A Fox Fantasy

The Fox (@rstrauss)

6.16.09 The Fox (@rstrauss)

Stepping from the summer’s biggest stage to its smallest, Phish entered St. Louis’ Fabulous Fox Theatre Tuesday night, in a show that was circled since the tour’s announcement as the night of the summer. Ironically, for the performance that people flew across the country for and paid upwards of $400 get into, Phish played an underwhelming show that stood out as the least engaging of the Southern Run.  While nothing was played poorly, the band played a straight-ahead rocker that featured little improvisation in a show that couldn’t possibly live up to its hype.  The theatre was beautiful, it sounded great, and the lights looked spectacular with the full-rig contained in such at tiny space.  The stage was set for Phish to blow up- but they didn’t.  Nonetheless, the experience was of Phish at the Fox was certainly unique and we were left with a few musical highlights from a mid-week stop in the “Gateway to the West.”

"Slave" 6.16.09 (@yemblog)

"Slave" 6.16.09 (@yemblog)

In a first set that many contained many classic songs, the two improvisational highlights lied in the second-song “Ocelot” and the set-closing “Slave.”  The playful “Ocelot” stretched into its most interesting rendition yet, as Trey’s solo led the band in what might be considered the songs first “jam.”  Phish’s songs sounded pristine, crisp, and loud in The Fox, bringing a special appreciation for songs like “Brian & Robert,” “Rift,” and “Horn,” and a short, but very sweet “Reba.”  My group of friends all laughed in jest as the band busted into yet another “Possum” to end the first set.  But instead of stopping there, the band dropped the tour’s second “Slave,” and it was stunning.  A jam that built with utmost delicacy resonated through the theatre, seeming like the song was made for the environment.  A piece of Phish beauty, this was a throwback to the theatre days of ’93 and ’94 as Phish crafted a tightly woven tale of pure magic.  Though as the band was in the middle of peaking the jam, someone (Fishman, from memory), abruptly moved into the closing segment, causing a more-than-awkward ending to an otherwise gorgeous version.

As the lights dropped for set two, it certainly felt like the band was going to throw down the gauntlet, and with a “Halley’s”opener, the course was set.  Entering some rock grooves right out of the gate, it was evident we were finally seeing the band improvise on the rarity once again, and that mere fact was great.  In the clear highlight of the show, the band creatively drove the jam within the lines for quite a while before eventually segueing into an ambient segment that seemed to point towards something huge.  Emerging out of the murkiness came a surprise second-set “Runaway Jim” that received more intense treatment than its first-set summer counterparts, creating a searing cap to the set-highlight amidst the regal surroundings.

"Reba" 6.16.09 (@yemblog)

"Reba" 6.16.09 (@yemblog)

What came next was the slowest portion of any second-set in recent memory.  Beginning interestingly with the tour’s first “Frankie Says” (aka “Relax”), the band included some brief improv to the song, adding a bit of intrigue to the second-set bust out whose music seemed appropriately placed in The Fox.  However, after relaxing, the band again centered the slow, fifteen-minute composed “Time Turns Elastic” squarely in the second set.  Even the ornate surroundings couldn’t justify the song’s placement in a set which never truly recovered.  Following, “Time Turns Elastic,” the band inexplicably selected “Sleep” to complete the nearly jam-less half-hour. “Relax > Elastic > Sleep.” Hmmm.

The band obviously had to drop something significant at this point in the set, and they went with “Mike’s Groove.”  The “Mike’s” bounced off the walls, creating a larger-than-life feel in the tiny theatre- a certain experiential highlight- though the song’s improv remained standard.  A brief run through “Weekapaug’s” composed jam capped any sort of full-band improv of the night, as Phish closed the set with “Booogie On” and “Charater Zero.” Many will say “Boogie On” was a highlight, but in reality, all they did was spotlight Page’s outstanding clav solo amidst some pedestrian funk- great for some, boring for others.

Getting Into The Fox (@yemblog)

Getting Into The Fox (@yemblog)

Experientially, the show at The Fox was no doubt something special, but musically- it honestly wasn’t.  The “Slave” and the “Halley’s > Jim” will find their way onto end-of-tour compilations, but everything else was pretty much straight ahead playing.  The band never got the improvisational itch during a show that follwed Bonnaroo’s blowout with some of the best jamming of the tour.  Maybe that wasn’t the point of last night, but the show sure felt far lighter than any show since Great Woods.  Looking towards the last four nights of leg one- the return to the Phishy haunts of Star Lake, Deer Creek, and Alpine- all seem to be no-brainers.  Three venues, highlights on the map of any summer tour, mean even more on this first run through in 2009.  As we leave the mid-week hype behind us, we are about to enter the land of plentiful under-face tickets, and enough room for everyone, as Phish will conclude their early-summer tour with a four-night run that is sure to produce plenty of Midwestern music for our listening and dancing pleasure.

