On Friday night (9/4/15) Phish returned to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado for their fifth three-show Labor Day run in as many years. The band is hot after their most celebrated tour in years, and in the true spirit of what’s become a ubiquitous Colorado venue for Phish fans, there were some major highlights offered at Friday night’s show that largely outshined the lowlights.
First Set Jamming
With four songs going over ten minutes, and several brief, but salient improvisations last evening’s first set had an energetic burst to it. It may have been packed with songs too, but it was also an hour and twenty-five minutes of solid music to kick off the weekend.
Dropping “Tube” as the first tune of the night got the venue going right from note one, and the move into “Ghost” created a one-two punch blurring the reality of what set it was. The “Ghost” jam covered some ground for the short amount of time it was alive. Patient, and dark towards the end, the signal that the band was willing to go there so early was a welcome sign of what might unfold.
Far from the smoker that was recently played at Magnaball, “Bathtub” continues to play an integral role on this summer tour of Phish. The peak was big, the floor of Dick’s was exploding, and as much as “Yarmouth Road” was a bit of a break in the action, “Bathtub” punctuated close to fifty minutes of compelling music to start the show.
The other high-energy point to set one was “46 Days”. By now a theme had developed where short, but interesting, packed jams had framed set one. However, the lack of overall flow was just as evident with several moments standing out so much more than the rest, the set as a whole lacked cohesiveness. While that theme would also play out in set two, the true take home from set one and the night as a whole was some very high points of crisp music were played, but the almighty flow that’s so crucial to a memorable Phish show was absent.
“Wolfman’s Brother”>”Blaze On”>”Golden Age”
Set two got off to a hot start, ultimately boasting 43+ minutes of quality, exploratory music growing from the initial three songs offered. “Wolfman’s” went for a funk walk, “Blaze On” was arguably the most exploratory take of the night, and “Golden Age” achieved a point that was quite literally on the verge of blasting off. Patience wasn’t necessarily a feature through this selection of tunes, but as was heard from the brief breath of improve in “Tube”, Phish was open to taking chances on night one in Dick’s. What was lacking in terms of lengthier searches in new musical spaces was made up for in tight, concise playing and shorter, but still engaging jams offered at the start of set two.
Overall, night one from the last shows of a spectacular summer 2015 tour leads one to believe the next two nights are full of bright promise. Other highlights, including another short on time, but high on taste take in “Fuego”, another smoking “Walls of the Cave”, and a atypical encore speak to the level of playing on tap last night in Colorado. In the end, as much as quality playing and definitive highs were shared, when the flow is off it tends to disrupt a show when taking a step back after all is said and done. “Roses are Free” was prime to solidify the potential with last night’s show, and while the energy jumped up in unison with the bands playing, the moment was downplayed as a quick transition took over into the next song selection. A hot start to both sets just simply didn’t maintain over the course of the sets played as wholes. Whether it was the fact that as far as fans know, the band didn’t spell anything or offer a gag on the opening night of a Dick’s run for this first time since their Labor day residency began, or in coming off a sizeable break after so many good shows this summer locking back in fully wasn’t accessible last night, the stage is open, set and primed for Saturday night smoker in Commerce City.