In a clear effort to freshen up summer setlists, Phish unveiled no less than 10 one-time covers over the 18 shows the season’s opening leg. Placing some innocently within first sets, and others more dramatically within the depths of second halves, the effects of these songs varied from case to case. A process unseen since the Summer of ’98, it seemed that Phish brought a new cover to the setlist almost nightly. This summer brought a more eclectic bunch of songs than the popular anthems covered twelve years ago, as several songs went unknown until after the show to most fans. Phish also included songs everyone knew, offering a melange of tracks from different genres and eras. It remains to be seen if anything will come of these covers, or if they were just dashes of spice in their respective shows. Regardless of their future, here are the ten covers the band debuted last tour, with a blurb about each. (Every selection has two audio tracks, Phish’s rendition and the original.)
1. “Look Out Cleveland” - The Band, debuted 6.12 I
Opening up the second night of tour, this song’s lyric, “Look Out Cleveland, there’s a storm coming through,” was appropriate on two levels. Not only was inclement weather predicted for the evening, the typhoon of Phish had spun off Chicago, about to devour Blossom Music Center. The song’s Americana feel completely fit Phish’s current vibe, and this opening cover seemed like it was heading much further when the band cut it off for the similarly-vibed, “Ocelot.” If any of these covers are actual candidates to stay in rotation, this one could work quite well.
2. “Instant Karma” - John Lennon, debuted 6.12 II
Coming deep in Blossom’s second set, and completely out of left field, Phish’s cover of Lennon’s classic provided a jolt to an already stellar show. While the band didn’t nail the song, they certainly played it proficiently, as Page did a noble job on the iconic vocal track. One of the covers that provided more excitement exponentially than listening back, the mere inclusion of “Instant Karma” in this slot confirmed that Summer 2010 wouldn’t be the same old shtick.
3. “Cold Water” - Tom Waits, debuted 6.15 I
In this benign addition to Portsmouth’s first set, Phish smoothed out a gritty song, losing something in translation. Adding a loafing groove to the song, the band put their own twist on “Cold Water.” This song neither added or detracted from Virginia’s first set, but I doubt we’ll hear this one again.
4. “Lit O Bit” - Rita Clarke and The Naturals, debuted 6.22 I
Opening Great Woods, I’m not sure anyone knew this jazzy, Dixieland number. A piano-led ragtime feel exuded from this New Orleans-esque cover that got Tuesday night’s show started in fresh fashion. A harmless ditty, this one could come back to the first set rotation to replace a stale oldie, and I wouldn’t mind one bit. A more authentic “Party Time,” this cover provides the same musical feel as Phish’s original.
5. “The Rover” - Led Zeppelin, debuted 6.24 I
Closing one of the strongest first sets of tour, Phish busted out “The Rover” after a powerful “Reba” jam, putting an ripping exclamation point on Camden’s first frame. Collectively nailing the cover, Page tackled the dynamic vocal once again; and if Phish were to keep a song around to polish, this one would work great. A perfect placement helped the debut of “The Rover,” creating a definite buzz going into setbreak. Anytime Phish plays Zeppelin, it seems to work out, and this was no exception.
6. “A Free Man In Paris” - Joni Mitchell, debuted 6.25 I
Mike sang this mellow Joni Mitchell relic from 1974, that translated very well to the Phish stage. Featuring intricate, yet catchy, guitar lines, this tune carries a distinct likability. Again, if Phsh were to replace an over-played ballad with this cover, I’m all for it.
7. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” - Neutral Milk Hotel, debuted 6.26 I
Only after the show did someone inform me that this song comes from one of the most critically-acclaimed Indie albums ever recorded. Once I listened to the wistful original that carries a distinctly melancholy vibe, I thought Phish missed this one altogether. They played this song as if impersonating a house band for a 1950s prom, and the heartfelt emotion of the song didn’t translate. I think Phish is just too happy these days to authentically play music like this. Oh, and doesn’t Trey have an acoustic guitar? That would have been helpful as well.
8. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” – The Rolling Stones, debuted 6.27 II
Emerging seamlessly out of “Ghost” amidst the most adventurous set of tour, Phish never missed a beat in nailing this Stones favorite. Building directly into a “Saw It Again” reprise to close the sequence of summer, the band inserted this newbie in the most dramatic of places. Fitting congruently within the dark set, “Jack Flash” came as a complete surprise bringing the set to an unquestionable peak. There are many Stones songs from Exile I think we’d see before Phish played this one again, but on this night, there was none better.
9. “I Am the Walrus” - The Beatles, debuted 6.29 II
Segueing out of an ambient “Simple” jam in the middle of Canandaigua’s “Mike’s Groove,” “I Am the Walrus” made its own case for cover of the summer. Nailed precisely as if they’d been playing it for years, Phish masterfully incorporated the track from Magical Mystery Tour into their mid-week set. Building dissonant, psychedelic sheets of sound out of the song’s peak, Phish passed through a menacing metal jam on their way to “Weekapaug.” If used well, this song could have an impact should the band choose to keep it around. And with their well-documented affinity for The Beatles, who knows?
10. “Killing In the Name” - Rage Against the Machine, debuted 7.4 II
Saving their last cover for the last set of tour, Phish used the controversial punk cover as a narrative device in “Harpua’s” story that comically retold our the history of America. Creating an immediate implosion, the crowd ate up the profane ’90s anthem, shooting fans back to specific points in their lives. Though clearly part of the show’s tongue-in cheek humor, playing a song about institutional racism in the south on July 4th carries some level of socio-political connotation, intended or not. Regardless of political allusions, this thrashing piece created an indelible highlight from the onslaught of early-summer covers.
Jam of the Day:
An all-time experiential highlight, Phish’s tribute to Michael Jackson on the one-year anniversary of his death will go down as one of the most legendary dance sessions is history. Follow that up with one of the most exploratoty “Lights” of tour, and you’ve got a powerful late-set segment.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
6.18.2010 Comcast Theatre, Hartford, CT < Torrent
6.18.2010 Comcast Theatre, Hartford, CT < Megaupload
This show’s second set is one of the strongest of tour. Opening with “Halley’s > Light > Billy Breathes,” the band clicked early. Adding a groovealicious “Tweezer” and super-charged versions of “Theme” and “Hood” to follow, the flow of the second half couldn’t get much stronger. Coupled with a favorite-filled first set, and a double “Tweezer Reprise” encore, this Nutmeg State throwdown represents Phish’s strongest effort of their Northeast run.
I: Fee, Rift, Wolfman’s Brother, Summer of ’89*, Foam, Possum, The Moma Dance, Julius, Reba, Cavern
II: Halley’s Comet > Light > Billy Breathes, Tweezer > Theme From the Bottom, Harry Hood, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
E: Sleeping Monkey, Tweezer Reprise, Tweezer Reprise
Source: DPA 4023 > Sonosax SX-M2 > Sound Devices 722 (24/96)Tags: 2010, Covers, Summer '10