PHISH – The Forum, Inglewood, CA 7/25/15 – Highlights & Lowlights (SHOW REVIEW)

Phish wrapped up their West Coast run last night at the Forum in Inglewood, CA.  The 2015 Summer Tour carries on this week in Texas, and if last night (and Shoreline) is any indication of where things are going musically, fans are in for a major treat. The energy in L.A. was on from the moment the band took the stage, until the moment the house lights went up after the encore. Currently, staring down the barrel of 21 more shows until tour is complete, Phish is playing as well as they have in years.

Highlights

Indoor Phish

It wasn’t a fall tour stop in New England, but the energy in the Forum last night was contagious. Fans were fired up after Shoreline’s improv heavy second set, and seemed overly excited to get a major hit of indoor Phish after three straight outdoor shows. And with this being the first indoor show of summer tour, CK5 had his lighting magic on in full display boasting new patterns, diverse themes, layered in interesting color palates.

First Set  

The first twenty minutes of the set could’ve easily been set two. The energy level was already high, and then the place nearly exploded when Page let us know our trip was short.  Tight, high energy playing followed, framed by concise jamming sprinkled throughout the set. “Heavy Things” had a nice zest at its end, and “Axila I” got people moving as it always does. “Limb By Limb” boasted a hot little outro jam, and a loose, bouncy run through “Ya Mar was well received.

“Martian Monster”

Boom! Who doesn’t love a throw-down opener to kick of a set? Setting a tone is crucial to following through on a good show. This selection was unanticipated, a fun surprise, and had the whole Forum in an all out dance party one minute into the start of the show. Not a bad way to start.

“Down with Disease”

The sheer move to choose this song in the song two location was a gutsy move. How many standout “Disease” jams have we heard in recent years? I know I’m far from the only one who hoped this one would take off, and although it was short in the scheme of things, go back and listen to how tight the jam was. Trey seemed to be locked in on the mighty Bill Walton during a large portion of this jam, and whether it’s because Bill stood out so much in the pit, or more so based on their recent run-ins at the Fare Thee Well shows, it doesn’t matter, because it worked.

“Fuego”>”Walls of the Cave”

After an interesting start to the show and a good look at keeping the energy going, Phish offered 23 strong minutes to lead us into set break. “Fuego” had Mike Gordon dropping deep bombs while Trey once again ramped up the energy level, shredding his way into “Walls of the Cave”. “Walls” signaled the end of the set, and it did so in fine fashion making sure no one was left wondering if Phish would bring it after such a strong performance the night before at Shoreline.

phishforum2

Set Two

This review will use the word energy too many times. Why? Because it was so high last night and it is such an important part to a Phish show. That, and flow. More specifically, the flow of a set and a show taken holistically. It really shouldn’t ever matter what Phish plays so long as they play it well, and if they are sending, chances are they’re locked in flow seamlessly making it look and feel as easy as possible. At Shoreline we got 46 minutes of brilliance to kick off the second set. Last night it was 45 minutes. Is there a theme going on here…

“No Men In No Man’s Land (NMINML)”

If you caught the last four Phish shows then you were treated to two standout versions of the new Phish song, “NMINML”. Bend’s version was a major highlight to the show as was last night’s second set opener. The funky texture of this song is a recipe for success. The potential to go big by way of exploratory jamming has been glazed in its first two offerings, and my bet is before the end of the Dick’s run, there’ll be at least one “NMINML” that goes deep.

“Carini”> “Tweezer”

Let’s face it. We all have favorite Phish songs, and these two are among many fans absolute favorites. The fact is they’re both uniquely Phish tunes, and they both hold the ability to act as massive jam vehicles. In an odd twist of sorts, that vehicle didn’t really get going last night. Both versions were short, far shorter than many fans would normally hope for. But what each lacked in terms of time played they made up for in extremely tight, focused playing by Trey and the rest of the band. “Carini” came into being after a smooth move from “NMINML”, and “Tweezer” did the same after some interesting space formed in “Carini”. These three songs together clocked in at less than thirty minutes. To the avid listener this sounds off, doesn’t it?  Go have yourself a listen and check back in. That is straight fire Phish right there.

