Summer 2012 is a great time to be a Phish fan, and last night was another reason why. Balancing a strong, song-based performance over two sets, the band unquestionably centered the show on a surreal mash-up of “Light” and “Manteca” that stands up to the any recent sonic foray. Playing support to this centerpiece jam was an engaging set-opening combination of “Crosseyed -> Slave” and a seething, late set “Sand.” But for start to finish fluidity, this second set couldn’t touch the other four of tour. Not to diminish the playing within, but the band’s recent set craftsmanship wasn’t exactly showcased in either frame on Saturday night. Nonetheless, there are plenty of highlights to discuss, so let’s start with the brightest.
A fluid sequence of “Crosseyed -> Slave” kicked off the main event, in which the band exited the snarling rock cover with a sparse textural jam that soon built—in transcendent fashion—towards a gorgeous transition into “Slave.” But following this powerful opening couplet, the band dropped into the monster jam sequence of the night, “Light -> Manteca -> Light,” or—from here on out—”Lighteca.” Trey took a different turn when confronted with “Light’s” guitar solo, quickly deferring to the rhythmic focus of Mike and Fishman. Joining in the groove-based excursion, Trey began to subtely weave teases of “Manteca” into already similar-sounding mixture. And then—bam—the band burst into the full-blown Dizzy Gillespie cover! As they shifted back into “Light,” they continued to groove hard in an outright musical fusion. Lacing this jam with both melodic and rhythmic teases of “Manteca,” the band sculpted an incredibly slick hybrid of the two songs. Then, as Trey switched gears with some hard rhythm chords, Fish immediately changed into a more driving beat, giving the piece a very “Chalk Dust” vibe. In fact, I was sure the band was moving slowly towards a back door transition into their rock anthem, but when they steered clear of the song—instead, veering into a lyrical “Crosseyed Reprise”— I thought it to be even cooler that they didn’t take the plunge and maintained a more subtle musical nod. Eventually dripping into a spacey outro, it sounded—momentarily—as though the band would pass into “No Quarter,” but instead they chose a fitting landing point in “Theme From the Bottom.”
Phish continued their setlist shakeup last night by dropping an uncharacteristic, late set “Sand.” And stylistically, this one couldn’t have been more opposite of Worcester’s version. Sidestepping the whole-band focus The Centrum, last night’s “Sand” provided a retro take on the song, as Trey took center stage, lighting his Languedoc afire. While the band certainly held down a strapping groove, the focus of this jam was on the Big Red Machine. Blending the feel of millennial versions and recent TAB renditions, this “Sand” was a heat-seeker rather than an overtly swanky collaboration. And it’s fresh to see the band with such divergent takes on within a week of each other. The band carried their lyrical “Crosseyed” reprises through the set, ending “Sand” with the second such episode of the evening. The set closed with a laid back and ethereal version of “Number Line” and a relatively stock, but ripping, “Antelope.” Trey was on fire all night and “Antelope,” put a fitting cap.
A first half, filled with old-school song selections, opened with a bang when the guys came out with an adrenalizing “Mike’s Groove.” The hefty opening suite set the table for a big first opening frame, and after a teasing twin-bill of “Gumbo” and “Halley’s”—both without jams—the vibe continued with the always-menacing “My Friend” and a laid-back-turned-spirited, Trey-centric, “Wolfman’s Brother.” But the rest of the set fizzled a bit, despite an uber-chronic intro to an out of place “Punch.”
All in all, night two of AC was a very fun and tasteful night of Phish, featuring many well-known anthems for the noticeably increased Saturday night crowd, and with a centerpiece that gets tacked on to an exponentially expanding Summer 2012 highlight list. And with a centerpiece as acrobatic as “Lighteca,” and a fun “Crosseyed” theme throughout the set, everything fell right into place.
I: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Gumbo, Halley’s Comet > My Friend, My Friend,Wolfman’s Brother, The Horse^, Lawn Boy, Possum, Punch You In the Eye, Ocelot, Suzy Greenberg
II: Crosseyed and Painless -> Slave to the Traffic Light, Light -> Manteca -> Light* > Theme From the Bottom > Golgi Apparatus, Sand* > Backwards Down the Number Line, Run Like an Antelope
E: Good Times Bad Times
^aborted, * w/ “Crosseyed” lyrical repriseTags: 2012, Summer 2012