Phish closed a game-changing summer tour with an exquisite final statement on the waters of Long Island Sound at Jones Beach Wednesday night. Sculpting one of the defining sets of 2010 with their final frame, the band crocheted a musical tapestry that contained improvisational strength, undeniable flow and setlist fire. Coupled with an opening half filled with anthems from “Disease” to “Antelope,” the tour finale culminated a transformative summer for Phish – a quartet that sounds far different than one year ago.
While the band continued to progress all summer long, the season’s final four – Alpine and Jones Beach – saw a new level of sonic cooperation. Finally armed with unabashed confidence and the willingness to play within the context of others’ ideas, Trey has provided the final piece of the puzzle to a fully realized Phish. After this summer’s second leg, we need not talk about when Phish will hit their full stride again; over the past weeks, they have certainly accomplished that. No longer striving for proficiency, the band has freed themselves to explore new frontiers again. And over the past fortnight, they certainly gave us a glimpse of the future with many lead-less excursions stemming from collective musical motion. All of these elements converged on the final night of summer tour in an explosive display of all things right in the Phish universe.
The band strung together several crowd favorites in the first set, capturing the local Northeastern audience with their only versions of August. The greatest hits vibe of the first set reached an improvisational peak in “Ocelot” and “Bathtub Gin.” In one of the more creative and climactic versions to date, “Ocelot” came out for a significant play session before Phish punctuated an incredibly strong summer of “Bathtub Gins” with one more first-set barn-burner. Hitting an early groove, Fishman, drummer revolutionized this summer, and Mike (a man revolutionized long ago) held down a dancy rhythm while Trey infused several multi-note runs into to mix. Harnessing the full sound of his new guitar – the singular most important treasure in the current state of Phish – Red let his passion flow in a triumphant farewell to summer. The unlikely pairing of “Tube” and “Destiny Unbound,” both appearing multiple times this summer, boosted the setlist’s sparkle, but as the band stumbled through “Destiny,” the show was more than ready to move on from the once elusive piece. Phish closed the set with another strong “Antelope,” one of their most frequent first-set closers of the year. Though so soon after Alpine’s top-notch rendition, this scorching version didn’t quite have the same impact. A strong, but not absurd, opening half set the table for Phish’s last set of an extensive, two-leg tour.
Much like “The Sloth” led off for a dark “Disease” jam at Alpine, the band employed a similarly, heavy-toned opener with “Axilla” to spark an ominous sequence in “Timber > Light > 46 Days.” The only second-set “Timber” of this era carried a foreboding ambiance and a thunderous jolt of psychedelia to the beginning of the set – a sign of things to come. As the jam peaked, the band likened a collective avalanche with each musical rock tumbling over the next, gathering a single momentum while destroying anything in its path. Merging the last note with the opening hit of “Light,” the band entered the final summer version of their newest classic.
Over the past two tours, “Light” has blossomed into Phish’s most exploratory and adventurous jam, entering unknown dimensions night in and night out. An open-ended piece that has traveled so many different places over its year-plus life, Phish showcased their central jam in summer’s final set. Passing through several sections of darkening exploration, “Light,” once again, provided the most cosmic jaunt of the evening. Trey and Mike threw down mind-bending leads as the band departed into the other side, while Page and Fishman showered the piece with the sounds of a shimmering spaceship. Amidst this futuristic canvas, Trey and Mike both annihilated the jam with woven lines of fury, another example of their tasteful co-leadership. Trey began a pattern that sounds like a digital delay loop, leading the band into a completely abstract conclusion of the jam before bleeding into “46 Days.”
Releasing their intricate mind games into heavy rock and roll, “46 Days” provided the perfect splash down for “Light,” a song-pairing that has continued to appear this summer. This brought the first segment of the set to a close, but instead of ending the song outright, Phish drew out its sonic residue as Trey built the opening licks of “My Friend,” fitting congruently with the sinister set. With their personal chops now strapped like weapons, all four band members shredded the complex composition, serving as perfect mid-set interlude. Without missing a beat, the band laughed right into “Harry Hood.” Centering another one of their strongest summer pieces, Phish built a cathartic mid-set version that served as an east coast counterpart to the masterful west coast rendition at The Greek. A song whose jam completely fits the band’s current state of ego-less jamming, “Harry Hood” regained its core majesty over the summer of 2010. Another blissful escapade in universal harmonies, this version blossomed into a sacred sound sculpture that saw Trey unleash several spine-tingling licks. A throwback to the glory days of the song, Phish has recaptured the essence of their early-day opus, crafting transcendent realities every time out.
At this point in the set, “Tweezer” seemed like a long-shot, but sure enough, the band build a musical bridge from the peak of “Hood” into the opening licks of their seminal jam. Exploding in surprise and delight, the audience cranked the show up a notch as we, unexpectedly, stepped into the freezer. A perfect illustration of how time is no longer a barometer for great jams, Phish got straight nasty within the course of an action-packed and addictive ten-minute musical montage. The band fully dove in as one, crunching out some urban grooves before Trey hopped into his laid-back ride. Again building, and peaking, a jam without taking it over, Trey left his rock-star persona aside for more group-oriented playing. Without a one-dimensional, guitar-based climax, the piece took on a whole different type of momentum within a ten-minute vortex. Smooth and direct, this version infused the set with a late set dosage of larger-than-life rhythms.
Oozing into “Horse > Silent,” Phish set up the “YEM” closer everyone knew was coming before the tour ever began, But there is something about the New York metro area and “You Enjoy Myself” that always seems to jive. With nuanced communication and a locked-in groove, Phish styled their way through a gritty funk-down to finalize their most eventful tour since their return. Letting loose on his magic guitar, Trey took center stage as he crushed the second half of the jam with a Big Apple sized-solo. Providing a rocking re-entry into the world through “Suzy,” and “Reprise,” Phish put a exclamatory cap on the a summer tour that will not soon be forgotten. Up until this point, the story has been redevelopment, but from here on out, the plot lines will largely be determined by imagination and creativity. Phish 3.1 has officially arrived.
I: Down with Disease, Sample in a Jar, Guelah Papyrus, Poor Heart, Ocelot, Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Tube, Destiny Unbound, Joy, Run Like an Antelope
II: Axilla, Timber Ho > Light > 46 Days > My Friend, My Friend, Harry Hood > Tweezer > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, You Enjoy Myself
E: Suzy Greenberg, Tweezer RepriseTags: 2010, Summer '10