged, hugs passed out and arms raised in approval as this “best ever” Seven Below continued to soar. Sometimes Phish will peak a song for a minute or two, but this was just non-stop intensity for at least five minutes. Finally, the group segued into Ghost to the amazement of the crowd who figured it was time for something slow.
Considering all of the energy that had just been expended, you wouldn’t have blamed the members of Phish for fumbling through the composed segments of Ghost, yet that’s not what happened. Each section was nailed, especially the slap-funk bit just before the jam. As with Seven Below, Phish used Ghost as a springboard for more high-energy exploration. Most Ghost jams start off dark and funky; the Albany version immediately took a more light and beautiful form. It was as if the group went right back to exploring the major key jams from Seven Below and no one was complaining.
The improv in the Albany Ghost took one adventurous turn after another. Gordon and Fishman helped guide the group from one impressive groove to another while Anastasio and McConnell dropped dazzling riffs that played off what their mates were laying down. After about five total peaks, 48 minutes and even a few additional Seven Below teases thrown in for good measure, Phish finally brought the Seven Below > Ghost opener to a close. The roar of the crowd was deafening and even the normally stoic Mike Gordon has a shit-eating grin as the band took a few minutes to take it all in. I turned to my friend and said “what can you possibily play after that?”
Our answer came in the form of a song that had only been performed three times since 1998, a cover of the Velvet Underground’s Cool It Down. I couldn’t do anything but laugh at how amazing this set had started out. McConnell absolutely nailed the vocal delivery and Anastasio took a short but sweet solo to put the exclamation mark on the sequence. Surely it was time for a piss-break song or something that would give the group a chance to take things down a bit, but once again Phish defied previously held logic by embarking on another song with a pretty solo – Gotta Jibboo. Unlike Ghost and Seven Below, the Jibboo jam didn’t stray too far off course. What was most impressive about the Jibboo improv was the pace at which Anastasio was playing. Trey just tore up his fretboard throughout peaking with another batch of machine gun riffs.
Now was it time for a breather? Yes, it sure was. Anastasio’s Let Me Lie gave the audience a quick five-minute break that saw about 90% of the crowd sit down. As soon as McConnell began the intro to Wolfman’s Brother, everyone stood up for another chance to dance. Julius followed and while I’m not a big fan of the song, last night’s version could be my favorite as I think I saw smoke come off Anastasio’s Languedoc. Fans were thrashing around, dancing with looks of sheer joy in their faces as we all tried to make sense of what had just happened over the past two nights.
While I couldn’t help but jump right into my description of the second set, the first set was no slouch. You want bust outs? How about Uncle Pen (last played 7/11/2000), Sanity (second time this decade), Walk Away (tenth time in 15 years) and Vultures (first time in over five years)? Want to see the band nail a song they generally struggle with? Check out the Foam – it was clear the quartet was firing on all cylinders when they played a perfect version of that one. Want a good jam? Look no further than the Split Open and Melt which gave hints of the adventurous improvisation to come.
Obviously a ton of thought went into the setlists for these shows and the crowd couldn’t have been more appreciative. There’s nothing like indoor Phish as the band feeds off the audience’s energy and vice versa. As I discussed the show with friends after getting back to the hotel, I couldn’t find anyone who hadn’t been impressed by the Albany run. Those who love jams got their jams, those who love bust outs got their bust outs and those who love everything Phish does loved everything they did. Let’s see if they can keep it up tonight in Portland, ME at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
- Previously on Hidden Track: Detroit Review and Photos, Cincinnati Review and Photos, Philadelphia Night Two Review and Photos, Albany Night One Review
- YEMblog: Albany Reviews, Photos, Videos, Audio & More
November 28, 2009
Times Union Center
Set 1: Party Time, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Uncle Pen, Sanity, Foam, Walk Away, NICU, Alaska, Split Open and Melt, Joy, Vultures, Backwards Down the Number Line
Set 2: Seven Below > Ghost, Cool It Down > Gotta Jibboo, Let Me Lie, Wolfman’s Brother, Julius
Encore: You Enjoy Myself