PHISH – LES SCHWAB AMPHITHEATER, BEND, OR 7/22/15- HIGHLIGHTS & LOWLIGHTS (SHOW REVIEW)

Phish wrapped up their sold out two-night stand at the Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend, OR Wednesday night. The show featured some tasty highlights, but the energy level never exceeded what was offered on Tuesday night. There were some notable moments sprinkled throughout both sets, including the encore, but in reflecting on Bend, arguably the hardest ticket of the 2015 summer tour, it feels as though Wednesday failed to build on the solid base started on the previous night.

Highlights

“Stash”
The Bend shows started and ended early. “Stash” was a welcome treat, and immediately pointed to the potential for the Wednesday show as a whole with virtually the whole Phish catalogue available for play. It’s times like these when song selection is salient and the band made a good call to get things going with an old favorite placed in an atypical location.

“Heavy Rotation”
This Page McConnell original brought an early burst to the night, building from a nice “Winter Queen” jam (even if the early tempo of this particular song had the whole venue at a standstill). What’s notable here, beyond the tunes textured, danceable rhythm, is its potential with Phish. Take a listen back to this one. The ending felt abrupt, but it’s a song that seems as though deeper exploration is plausible down the road.

“Maze”
Far from an all time version, “Maze” was notable on Wednesday in Bend because it brought the energy in the venue to a higher place. Trey’s guitar work was crispy, Page was firing, Mike kept the grove on and Fishman was driving. “Maze” can have a profound effect on a show, and after another Phish debut in “Scabbard”, the song selection and placement here was crucial.

6 Song Second Set
In the 3.0 era of Phish this simple recipe can have dramatic results. A solid upbeat rocker in “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing (ASIHTOS)” to open, followed by a shredding, but short “Waves” had the first twenty minutes of the set flowing well. “Waves” was going somewhere, but it faded and by the time “Farmhouse” entered the space the flow that was growing, was now gone. Still, with only six songs in a set the odds are something will come to life.

“Wingsuit “
Truthfully, this is a questionable highlight as the move out of “Waves” could’ve really been something huge if the next song had some punch to it, something with the flavor of a higher octane. “Wingsuit” did not allow that transition to build, and as much as that is far from a highlight, what’s notable here is the absolute shred fest Trey puts on at the end of the song. Go listen again- it’s worthy.

“Simple”
Deep in set two, we get a “Simple” and the resulting improvisation is some of the more unique music from the two shows played in Bend. Every band member had a moment here as the jam bounced around and found several homes. In the end, that may have been the issue-the fact that one locked-in groove was absent. That said, the band played as a collective here, explored together, and created something fresh. A little more patience and this one could’ve been a juggernaut, but how many times has that happened in the modern era of Phish?

“Bathtub Gin”
It’s never about the encore, but both Bend shows showcased single song finales that were quality tunes, played well, that sent the crowd off into the early evening hours with wide smiles. In fact, the “Bathtub” jam was one of the better improvisational moments of the night. Funny how this happens though, at its apex it felt as though the band could keep going a bit more-either with the evolving jam or into another song cultivated by the newly created space-but alas, that pesky 10 p.m. curfew must have seemed too close for the band to keep going.

Four Debuts
More new songs means the creative juices are in fact flowing. Keeping things fresh after 30 years can’t be easy. But writing new material, arranging songs to be played in the live setting, and then having the confidence to offer them across two sold out shows to open summer tour says something positive in the now for Phish camp.

More Cohesion
There was more cohesiveness in improvisational excursions Wednesday night. Perhaps Phish was just not comfortable enough to settle into “Waves”, or keep exploring in “Simple”. Even a breath during “Heavy Rotation” could have kept that one adventuring for some time. Nonetheless, it seemed Trey was the shinning light on Tuesday, but as much as he continued to shred on Wednesday, maintaining the stoke built from his recent GD 50 journey, the rest of the band was featured in a much more shared fashion on Wednesday night. We still didn’t get anything overly extraordinary across these two shows, but there was certainly enough well played matyerial to illuminate the possibilities of brilliance as tour moves forward.

Lowlights

Low Energy
If there is one major theme from Wednesday it’s the lack of energy felt across set one that ended up bleeding into set two. Truth be told, this was a good show, like Tuesday’s offering. Set one had some old love and new love, and for an early day set it was good enough. The thing is Phish is more than good enough. Couple that with a strong start to set two that simply lost its flow, punctuated in large part to an oddly placed “Farmhouse” and there we have two shows from summer tour that boast definite highlights, but lack that holistic polish that gives a Phish show that truly complete feeling.

Patience in Jamming
Maybe it’s too early in tour, or maybe that’s what was needed at the time, but “ASIHTOS”, “Waves”, and “Simple” all had moments, and all had the opportunity to develop more than what they ended up being. There was once a time when patience was something taken for granted as a Phish fan. Nowadays, many will argue the more patience finds its way back into the mix the more Phish shows will continue to offer that exceptional live music experience that’s literally unattainable from anyone else.

Why end early?
There were rumors floating all over Bend on Wednesday that Phish had paid a little extra to extend their curfew. It’s not the biggest deal in the world that that didn’t happen, but there was 20 minutes left to play last night, and Tuesday’s show had a little more time as well. Seems a bit odd, kind of like Trey and Page acknowledging the Peaches sign in the crowd held up by several fans during the first set, only to kill so many dreams by casting off a ripe opportunity to blow the doors off the venue with the beloved Frank Zappa bustout the fans were calling for (“Peaches En Regalia”). Seriously though, at what ended up being called “The Mini Gorge” by so many, good times were had by all in Oregon, and Phish shared two quality shows to get tour going, but there’s not a person on the road to Shoreline right now not wondering if liftoff will be achieved in California on Friday night.

Phish Setlist Les Schwab Amphitheater, Bend, OR, USA, Summer 2015

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4 Responses

  1. I predict a BIG show tonight. Openers were good but Some bombs are needed for the Cali crowd. Sad to have Shoreline instead of 3 BGCA really but if it’s a big one I’ll take it.

  2. Not a bad rundown of the show, but no mention of the Tube at the end of the 2nd set? That was the highlight of the show, if not both shows.

  3. I can tell your being overly kind. Shows were meh by our standards. If a 9 minute First Tube is the highlight there best be some help on the way

  4. Well Harry, you pretty much nailed that call. Set two last night was straight fire, including the Hood:)

    Stoked you enjoyed First Tube so much TomTom. It did bring an energy spike, as it commonly does, but that’s the thing. It’s a energy boosting tune and wasn’t much different than it usually is. Good for sure, and needed at the time, but not, in my opinion, a huge highlight when looking at that Gin and Simple.

    Maybe so Danny, maybe not. But the Help On The Way did come in a package at Shoreline last night:)

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