In a strong follow up to Fenway’s opener, Phish used a large chunk of high energy shredding and some truly sublime improv to thrill the New York Metro Area crowd on Long Island last night. In a show that boasted two solid sets from start to finish, while playing for hours, Phish shattered new territory within the course of a single jam in the second set.
After shredding apart a precise- yet safe- second set, Phish leapt off the diving board of the universe into music’s primordial soup. Within the course of one “Harry Hood,” Phish redefined what is possible within a live music experience, creating a jaw-hanging, ambient introspective journey. Using one of their most hallowed pieces, Phish forged into the future with other-worldly improv that left everyone at the concert buzzing and in awe. Fans of all ages and from all walks of life recognized that something special had happened- and it was good. It was bigger than music, bigger than Phish- bigger than us. Tapped into the source, Phish delicately crafted one the most stunning pieces of improvisation we have heard- maybe ever. Following ambient hints at the beginning of the jam, Phish launched into a full-scale ambient-space exploration of their most sacred piece. In the course of twenty-plus minutes, Phish redefined why they are my favorite band, and reaffirmed the fact that there are no other four human beings on the planet capable of channeling the power and energy of life like the Phish from Vermont. I’ll let the band take it from here.
Despite perhaps the deepest “Hood” ever played (yes- including all those ’94-’95 epics and post-hiatus adventures), the first set carried more overall weight than the second. As Phish started the night on the beach with the early-‘90’s classic combo of “Jim,” “Foam,” the show had the feeling of something special right from the start. Batting third was one of the most intriguing debuts that we have heard so far, “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan.” Hearkening echoes of the barely-played “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” Phish’s newest addition seems to be set for the heart of the beast. Merely introducing the template and hinting where the song could go, the band’s dark, dripping improv left imaginations drooling over future versions. The lyrical path, with the refrain, “I got a blank space where my mind should be,” adds some intrigue to a song that will be create more than a few adventures this summer.
But the true highlights of the first set were yet to come. With the combination of a sinister “Timber Ho!” and a tar-thick “Cities,” the band threw down a smoking chunk of improv in the middle of the first set. And following the interlude of “Driver,” they were back at it again, dropping Summer ‘09’s first “Reba.” Following a distinctly clean composed section, Phish launched into one of their most intricate versions in recent memory. Taking the jam for a dynamic ride, Phish didn’t stick with groove, bringing the jam down to near silent points, only to bounce back into one of the most spine-tingling guitar peaks the song has ever seen. This was not your father’s Oldsmobile- Phish is playing differently than we have heard in a long time- with such care and patience to their focused improv. The old adage, “You can accomplish anything if you set your mind to it,” has never seemed more applicable.
The set ended with one of the most emotional moments of the night, as Phish unveiled “If I Could” for the first time in nine years- since PNC 2000- where it also ended the first set. Yet this time it was different. Without ever hitting a “groove,” and without Trey ever hitting a knee-buckling solo, the band created a musically gentle- yet emotionally walloping- version of the the ballad that everyone’s been waiting years to hear. It was worth the wait. Ending the set without ever returning to the song’s chorus, the music spoke for itself in one of the night’s shining moments.
With a show that only left us counting the hours until Thursday, and wondering what song may bring us face to face with our maker then, Phish showed us why this is all happening. Breaking musical ground and inventing new ways melt us into nothing, Phish is on tour again, and we are lucky to be along for the ride.
I: Runaway Jim, Foam, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan*, Timber Ho!, Cities, Driver, Reba, Farmhouse, Possum, If I Could
II: Mike’s Song > Simple > Wolfman’s Brother > Weekapaug Groove, When the Circus Comes, Kill Devil Falls*, Harry Hood, Loving Cup
E: Suzy Greenberg
* First Time Played
NO SPOILERS UPDATE:
Many apologies for the delay with “No Spoilers” last night. With a shoddy web connection, I wasn’t able to seed the torrents when I got back to where I was staying, and Alexander K. went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure our project lived on. Driving over 30 miles to the nearest reliable internet source in the middle of the night, AK-47 made it happen! We will make every effort to have a reliable upload terminal on lock-down from here on out. Thanks for your patience .Tags: 2009, Summer '09