Review: Phish Kick Out The Jams in Albany

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.

November 28, 2009
Times Union Center
Albany, NY

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

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12 Responses

  1. Great recap of an amazing weekend. Like you said, something for everyone. It’s hard to believe they’ve come so far so fast.

  2. Wow! I was there and all i can say is wow. That 2nd set was jamming, the “bustouts” were a plenty and that shit eating grin on mikes face was there. They know what they are doing and are back for real. All that was missing was psycho killer which was heavily teased and the music b4 the show was 90% talking heads. Sorry Jilly bean maybe next time. I would put a 50 spot that psycho Killer opens one of the Madison Square Garden Shows. Anyone wanna take that bet?

  3. Holy cow i thought I was hearing things when they teased killer. I was behind the stage where we rage with page and I def heard it to. 26 years of Phish!!!!!!!!

  4. wow, thank you for that amazing review. it put into words and clarified how incredible that show was. thank you thank you.

  5. Maine and Virgina were my favorites, followed by albany and philadelphia. I was lucky enough to make it from the first night of philadelphia to last night in virginia without missing a song. The freebird encore made my night it was sooo funny!

  6. Actually the last night of MSG tied virginia and maine in my opinion. I forgot to mention those shows. The energy of the band of first two nights of MSG were similar to both nights in albany and both nights in philadelphia in my opinion.

  7. The good lord shined a light on me and i was blessed enough to be able to make it to so many shows. Thank You Phish! For every night. Not one of these shows could disappoint unless you are neurotic to the bone… no doubt about it.

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