One of the most common discussions amongst rabid Phish fans when they looked back at a successful 2009 touring season was: When is Phish going to refresh their cover repertoire? Last year, new covers were hard to come by while the old standbys: Rock & Roll, Loving Cup, Boogie On Reggae Woman, A Day In The Life, and Drowned dominated setlists – all being played at least five times in ’09. HT contributor Luke Sacks made this point and a few other prophetic suggestions (Day In The Life second set closer anyone?) in a pre-tour piece titled Phish At A Fork In The Road.
The prayers of the Phish-faithful have been answered with five new covers debuted in the first ten shows of the first leg of summer tour. Let’s take a listen to the original versions.
Phish is always good for a location-based cover whether it’s New York, New York to close out New Year’s Eve 1998, Boston’s Foreplay/Long Time and Roadrunner at Great Woods in 1999 and 2000 respectively, or making multiple references to Virginia last winter at the tour-closer in Charlottesville. When the band pulled into Cuyahoga Falls for the second show of the current tour, they added another chapter to this trend by opening with The Band’s Look Out, Cleveland. It was cover city in Ohio as they not only performed the second rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s The Ballad Of Curtis Loew in 17 years, but also debuted John Lennon’s Instant Karma, which keyboardist Page McConnell previously had performed with his solo band Vida Blue.
Portsmouth Virgina’s intimate show saw the first ever Tom Waits cover from a Phish stage (though guitarist Trey Anastasio and David Byrne had previously performed some Waits at the Tibet House Benefit in 2000) when they played Cold Water in the middle of the first set. By far the most obscure cover debut came to open Tuesday’s show in Great Woods when the band left the entire crowd scratching their heads when they opened with Rita Clarke’s Lit O Bit. And last but most certainly not fucking least was the debut of Led Zeppelin’s The Rover which closed last night’s 90-minute first set in Camden, NJ. While one new cover every two shows isn’t quite keeping pace with the Summer of ’98, it is keeping the setlist hawks on their toes with the renewed anticipation that you truly never know what Phish is going to play next. Hopefully it’s Ride Captain Ride. Oh yeah, and play Watcher Of The Skies too.