I: Kill Devil Falls, Ocelot, Brian & Robert, Sample in a Jar, Rift, Ya Mar, Reba, Train Song, Horn, Possum, Slave to the Traffic Light

II: Halley’s Comet > Runaway Jim, Frankie Says, Time Turns Elastic, Sleep, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Character Zero

E: Star Spangled Banner, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, While My Guitar Gently Weaps

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596 Responses to “A Fox Fantasy”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Jon – my wife and I both (separately, but at the same exact show in NC) saw Maiden in the early 80s with Metallica opening, when we were very young. So we went to see them in Tacoma a few years ago. It was epic to say the least. It straddled the line perfectly between authentically awesome and cheesy/ironic awesome.

    @f0ol – why? Jerry loved technology, and loved having fun. He was into computers before most people. He didn’t take stuff too seriously, himself included. Maybe he would see it as a way people could share in the music, and a way to reach out to young music lovers. I dunno. I certainly can’t guess what Jerry would have liked, except hot dogs w/mayo.

  2. huh Says:

    what does NS stand for?

  3. oneshowatatime Says:

    anyone have a teleportation module i can borrow to get out to AV and back?

  4. wanderin Says:

    looks like it was a fun show….looking forward to the no spoilers

  5. halcyon Says:

    that whole deal with cactus was a case of poor choices….charges were dropped after he got dropped….old news

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    grind as the only encore? surprising

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    whoa, no it isn’t – wow

  8. Twiggy Says:

    And there’s Henrietta? Had been wondering if he had been shelved. Guess not!

  9. nonoyolker Says:

    Show looks bomb! Can’t wait to give it a spin manana.

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    can’t say I saw THAT encore coming

    …and now Loving Cup taboot

    OK fellas, we get it, you’re not tired anymore!

  11. hairy pood Says:

    sick setlist

  12. Summer98 Says:

    Setlist looks great. Can’t wait to here this one. What’s up with the long encores? Not that I’m complaining.

  13. Mugician Says:

    Damn. Father’s day…. who put that there?!! I really would go to AV in a heartbeat if it weren’t Father’s day this weekend.

  14. Mugician Says:

    Can’t wait for the NS tomorrow.

  15. butter Says:

    kev, i agree with you that by starting kdf, ocelot, b + r, at the only theatre show of the tour/ (and for that matter, who knows when the next one will be) if DEFINITELY feels as if Phish is fucking with us. As for calling the end of McGrupp “metal”…not so sure thats metal. I’ll give you that it gets a little harder than the cheery, dreamy narrative first half of the song. If i were to play that part of the song for my friends that actually like metal and ask them what they think, they probably would label it “jamband”. Anyway your review of the show is pretty right on. I was there and felt jipped during segments of the show.
    As for the argument that Phish only gets paid 1/8 of a normal show for playing an intimate theatre show, so they can do whatever they want, i must say BITCH PLEASE!!! The boys are financial sound to say the least. I would hate to believe they are looking at a profit margin and having that determine how hard they are going to set it out.
    The feelings i had when i was on the flight home from Hampton was ones of rejuvenation, hope, awe, inspiration, and astonishment. Along with a rekindled belief of human beings being able to overcome adversity and make monumental comebacks.
    I hate to admit this, but the flight home from St Louis brought back similar feelings of the flight home from Coventry. Now don’t get me wrong, St Louis had highlights, and phish nuggets that I will cherish for ever and the theatre was over the top.
    I am probably jaded because that’s the one show i picked of the first leg. Having RR thru Gorge tix is cheering me up already!!! enjoy dc you dogs

  16. SolarGarlic Says:

    Mr. Miner,

    Just want to say thanks for the mostly honest reviews of these shows. It’s so hard to find people who are not totally blind with infatuation or jaded to the point of pessimism. Great to hear the SBD and then read your review and hear about the REALLY rough ending to the first set and some other not-so-great moments. It’s nice to have a source that can honestly comment on some shortcomings without trashing the entire show or band. Thanks! And keep up the good work!!!

  17. strangebass Says:

    This show was really cool for me. I enjoyed the more delicate Phish songs and TTE was pretty cool, it is much better live. This was my first Phish show and it was certainly an amazing experience for me! see y’all at Deer Creek!

  18. oneshowatatime Says:

    as always, just want to express how much i appreciate this blog. it’s so nice to read reviews, comments, opinions from intelligent open minded people. sorry, i’m high. end short rant/ramble.

  19. Jon Bailey Says:

    Last night looks solid…..I wasn’t there but the set list on paper looks sweet!!

    Miner – I need a review!!!

    Thanks bud!

  20. figgins Says:

    Anyone know what the set break music is? First few minutes of NS set 2 are pretty cool.

  21. jc Says:

    that slave was trash. are u kidding me?

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