As Phish stepped on stage for the last time this summer, it was their last performance before their album Joy would be released on September 8th. Instead of relying on classic show-stoppers for their final set of summer, they artistically wove together Joy’s first and last song, creating a forward-looking musical highlight to cap the tour. With the encore at SPAC including “I’ve Been Around,” the band completed their season-long preview of the forthcoming album (that was leaked all over the web just yesterday.)
Instead of dropping the expected and overdue “Mike’s Groove,” “Reba,” or “2001” as focal points of their final frame, Phish used two of their newest songs to craft the musical talking point of their last show, leaving us looking wide-eyed into the future. After watching “Number Line” grow in improvisational scope throughout the second leg, when Phish dropped into its upbeat opening to open the second set, you had to figure it would be the meatiest version yet. And when we walked away from SPAC that night, the conversations certainly centered around the sublime jam that stemmed from their newest launch pad.
Phish broke the noodly mold of the song’s first-leg versions at Red Rocks, and then grew it further at The Gorge and Toyota Park, gradually becoming more and more creative with the jam- but this version would surpass anything that had come before. In a twenty-minute journey, the band took their music to much darker places than previously visited by the song. Beginning with Trey’s altered leads, Mike and Page hopped aboard, shifting the canvas from happy to eerie. Fishman was the last to leave the song’s rhythms, and when he did, things became a whole-band experiment in psychedelic beauty.
Building into the ether, this jam was not only the culmination of all the versions that had come before it, but also a symbolic culmination of Phish 3.0 through Summer ’09. Each version had grown in scope- just as the band had- into its current form; a metaphor for all we have to look forward to. Delving deeper into Phish sorcery than any previous rendition, this “Number Line” developed into a full-on exploration of the dark side of the psyche.
Landing in a lush, ambient forest, the band carefully took in the foreign landscape. And out of this extended amorphous ball of sound came hints of something familiar. Was it “Fast Enough?” “Man Who Stepped?”- thought my mind, racing through the past. No- it was the first creative use of “Twenty Years Later,” and the band seamlessly slid into Joy’s retrospective closer. This was the initial time we really got a feel for the song and its musical drama. Put under the spotlight of the summer’s final set and crawling out of the murky musical fog, the slower composition flowed particularly well, hinting at its versatility.
At a time when Phish could have easily ran through some of their popular classics to finish tour with a bang, they used the first half-hour of the set to explore their newest material, signifying what direction this whole thing is moving. And after creating the most engaging passage of the night with Joy’s bookends, they took it back to the old-school with a “Halley’s,” “Harpua,” and a “YEM” included in the rest of the set. But using their last stage as an illustration, Phish made no bones about previewing their promising future while still honoring their past.
Jam of the Day:
The musical centerpiece of the final show of summer.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
8.16.2009 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY < Torrent
8.16.2009 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY < Megaupload
II: Backwards Down the Number Line > Twenty Years Later, Halley’s Comet > Rock & Roll, Harpua > I Kissed A Girl* > Hold Your Head Up > Harpua, You Enjoy Myself
E: Grind, I Been Around*, Highway To Hell
*first time played
Source: Schoeps MK41>KC5>CMC6>Sonosax SX-M2>Apogee Mini-me(aes out@24 bit/96khz)>COAX>Edirol R-44 SD-HC Card>USB>Soundforge 8 (tracking, resample/dither to 16bit/44.1khz)>FLAC (Taper – Andy Murray)Tags: 2009, Joy, Summer '09