Phish closed a totally surreal, weather-tortured weekend in Chicago with a high energy throwdown on Sunday night centered on both music and antics. The second set encompassed all of the elements that make up Phish—to-die-for open jamming in “Energy > Ghost,” a Gamehendge composition in “Lizards,” a prank within a “Harpua” narration, and a smoking contained jam in “Antelope” to close things out. Following a mediocre performance on Saturday, Phish capped the insane three-night run with a signature performance in the Midway.
Playing their second version of “Energy” in four shows, the guys opened up the jam considerably beyond Alpharetta’s revelation, pointing clearly to the emergence of the next preeminent jam vehicle in the Phish universe. And what a jam it is, containing a little something for everyone. Starting off in a wah groove, “Energy’s” path contains infectious rhythms while giving way to wide open cathartic playing and eventually ending with a spiritually haunting voyage into ambient space. Opening up a new galaxy of improvisational possibility, “Energy” is the best thing to hit the rotation since “Light” debuted at Fenway Park in ’09. By the end of the summer—and two more versions that diverge from structure—we will be looking at the new jump off for fall tour.
At the conclusion of “Energy,” the band dissolved into “Ghost,” finally dropping the second version of tour that had been looming since Merriweather. In terms of adventure, there’s nothing quite like Phish merging two open jams like they did last night. Instead of reeling the audience back to earth with a “landing pad” song, they kept everyone in orbit while amping up the intensity of the show considerably. The band continued to dish out the goods in this rhythmically dynamic “Ghost,” passing through beautiful and intricate sections, and sounding like they might follow Mike’s lead into “Seven Below.” Trey, however, steered the jam into “Lizards,” capping the opening triumvirate with the Gamehendge classic. And then things got silly.
With all of the crazy rain storms that have plagued Phish tour this summer, fans have been expecting to hear “Harpua,” with its iconic line “Look, the storm’s gone!,” for quite some time now. But Phish waited for the absolute perfect place to drop their elusive tale. Sunday night’s first set had to be cut short due to a torrential downpour over the city, and most fans waited it out in the unbelievable conditions. But believe it or not, deep into an extended setbreak, things started to clear up! Thus, when the “Oom Pah Pahs” signaled the first “Harpua” in two years, the place absolutely went bonkers.
And then came the prank. The band had planted actors in the crowd to look like fans, so when called up on stage during “Harpua’s” narration, everyone—for at least a bit—thought some fans were having a dream come true. The Second City troupe went on to tell Trey that they had actually been there for the Harpua versus Poster Nutbag fight, and that Trey had been telling the story wrong. At this point, I thought Trey had found the most tripped out fans on lot, but in the end the actors and the band had prepared an entire comedy act that provided a brief mindfuck at the same time.
The skit was funny and when the band brought back the “Harpua” music, fans began anticipating what might come next in this monster set. But then Trey passed the mic to Gordon. Launching into a second “Harpua” story, Mike wove a genuinely funny tale, but now the audience had been standing around for almost twenty minutes in the middle of the second set and things started to drag. When the guys finally wrapped up the sought after rarity, the crowd roared and the band responded with a second go at “Antelope” after the rains put the kibosh on the first set closer. Coming full circle in another smoking contained jam, the band sealed their most complete Chicago show with their favorite set closer of the summer.
Years from now, when fans think back on Northerly Island 2013 the predominant memories will surround the unprecedented weather that bombarded the shows for three days straight. Filled with enough moments over the first two to make them complete, the Friday and Saturday’s Northerly Island performances, were—creatively speaking—a step below the rest of tour. But on Sunday night in Chicago, the band bounced back with a vengeance in a memorable show that nobody in attendance will ever forget.
First Set Notes: The strongest first set of Chicago opened with the bust out of “Dinner and a Movie,” while containing superb versions of “Maze” and “Bathtub Gin.” These two pieces of improve—specifically “Gin”—anchored the set while high energy selections and sharp playing, less “Mound,” filled it out.
I: Dinner and a Movie, AC/DC Bag > Maze, Mound, Funky Bitch, Bathtub Gin, Wilson, Water in the Sky, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Run Like an Antelope*
II: Energy > Ghost -> The Lizards, Harpua, Run Like an Antelope
E: Character Zero
*rains came and the band was forced off stageTags: 2013, Summer '13, The Moment