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

Tags: ,

596 Responses to “A Fox Fantasy”

« Previous12345678...2324Next »
  1. Mr.Miner Says:

    not sure why comments were off to begin with….comment away!

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    my second half of the review got cut off….jesus…gonna see what i can do….dammit!

  3. Mike Russo Says:

    ok… your article is broken 🙂

  4. HarryHood Says:

    @ Miner

    Looks like your write-up got cut off as well.

    It ends like this on my screen:

    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,%

  5. HarryHood Says:

    ^ Sorry, didn’t catch your second comment. I’ve enjoyed the first part of your post though……. now I’ll just wait patiently for the rest. haha

  6. tela'smuff Says:

    haven’t heard the show, but i totally expected them to not deliver ont he hugeness of playing the Fox. They had to be tired after Roo, plus, it’s Phish. When you expect something big, it’s not gonna happen.

    BUT, that 2nd set setlist looks pretty nice. Love Sleep! My buddy was beggin for McGrupp at Roo. Is that the first time McGrupp has been played in an encore slot? Wow.

  7. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    Err, Houston? Problem?

  8. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    Miner, coming at the big show with some criticism. I like it, I guess. This one is for all the people who think that this blog is nothing but superlatives, and every show is the “best ever” write-ups.

    I look forward to the second half of the review. It is possible to criticize without PT-style negativity.

  9. HarryHood Says:

    @ Tela

    According to PT’s song stat page, it is in fact the only time that McGrupp’s been played as an encore.

  10. Mr.Miner Says:

    Got the review back in shape…thank god for auto save! And fwiw, I had a blast last night- it just didn’t hold up musically to the last week…

  11. Mr.Miner Says:

    sure McGrupp was great to hear…I’m not a bust-out kinda guy though 😉

  12. Phnom Pencil Says:

    Hey there

    Just want to say thanks to Mr. Miner, for writing these great reviews. I’m living in Cambodia and have been downloading the official SBDs. It’s great to come in to work and watch the setlists take shape while I’m drinking my morning coffee, then reading your reviews after I finish work.

    Still working on developing the fan base here… gf is enjoying the more accessible stuff such as NICU, Heavy Things. Despite having grown up as a peasant, tho, she still thinks Let me Lie is corn through and through… so don’t worry, it’s not our skewed vision caused by being spoiled by the band’s prowess.

  13. camman Says:

    hey everybody,

    jsut wanted to let all the folks on this site who have been really encouraging to me over the past half year know that i finally saw my first phish show! thats right! the Fox was my first show and i got some what miracaled with an orchestra ticket for 155 bucks! anyways i had an amazing time at the show and the band DID JAM just check out the reba… there was much more to this show then just straight ahead rocking… i nearly lost my mind during that Time Turns Elastic ending jam and the Mike’s Groove….

  14. tela'smuff Says:

    i just like McGrupp for being McGrupp. didn’t say anything about a bustout. but it is certainly worth noting as an encore.

    bring on Starlake bitches!!!!

    This Ocelot jam is pretty nice. That’s actually a hot one-two opener in KDF>Ocelot. The beginning of COelot is totally like They Love Each Other.

  15. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ Cheers Phnom! That’s awesome!

  16. HarryHood Says:

    Great review Miner. Honest and to the point. I guess that it sucks if you only have tickets to one show of the summer and you end up at the one that just never quite builds the momentum that we love. That is why it’s important that we all take our own advice and not have any expectations. I personally like that that guys are just playing how they feel like playing and occasionally they are going to play a “chill” show like GW and apparently Fox as well.

  17. tela'smuff Says:

    getting miracled and paying $155 for a ticekt doesn’t make sense. Getting miracled used to mean getting a ticket handed to you and you desperatly wiggled your finger in the air!

  18. camman Says:

    tela.. it was virtually impossible to get a ticket under 350 bucks… ever person i talked to paid that much and i asked over 100 people…

  19. HarryHood Says:

    @ Tela

    Agreed on the miracle issue. But times have definitely changed. With as hard as tickets are to come by for some venues now, I’d say that $155 bucks for an orchestra seat at the Fox as a first-timer would probably qualify in the miracle category. haha

  20. camman Says:

    it was a somewhat miracle… but not a total mircale… i didnt want to wait all my mircale points at one show. you only get so many!!!!!

  21. RobAins Says:

    Camman:: Glad to hear you had a good time at your first show! That’s what it’s all about.

  22. Phnom Pencil Says:

    “Halley’s Comet” as the highlight… never know what to expect.

    I heard the Jones Beach “Boogie On” and was mesmerised… is this Page-centred playing of the song a 2.0 or 3.0 innovation? Cuz I didn’t pay much attention to their inter-hiatuses… or is it interhiati… period.

  23. Matso Says:

    I can see how this show might not live up to certain expectations, but I suspect the confluence of incredible venue and a setlist featuring some of the band’s more delicate songs (eg. B&R, Frankie, Sleep, TTE, McGrupp) would still have made it a great night and unusual in the context of a summer characterised by big rock ‘n roll shows. I for one expected them to play to the audience’s attentiveness as opposed to its desire for more raging.

    As someone who will not see the band once this summer, the only part of the above review which irked me a bit was this:

    “My group of friends all laughed in jest as the band busted into yet another “Possum” to end the first set.”

    I don’t expect 100% enthusiasm all the time, but if you’re tired of hearing a perfectly decent and rocking Phish song, then you’ve been on tour too long. Miner, maybe you and your gang should sit out a night this weekend? 😉 (It’s like the No Music Day for people on tour – no music for a day makes you appreciate it so much more). If the Fox was my first show of the tour (or first show ever), I would have been pretty damn happy to hear Trey shred a nice Possum.

  24. KRIVRAQ Says:

    Fishman abruptly cutting a great jam short to end the first set??? Not the first time he’s done that this Tour—see JB Split Open

  25. HarryHood Says:

    Camman,

    I’ve been seeing shows since ’96 and I still spent a bunch of dough on tickets for the three shows I’m seeing this summer. If you don’t have connections or incredible luck with the lottery, it’s expensive. Unless you are willing to wait it out and chance it, secondary ticket outlets are the only way to have a ticket in hand before the show. I’m not a patient person, so it costs me. $300 for 2 at Fenway, $300 for 2 at GW, and $250 for 2 at SPAC. I commend you for going ticketless and trying your luck. You probably still made out better than I would have!

« Previous12345678...2324Next »

Leave a Reply