A year and a half after hitting the stage at Hampton Coliseum on March 6, 2009, the band we know and love has returned to glory. After a triumphant second leg of summer tour that saw Fishman and Trey fully enter the zone again, Phish is once again firing on all cylinders. No longer is Mike just dropping bombs, or Trey shredding solos – a whole-band ethos has emerged in which the best live moments materialize when no single person is dominating at all. Over two weeks in August, the band displayed a new patient prowess, something we hadn’t seen thus far in this era, allowing jams to organically breathe and collectively build. This type of playing had been foreshadowed at times last year, but with their listening skills and chops fully in tow, Phish 2010 is shining brighter now and ready for the future.
Not only did Phish improvise better than on any other tour since their return, all parts of their game were considerably honed. Compositions popped with accuracy, transitions often happened seamlessly, jams weren’t cut off due to impatience or lack of direction; over Leg II, we undoubtedly witnessed the next step in the re-evolution of Phish. Armed with an aurally-stunning, magic guitar (a topic for another day) and a desire to mesh with the band’s musical fabric, Trey has let his rock-star persona slide in favor of a more intricate and collaborative improvisational style. The wailing solos were not as prevalent as Red darted and dashed around Mike’s lead bass lines, while, simultaneously, toying with Fishman’s rhythms. A selfless jamming emerged from the entire band, and it was this dynamic that formed the countless stellar jams from The Greek to Jones Beach.
Jon Fishman had – by far – his best tour since the comeback, adding a whole ‘nother dynamic to Phish’s playing, while lighting a fire under Trey. Adhering far more to to his college philosophy of “never playing the same beat twice in a row,” the diversity and power of Fishman’s rhythmic offerings created a defining element of the band’s newest musical style. Debuted in The Greek’s “Disease” and furthered in the the next night’s “Rock and Roll,” Phish quickly introduced an original type of playing – a faster ambient music – that Fish framed with driving, yet delicate rhythms. Exploring this style throughout the tour, Mike, Trey and Page often collaborated in melodic experiments over his ever-changing beats, bringing a new facet of jamming to their expanding game.
Page’s piano figured predominantly in many maniacal jams, often bringing a retro feel to forward-looking pieces, while his use of the Rhodes was slicker than as ever, comping Trey’s minimalist sections perfectly. Mike Gordon, the man who has been there all along, continued his sonic dominance, leading and co-leading jams with masterfully unorthodox ideas. Throughout the Second Leg, Gordeaux’s ideas often spawned the most surreal segments of improv, as others were quick to follow his lead. But the most beautiful aspect of August was that all his band members finally caught up to him; most particularly, Big Ern. Learning a more cooperative way to play together, Trey and Mike can now legitimately be called the co-leaders of Phish. And with Trey’s new guitar boasting a much fuller sound, their tones work together like peanut butter and jelly.
Aside from personal progressions over the past two weeks, Phish was consistently greater than the sum of their parts – as they always have always been during their best eras. By the time Alpine and Jones Beach rolled around, that subconscious flow had returned to the band’s music, jams, sets, and shows. Gelling on another level during Alpine’s opening night, and carrying this momentum through the end of tour, Phish proved they are a “force of nature” once again; a musical tsunami that can crush you at any time. With proficiency no longer a hindrance to creativity, Phish’s unbridled enthusiasm and success over the past two weeks point to another peak era on the horizon. With a rediscovered intent and a will to explore, look out come fall tour and beyond…Phish 2012…I like the sound of that.
Jam of the Day:
A monumental exchange of energy between Phish and their crowd, this outlandish groove-fest set the tone for the rest of tour.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
8.6.2010 The Greek Theatre, Berkeley, CA < Torrent
8.6.2010 The Greek Theatre, Berkeley, CA < Megaupload
A smoking two-set effort on the second night of tour with tour-highlights in “Cities” and “Simple.” But don’t sleep on “Rock and Roll,” another example of Phish’s newest improvisational style.
I: Chalk Dust Torture, Guyute, Ocelot, It’s Ice, Cities > The Moma Dance, Bathtub Gin, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
II: Rock and Roll > Ghost > Mike’s Song > Simple > Backwards Down the Number Line, Show of Life, Seven Below > Weekapaug Groove, You Enjoy Myself
E: Good Times Bad Times
Source: Schoeps mk22> KC5> CMC6xt> EAA PSP-2 + Schoeps mk4v> KC5> M222> NT222> Aeta PSP-3> SD 744t (@24bit/48kHz) (Taper – ctaylor)