The 20-show first leg of Phish Summer Tour 2012 came to a close tonight at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, aka SPAC, in Saratoga Springs, New York. Thanks to creative setlists, fun antics and bursts of improvisational magic, Phish has delivered arguably the best tour of the era. The final show of the leg gave fans ample doses of all three elements in one marathon performance.
Phish went the fan-friendly, singalong route out of the gates by opening with blues-rockers AC/DC Bag and My Soul, funk anthem Camel Walk and the pop-y Sample In A Jar. The band continued to play to the energy in the room with a well-executed take on Wilson and an absolutely scorching Party Time that featured a nasty solo from guitarist Trey Anastasio. A quick run through Gumbo led to the tour’s second Nellie Cane. Next up was our first 2012 debut of the evening, Driver, which was last performed 60 shows ago at MSG on December 30, 2010. Another rare ballad, If I Could, followed soon thereafter which marked the first time Phish has played the beautiful original twice on one leg of a tour since Fall ’95. Split Open and Melt served as the improvisational meat of the set as the quartet patiently built the evil jam to a strong peak. The biggest surprise of the opening stanza came at the end, when Phish dusted off their cover of ZZ Top’s La Grange for the first time since September 22, 1999 (301 shows), the 204th different song the Vermonters had played on the tour.
Following an Axilla I second set opener, Phish called on Light, one of the best jam vehicles of the tour. Trey sang the same verse twice at the start of the song and apologized for it mid-verse. The quartet quickly entered the orbits, embarking on a fantastic improvisational journey to a gorgeous jam space they patiently explored. There would be no “ripcording” as Twist emerged organically out of the must-hear SPAC Light. This Twist saw Anastasio employ an especially dirty tone for his solo while keyboardist Page McConnell worked Bernie Worell-esque clavinet jabs into the mix. Not the longest Twist, but a good one. Kill Devil Falls drove the crowd wild and just when it seemed the standard romp through the song was over, Phish extended the ending beyond the tune’s normal boundaries for a few marvelous minutes. My Friend, My Friend continued to build the energy to a fevered peak when the mid ’90s song suite Swept Away > Steep – both tour debuts (songs #205 and #206) – gave the audience a much-needed chance to catch its breath.
[Photo from @Phish_FTR]
The seamless set continued with Piper and what a Piper it was. Trey began his solo with a shredfest before all four members of the band turned a corner into a pretty, major-key improvisation that featured McConnell on his beloved Wurlitzer 160p electric piano. Anastasio then settled in on an anthemic riff that he varied ever so slightly with great effect as Page, Mike and Fish followed his lead. Around the 12 minute mark (!!!) this “tour highlight” Piper jam faded into a ambient space and eventually gave way to Free. After Free Fishman swung his mic around and joined Anastasio in chanting Kung, our 207th different song of the tour. Harry Hood was notable for the speed at which the guitarist started his solo. Red laid rapid-fire riffs down from the get go, but instead of quickly hitting the peak, Trey relentlessly tied one delicious lick into another at this same fast pace for the length of a normal Hood jam – an all killer, no filler solo. Cavern was expected to end the set, yet the band wasn’t ready to stop. A fierce, above-average David Bowie finally brought the uninterrupted, cover-less closing stanza to an end. Upon returning for the encore, Page thanked the crowd and the crew for a wonderful tour. With that, Phish launched into only the second You Enjoy Myself of the tour. There was no doubt Trey was the MVP on this night (just count all the times we mentioned him in this recap) and YEM was no different. Anastasio channeled Santana in slicky and effortlessly building his solo into a frenzy. A fitting end to a fantastic tour. Phish returns for the second leg on August 15.
Here’s The Skinny for Phish at SPAC – Night Three…
- Venue Capacity / Attendance / Type: 25,100 / 17,000 (Estimate) / Amphitheater
- Previous Shows at Venue: 10 Shows – 07/27/1992, 07/10/1994, 06/26/1995, 06/19/2004, 06/20/2004, 08/16/2009, 06/19/2010, 06/20/2010, 07/06/2012 and 07/07/2012
- Number Of Songs / Length – First Set: 13 / 8:14 PM – 9:36 PM (82 Minutes)
- Number Of Songs / Length – Second Set & Encore: 14 / 10:09 PM – 12:09 (120 Minutes)
- Total Number of Songs / Covers / Originals: 27 / 3 / 24
- Biggest Bustout: La Grange – 301 Shows [LTP – 09/22/1999]
- Debuts: N/A
- Weather: 74°F Partly Cloudy
- Wardrobe: Trey – Blue and White Checkered Long-Sleeve Button-Down Shirt and Jeans / Mike – Black Polo Shirt and Jeans / Page – Navy Short-Sleeve Button-Down Shirt and Jeans / Fish – Dress
- Average Song Gap: 25.52
- The Spread: Junta – 3, Lawn Boy – 1, Picture of Nectar – 1, Rift – 1, Hoist – 2, Billy Breathes – 3, Farmhouse – 3, Joy – 2, Misc. – 8, Covers – 3,
- Longest LivePhish Track / Shortest LivePhish Track: YEM 20:40 / Swept Away :59
- Audio: Live Phish