Amidst fresh crystals of snow in a white-washed wonderland of Worcester, Massachusetts, Phish put their best foot forward last night, centering a solid opening show around a transcendent and seasonally-appropriate segment of “Seven Below > What’s the Use?” Though Phish played many things very well last night, the evening’s crowning moment came in this surreal second set scenario. Taking a signature journey down a patient path, the band landed in a pool of improvisational gold on their first night out, opening 2010’s Holiday Run with a piece of music that can only foreshadow great things to come.
After musically noting the weather with a late first-set “It’s Ice,” when the band started their second-set homage to winter, one could tell things were on the verge of going deep. In a show light on open jamming to this point, “Seven Below” provided an ideal portal into Phish’s musical majesty. Coming together in an four-piece master work that completely elevated the show, Trey and Mike also engaged in a stunning example of the dual-leadership they have developed throughout 2010. Weaving their heart-tugging melodies around each other like two sea otters gliding effortlessly in circles, the guitarists’ lead play shone while backed by the sinfully scintillating drum work of Jon Fishman. Evoking the beat-backed “urgent ambient” style born this past August, this jam blossomed in beauty while never losing a sense of rhythmic direction. Amidst this awing interplay, Mike and Trey led subtly wove their knee-buckling melodies into a “mash-up”of Seven Below” and the post-apocalyptic “What’s the Use?” — a musical sequence that peaked the centerpiece of the evening. Following their own lead, Phish bled into “What’s the Use?” out of “Seven Below’s” denouement, completing the psychedelic pairing. Coming down from this segment with a natural flow into “Twenty Years Later,” Phish put a gentle ending onto this journey into the heart of the matter.
Though nothing else approached the improvisational level of this peak sequence, Worcester’s opening show was filled with high-quality playing all around — a theme that started with the third song of night “Cool It Down.” Forming an impressive “first jam” of the run, Phish built the Velvet Underground cover into the realm full band interplay. Usurping the feel of an early-show “Bathtub Gin,” the band hit the ground running in Worcester with an upbeat collaboration that sparked the Holiday Run in celebratory fashion. Flowing early on this evening, the band turmed right around and dropped a uncharacteristically sublime “Roggae.” Taking a song known for its symbolic lyrics and composed melodies and transforming it into an ethereal launch pad, Phish toyed with “Roggae’s” theme while simultaneously sculpting an original piece of jamming that came to a cathartic peak unlike any other versions. Clearly enthusiastic from moment one last night, the band used the show’s opening energy to crank through some spirited singles throughout the rest of the set.
While the treasure trove of the second set lied deep within, the band blasted down the doors of the frame with an unorthodox “Groove” of “Mike’s > Mound > Weekapaug.” Following a laid back and methodically-paced “Mike’s Song,” Phish certainly pleased the crowd by busting out “Mound” for the first time since Red Rocks, but didn’t make it through the song without a heafty serving of slop through one of its main sections. Nonetheless, the band picked themselves right up with a scorching “Weekapaug” that has to be considered the runner-up highlight of opening night. This smashing four-piece collaboration featured full-on musical theatrics while never veering too far from the “Weekapaug’s” foundation. Page stepped up on piano while Mike and Fish crushed the rhythmic side of things, but in the end, Trey’s relentless and white-hot leads stole the peak of this piece.
Following the aforementioned “Seven Below > What’s the Use?” sequence, Phish took a moment of reflection in “Velvet Sea” before playing the “Let’s See How Many Set Closers We Can Play In a Row!” game. Starting with “Possum” and following with “Cavern,” the game got far more interesting when Phish dropped another smooth and shredding version of “David Bowie.” Combining delicacy and aggression like only “Bowie” can, Phish flipped the jam into a major key for a blissful oasis amidst the dark surroundings. Punctuating the night with a thrashing aural assault, this “Bowie” picked up a set that had fizzled a bit. As the band rounded out the 27th with a “Loving Cup” encore, everything felt just right as we now stare down the barrel of 2010’s final four adventures.
Get ready, because Phish certainly is.
I: Sample in a Jar, Funky Bitch, Cool It Down, Roggae, Heavy Things, What Things Seem, Roses Are Free, It’s Ice, Mountains in the Mist, Julius
II: Mike’s Song > Mound, Weekapaug Groove, Farmhouse, Seven Below > What’s the Use? > Twenty Years Later, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Possum, Cavern, David Bowie
E: Loving Cup
PS – Any and all Holiday Run photography are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.