Phish kicked off their summer tour last evening at the Les Schwab Amphitheater in beautiful Bend, OR. The quaint outdoor venue was packed to the brim with a capacity crowd of 8,000. The shows size was a far cry from the last live appearance for guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio who recently finished the now legendary run of Fare Thee Well shows with surviving members of the Grateful Dead at a sold out Solider Field. With Trey blowing most everyone away at those shows, the question of how much Dead vibe would percolate into Phish tour has been on the minds of many.
Solid Tour Opener
Overall, Tuesday’s show was lively, diverse, and had a little taste of just about everything Phish has to offer. Set one offered a mostly warm up feel, but an early “Sand” was a treat, as was the debut of “Blaze On”. “Tube” and “Wolfman’s Brother” to close the set was choice. Set Two is best understood as two distinct sections of groovy music broken up by another new debut in “Shade”. The set had high moments, and although the show as a whole wasn’t other-worldly in Phish standards, it was a worthy start to summer tour and points to more good things to come.
Always a focus for obvious reasons, Big Red seemed to have a similar swagger on display last night as he boasted during his recent GD 50 appearances. If anything, this bodes well for Phish as a whole because Trey most certainly played as if he was already warmed up and ready to go. With a tone of confidence in both his guitar work and physical energy, and the music sounding relatively tight, accentuated by a strong hint of adventure already brewing in the mix, the recipe for memorable moments in Phishtory seems alive and well for Summer Tour 2015.
Show goers were treated to three new original Phish songs last night- “Blaze On”, Shade”, and “No Men In No Man’s Land (NMINML)”. While the placement of “Shade” was questionable at best, “Blaze On” was a nice addition to a fun first set. But the “NMINML” was the winner. In fact, it might have been the highlight of the night. Laced with a funky rhythm that snapped the crowd back into the show after having their energy drained from the super slow “Shade” played just prior, “NMINML” had that Phishy something that felt like an instant fan favorite last night.
The funk must be acknowledged. We’ll see what gets dropped tonight, but it started early with “Sand”, and with “Wolfman’s” to cap off the first set. Second set kicked off with a solid, interesting take on “Ghost” that truthfully could’ve kept exploring, but was solid for what it was and certainly brought the funk back from set one. But it was the triad of “NMINML”> “Weekapaug Groove” > “Boogie On Reggae Woman” where it seemed the band was saying it’s time to funk out. We all know Phish can drop it when they want too, and last night these funk focused moments were definite highlights where the interplay between the band and audience was on display.
It’s one of the most salient reasons people travel the country to see Phish. No show, no tune, no tour is ever the same. If stagnation is sensed, fans and the band aren’t happy. The first show of summer tour didn’t boast any lengthy improvisational journeys, nor is there really that one jam or moment (except the debut of “NMINML”) that will etch this show in the Phishtory books. However, taken as a whole-even the choice to play “Theme From The Bottom” as the lone encore- this was a show that not only kicked summer tour off well, it took chances. Again, nothing grew to the cosmic places many fans hope for when attending a Phish show, but a fresh setlist, unique jams of moderate length, and a loose, flowy energy has set a good tone in Bend, one that will hopefully keep building over the coming weeks of tour.
As mentioned, for a tour opener, last night was a great Phish show in Bend, OR. Trey Anastasio was mostly on point. There were a few missed notes in “Horn”, and the ripcord at the end of “Ghost” into “Birds Of A Feather” felt forced, but ultimately those micro bumps on the road were far outweighed over the course of a solid night.
If anything from a critical perspective, it sounded as though Trey was fired up, and the rest of the boys still had some warming up to do. Fishman was driving his drum kit, Mike Gordon was thumping his bass, and Page was exploring his keys-especially during the funkier tunes of the evening-but it felt as though Trey was a bit more confident and ready to play, explore, and slay than the rest of his crew.
There were quite a few songs played last night (21), and while that’s not necessarily a lowlight, that many songs for this band does not lend itself to the most patient, exploratory playing. The only really bomb dropped last night was “Shade” deep in set two. Maybe a better call for set one? The energy was stripped right out of the crowd during that portion of the show, and while a debut (or three) on night one of tour is a cool, confident move, it was the placement that felt questionable. Nonetheless, it’s another gorgeous day in this Cascade capital of beer and biking, and everyone in town is stoked for another sold out night of Phish.