“My Friend, My Friend (MFMF)” > “Roggae”

After a short “Carini” we get a short “Tweezer”?! It felt way too soon to move out of “Tweezer”.  The music being explored was edgy, dark, and had the crowd hanging on every note. The thing is the segue into “MFMF” was so smooth, just as smooth as the other two segues that had preceded it earlier in the set. The flow at this point was in full effect. The feeling was one of a continuous groove where every note felt in place. “Roggae” was the landing gear for the massive movement going on in set two. It was the breather, but it also felt right, and the jam to its end was the first actual moment of pause since the set began.

“Backwards Down The Number Line (BDTNL)” > “Slave to the Traffic Light”

I admit it. It’s still hard for me to swallow “BDTNL”. But as it’s been said, it doesn’t matter what’s played, it’s how it’s played. The jam at the end of “BDTNL” had Trey once again on fire, creating new places to insert compelling music. The energy built one more time in the venue and then there was “Slave”. Arguably one of the sharper versions in 3.0, in a medium where perfection is a utopian dream, this “Slave” was about the most perfect call possible to end a magnificent set, and overall standout show at The Forum.

“You Enjoy Myself (YEM)” Encore

It was still out there, lingering. As much as a quality “Tweezer Reprise” is perpetually a hit at shows, and there was enough time to pair it with something else from the top-shelf, how about a special take on “YEM” to bid the West Coast farewell. One last time, the crowd was empowered in Southern California, and there was even a true Phishy moment when Trey walked up behind Mike and managed to get his hands on the bass, while Mike switched to his guitar. It didn’t work quite as well when Mike tried to get Page to play his bass, but the jam was fun, and the moment was a cherry on top of a fat sundae sort of show.

Lowlights

For the critical ones out there the lowlights from the Forum are easy to pick out. A ten song first set is somewhat standard in the 3.0 era of Phish.  There were three repeats last night when looking at the run as a whole. In fifteen minutes the band played not one, but two of their most beloved rockers in “Carini” and “Tweezer”, to which some would say was a wasted opportunity to explore. In addition, one might say there was not one “lengthy”, singular, standout jam, a theme shared across the sum of the West Coast run. While those points could be unpacked further, they ultimately fail to stand up.

It’s hard to say there was a better set played over the past four shows than set two from Shoreline. From a purely improvisational perspective that could hold up, but the energy and flow at the Forum hasn’t been felt in too long. We all go to Phish shows for various reasons. Some love the detailed compositions, some chase rarely played songs, and many go for the opportunity to hear a purely unique form of live improvisational music. Regardless of esoteric reason, energy and flow are cherished at a Phish show. The Forum show had those cards in spades. If the band can in fact build from the West Coast base they have cultivated for the remainder of summer tour, by mid September, there’s going to be much to celebrate in the world of Phish.

Phish Setlist The Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA, Summer 2015

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3 Responses

  1. Do “hardcore” Phish fans have to dismiss shows like this because there was no long jamming? Serious question btw…

  2. …some great Phish shows? Is that what you were going for, onyx:)?

    Kevin, Phish fans are a special breed. The overly analytical, critical perspective is no doubt born from a true appreciate and love for the music. But yes, there will ALWAYS be fans that simply look at the times of songs and dismiss them, or sets, or whole shows in the absence of big, long jams. I can understand this, because I still go to shows for many reasons, one of them being the hope to hear purely unique improvisations like the Centrum “Runaway Jim” back in 97′, the Camden “Chalkdust” from 99, or even the more recent “Tahoe Tweezer”. But the Forum show, as I said in the review, was all about energy and flow. Shoreline set two will hold up indefinitely for its jams, but to dismiss this Forum show because there were no long jams (excluding “YEM”, which is usually 20ish minutes anyway) is missing the Zen of a Phish show. Of course that’s just my opinion, but if you were there, or at least if you’ve had a listen by now, start to finish, tell me that wasn’t a hot show? I’ll take Phish playing like that any day, especially when compared to a set/show where there’s no flow, they’re trying to hook up, and it doesn’t work. That happens, and taking chances are essential for this band to achieve liftoff, but they did get there in L.A., it was just more movement and less searching.

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