Building off of a fierce last night at Jones Beach, Phish wowed the New England crowd with a show that felt more evenly balanced between the sets and featured tight, focused playing from the entire band from note one until the last. With a setlist comprised of a slew of songs we hadn’t yet heard this tour, a classic venue, and a fully-ripping band, it finally felt like tour was truly underway as Great Woods blew up on the first Saturday night of the Summer.
The first set had a completely fresh feel, featuring all but one song that hadn’t been played through Fenway and Jones Beach. The set started off with some singles and built into some stretched out pieces with a dynamic “Jibboo,” a soaring “Taste,” and a regal “Caspian” featuring some gorgeous phrasing by the man in red. “Taste” turned into the improvisational highlight of the first set, with a tight, soaring jam that saw again Trey playing searing leads to complement the band’s textured jamming.
If one thing has been proven over these first five shows it is that Trey is back on the scene; assertive, ripping, and leading jams, as opposed to his self-admittedly tentative playing over most of Hampton. A huge energetic centerpiece of the first set was the 3.0 bust-out of “Golgi”- a crowd favorite that went unplayed over the reunion. The welcome inclusion of “Nothing,” played far more tightly than in its two post hiatus appearances, showed us that Phish isn’t going to completely shy away from their post-hiatus material, and showed that we can expect to hear any song from any era at any time. In that vein, Phish debuted their newest ballad, “Let Me Lie,” a poignant translation of the former TAB song that came across beautifully.
The energetic second set began with more post-hiatus material in an explosive guitar-led exploration of “Seven Below.” Trey was on fire in what certainly developed into the jam of the show. Moving beyond your standard “Seven Below” into some dirty and psychedelic playing, the improv didn’t quite make it outside of the song’s structure, but provided an exilhirating journey nonetheless. Trey straight annihilated this jam, leaving a vibrant musical wake behind him. Following the shred-fest came one of the most flawless “Fluffheads” we’ve heard in ages. We’d have to go back more than a decade to find one this clean and triumphant, as each segment was played confidently and without hesitation, all ending with a massive peak. As good of an opening to a set as you could ask for, Phish was firing on all cylinders on the first rainless night of summer tour.
The rest of the set featured some twang with a concise and precise “Scent of a Mule” and an exciting “Possum” whose jam moved beyond bluegrass and was reminiscent of pre-’97, more full-on psychedelic incarnations. Featuring some focused interaction between Mike and Trey and a surprisingly danceable jam, this one had everyone out of their seat. Sandwiched between the pieces of Phishgrass was the combination of a high-spirited and somewhat extended “Heavy Things” and another huge “Harry Hood.” With a tightly improvised jam that stretched beyond the confines of a normal “Hood,” it certainly seems that the band has recommitted to their classic, and I couldn’t be happier about the decision.
If you had told me before the show that I’d leave glowing after a second set that showcased “Scent of a Mule,” “Possum,” and “Julius,” I would have guffawed, as they happen to be at the bottom of a long list of songs that I would prefer to hear. However on this night everything worked perfectly and even as the sense of an ominous “Bowie” closer was supplanted by a “Bug” that brought us one final colossal Trey solo of the night, the pieces all fell into place. Leaving Great Woods things were full steam ahead for Camden, the end of summer’s first four-night run. See you there!
I: Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Nothing, Back on the Train, Golgi Apparatus, Sparkle, Gotta Jiboo, Lawn Boy, Let Me Lie*, Makasupa Policeman, Prince Caspian
II: Seven Below, Fluffhead, Scent of a Mule, Heavy Things, Harry Hood, Possum, Bug
E: Contact, Julius
*debutTags: 2009, Summer '09