Phish has raised the bar again. On only the second night of Summer Tour, the band threw down a mind-boggling second labyrinth that blew anything they’ve played in this era straight out of the water. In fact, with a more macroscopic lens, the second set of SPAC was one of the finest musical statements that Phish has ever performed. Period. Playing with as much bravado and confidence as their mid-90s selves, while pulling sonic elements from all of their staple eras, the band wove the an incredibly fresh and unconventional musical odyssey that belongs in the loftiest of conversations. This 30th Anniversary tour is a testament to Phish’s longevity, but the fact that they are playing music that is on par and /or surpasses just about anything in their career is a statement on who they are and how they’ve grown. This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is what Dick’s was foreshadowing—we are smack dab in the band’s newest peak era.
In only two shows, we’ve seen the band flip the script once again. They have opened up different jams, refreshed their setlist structure, debuted an original and a cover, executed several slinky segues and dropped the best jam and set of the modern era. Dick’s 2012 can take a back seat to SPAC 2013, and before long a hell of lot more. Phish has quite clearly come out this summer with something to prove, and I believe their goal is to drop the most monumental music of their career. Because if last night is any indication, we are in for quite a wild ride this summer—a ride like no fan has ever seen before.
So what the hell happened last night? I’m still asking myself that question over and over again. I have not relistened to the second set before writing this, but I’m not sure that I have to. The power and intricacy of the band’s playing from the first note of the set through the last was unprecedented, showcasing a mastery of their craft in full. Plunging a ludicrous musical depth in “Light’s” jam, alone, the band put on a display unlike any in memory, far outshining 9/1/12’s . This jam spanned mind-numbing amounts of musical territory in a piece that touched the very essence of who we are and why we are here. This was creation in its purest form; four men at the mountain top having the time of their lives while taking 20,000 of us along for the ride; a dream unfolding in real time. The SPAC “Light” is Phish’s newest magnum opus.
And in any standard modern era show, the story would have began and ended with “Light,” but this was no standard modern era show. In fact, the band opened the second set with a new song! Well, a cover—but it sure seems that Apples In Stereo’s “Energy” is here to stay as a new jam vehicle—just what the motherfuckin’ docta’ ordered! A catchy song, that most all assumed was an original, immediately showed promise like no other debut in of this era. “Energy’s” jam segued into “Light,” which eventually segued seamlessly into “Mango Song.” Upon ending this triumvirate, the band started up “46 Days” which transformed from an arena rocker into a filthy groove session before seamlessly moving into “Steam.” Ressurected from the dead, the band brought their 2011 debut back in the swankiest of style—and this time it had the jam we had all envisioned from the get go! So at this point, aside from the best jam of the era and beyond, the band had delivered us two fresh jam vehicles on a silver platter.
And just when nobody had any clue what was next, the band revved up “Drowned” in an unconventional late-set slot—and boy did it deliver. Deconstructing The Who’s anthem into a delicate groove refinery, the band—once again—created magic out of thin air. Quite clearly tapped into the source, the band could do no wrong on a night that will live forever, and once the guys concluded “Drowned’s” theatrics, they moved seamlessly into the most magnificent “Slave” they have played since some point in the ‘90s.
Yup—it was that good. All of it. Every. Single. Note. If I had to make an educated guess, Summer 2013 will go down as one of the best tours of the band’s prestigious career—and we are just at the beginning. Hop on for the ride of a lifetime!
First Set Notes: It was quite evident the band was on from the get go last night, filling the opening set with sharp playing a deft improvisation throughout. The band absolutely tore “Birds of a Feather” to shreds, while offering a upbeat, groovy take on “Bathtub Gin” just two songs later. In between these two selections, the band debuted “Yarmouth Road,” Mike’s song that was sound-checked in Bangor. A reggae vibe permeates this tune that comes to a head with overlapping lyrics and some gorgeous guitar work. The final couplet of the set—“Cities > Bowie” absolutely popped off. “Cities” moved into an infectious groove before ending a bit prematurely for “Bowie’s” intro. Building off of MSG’s above average version, this one showcased the band’s razor sharp chops while moving into some melodic jamming for an interlude. All of this set the stage for what has to be considered the band’s best set since their return.
I: Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Sample in a Jar, Roses Are Free, Birds of a Feather,Yarmouth Road*, Bathtub Gin, Nellie Kane, Army of One, My Friend, My Friend > Cities -> David Bowie
II: Energy* > Light -> The Mango Song > 46 Days -> Steam > Drowned > Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Character Zero