Opening the floodgates of creativity, Phish redefined possibilities with a second set that elevated this game to a completely new level. Storming out of the gates with nearly 45 minutes of experimental jamming in “Rock and Roll > Ghost,” and continuing with an immaculate “Limb by Limb” and “Harry Hood” that will make a you cry, Phish brought their A+ game to a tour-opener of dreams in Southern California.
As not to sound redundant throughout this piece, allow me to say up front—this was the best I’ve heard Phish play in ages. Last night’s second set was a case study in virtuoso communication and the metaphysical explosions that result from such human achievement. Touching on every facet of their sound that makes them the phenomenon we know and love, Phish gave a glimpse into paradise. The best thing you can do for yourself as a Phish fan right now, is to stop reading this review, cancel the next 90 minutes of your life, grab some headphones and bask.
Weaving musical gold while lacing together one dreamscape after another, Phish came out with a massive statement in Long Beach. “Rock and Roll,” in and of itself, contained a entire show’s worth of standout improvisation. Spanning the the full spectrum from wide-open fields of melodic glory to demonic lairs of a “storage” sequence that sounded plucked from the wee hours of Super Ball, itself, the band could do no wrong. After plunging such depths with the first jam of the set, they could have easily hit cruise control. But that’s about the farthest thing from what happened.
Moving from a monumental excursion directly into “Ghost,” it felt that the band turned a corner with this decision. Feeling no need to reel things in, they forged forth into—arguably—the most spectacular portion of the night. Using the entirety of “Ghost’s” jam to peak “Rock and Roll’s Odyssean journey, the band converged on a life-altering peak. Taking but a couple of measures to move outside the box, “Ghost” proved, as it has all summer, to be an efficient path to original music. And this time, they drove the piece right through the heart of the audience, sparking a communal bolt of reverie. After 45 minutes of unbridled, wide-open jamming, the band could have dropped their instruments and walked off stage to a standing ovation. But they just kept moving forward.
Concluding almost an hour of non-stop improv with a spectacular take on “Limb By Limb,” it became quite apparent that the entire set would be laced with grandeur. A spot-on and notably raging “Guyute” fit within the context of this set better than any recent appearance of the song, and “Dirt” felt as poignant as ever Trey’s guitar lines dripped with emotion. And when the guys rolled into “Harry Hood,” they could have taken this show to the bank with a standard version—but they didn’t. Sensing a theme here? Instead, Phish played what has to be considered an elite “Hood” of any era. Listening to each other with a subconscious marksmanship—a hallmark of the entire show—the band sculpted a final dip into majesty. Providing the proverbial cherry on top, this multi-tired “Hood” sealed the deal on a night that was far better than imaginable.
And we may have just scratched the surface…
First Set Notes: A more than solid tour-opening frame was marked by high energy playing from start to finish. “Cities” got things moving as the second song of the show, while both “Stash” and “Gin” popped with extra spirit along the way. But, as many tour-opening sets of this era, this one was long in the rearview mirror by the time the encore hit.
I: Suzy Greenberg, Cities > Kill Devil Falls, Guelah Papyrus, Cool It Down, Rift, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Bathtub Gin, Quinn the Eskimo
II: Rock and Roll > Ghost > Limb By Limb, Guyute, Dirt, Harry Hood > Good Times Bad Times
E: JuliusTags: 2012, Summer 2012, The Moment