Phish stepped off the grand stage of Texas and into the cozy confines of the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colorado last night, kicking off their undersized Fall Tour of 2010. Coming out of the gates with a solid effort featuring a lengthy setlist and a couple stellar moments, the band opened tour with a show that will likely be long forgotten by the end of this three-night run. Punctuating the night with a knee-buckling “Slave to the Traffic Light,” the band’s finale brought their most cohesive and triumphant playing of an evening that often seemed like was about to take that next step, but never did. Also blossoming during “Ghost,” Phish wound their way through several diverse feels en route to a space-aged oasis that bridged the gap to “Weekapaug, completing another highlight “Mike’s Sandwich.” The remainder of the set suffered a bit from a lack of flow, though the band did squeeze in a clever debut in the roots, Americana piece – “My Problem Right There.” All in all, the first night of Broomfield provided a solid opening act for a three-night circus that is bound to get far crazier.
After a sluggish opening frame, Phish lit up the start of the second half with the fiery flames of “Mike’s Song.” Jumping into the heavy and ominous fray, when the band segued into “Simple,” rushes of summer memories returned and it seemed that the “Mike’s Groove” interlude would transform into a show highlight. But just as the band began to get slightly ambient, they passed into “Ghost.”
Coming at a time in when the show desperately needed a shot in the arm, the audience noticeably reacted when Phish slid into “Ghost.” Starting in a laid-back soundscape that had the makings of a stellar piece of organic improv, Trey used minimalist offerings to color the natural groove. Passing through a segment of gorgeous collaboration moving naturally at this slower pace, Trey gradually infused more forceful guitar leads into the mix, slowly pushing the band towards a peak but costing them some cohesion along the way. After playing with one wheel loose for a part of the jam, the band reconvened in the post-peak section for a more earnest experiment. Entering effect laden sequence of percussive sound, the band pieced together a psychedelic portal into a creative “Weekapaug” that favored more delicate contributions rather than its cliched, all-out, rock and roll sprint.
But when “Weekapaug” ended, so did the flow to the set. While “Fee” presented the distinct possibility of psychedelic drama with its trails of musical ambrosia, the band ixnayed any of extended mid-set revelries with a turn into “Makisupa Policeman.” For the first time in ages, Trey actually made a weed reference in the song, as he passed comically passed the officer “the dank” and proceeded to crack up along the way. Abruptly ending the reggae rhythms soon after, Trey informed the crowd of a new song they had that was also about a police man, introducing the band’s newest piece, “My Problem Right There.” A humorous, lyrically-driven nod to everything that matters, Trey pokes fun his overactive mind, suggesting that we, ourselves, are are our only obstacle to our own happiness. While not necessarily jiving in in the middle of a second set, its message was delivered with a tongue-in cheek honesty that speaks to all of our paths on earth.
Briefly stopping back in “Makisupa,” the band gradually built into a show-stopping “Slave” that peaked so profoundly that its notes seemed to jump from the animated pages of a Phish comic book. Setting a melodic theme early on, Trey carried his thoughts to the mountaintop in a glorious exclamation that led one of the most poignant versions in recent memory. Providing the only “no-brainer” take away from the opener, “Slave” was the brightest star in last night’s sky, standing head and shoulders above anything else played. Phish closed the set with a denouement of “Strange” Design” and “Julius” before finalizing the first night of tour with “Loving Cup.”
Starting with a show that carried less weight than previous tour openers of 2010, Phish will surely be back in hours to obliterate night one, turning the show into distant memory by this time tomorrow. That much is money in the bank. And when all three nights of Colorado conclude, “Slave” will remain the lone pillar from a fun opening night of fall.
First Set Notes: A late-set “Stash” provided the improvisational highlight of a slow-moving opening frame that read like a script of a generic first set of tour.
I: Chalk Dust Torture, Ocelot, It’s Ice, Bouncing Around the Room, Funky Bitch, AC/DC Bag, NICU, The Moma Dance, Horn, Stash, Golgi Apparatus
II: Mike’s Song > Simple > Ghost > Weekapaug Groove, Fee > Makisupa Policeman, My Problem Right There* > Makisupa Policeman > Slave to the Traffic Light, Strange Design, Julius
E: Loving Cup