What a difference a day makes. One night after taking batting practice over the course of two sets, Phish came out swinging on Saturday night at Hampton Coliseum and truly inaugurated their 30th Anniversary Fall Tour with a smoking two set affair. Laying it on early and often, the guys took no prisoners, crafting a show that—arguably—bested any at The Mothership in 14 years. Evoking the feeling of fall tours of lore, the guys threw down a show that was bursting at the seams with energy and never relented for a moment, leaving fans with shit-eating grins as they moseyed back to their hotels through a perfect autumn evening.
Stepping to the plate with a purpose, the band lead off the game with a solid double in the gap in the form of “Bathtub Gin” before staging a scoring rally that was highlighted by a scorching indoor “Tube.” A version that set fire to the full-sized, Saturday night crowd, this creative and extended “Tube” provided an unquestionable highlight of the first set. Following this adrenalized start, the guys slowed things down with the modern rarity, “Fast Enough For You” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Ballad of Curtis Loew.” Non-rotation songs of “Yamar” and “My Sweet One” sandwiched a crunchy “Stealing Time,” which set the table for a smoking “Mike’s Groove” that was weighted towards “Weekapaug” with Page leading the way on clavinet. In retrospect, I thought there would be more musical meat to discuss in the opening stanza, but it just goes to show how far balls-to-the-wall energy and precise musicianship will take a set.
The first half had the arena buzzing as fans prepared themselves for what was sure to be a stellar main event. The band was feeling it, and they were bringing it hand over fist. A night after starting the second set with “Twist” for the only the second time since 2003, Phish opened Saturday night’s with “Ghost” for the first time since Alpine 2010, and the second time since Raleigh 2003! And what a “Ghost” it was. Reminiscent of IT’s legendary “Ghost” from Limestone, this version had a trajectory set for the heavens, and shot like an arrow into a blissful, peaking plateau where the jam sat for an eternity. Trey peeled of sheets of descending notes at the zenith of this excursion, cascading like victory over his legions of devotees. Super-charged catharsis of the highest degree, this “Ghost” drove us across the sky in a chariot before grounding us with a breakbeat-driven, ambient denouement.
Flipping the conventional script, the band segued out of “Ghost” and into a second-song “Disease,” providing a unique contour to the set’s opening couplet. The band moved from the song’s rock platform into a more ethereal, open-ended excursion that reached some profound places before getting chopped a bit abruptly for a wild, antic-filled version of “Steam.” The band absolutely slayed the “Steam” jam as Trey illustrated how he’s honed his pitch-bending as juxtaposed to the overly-whaley, 2013 debut at SPAC. Following the conventional jam, however, Trey joined Fishman on drums for a percussive-driven segment that saw Mike not only play his fight bell with drum sticks, but also bring back his power drill from Friday night’s “Antelope” to play the bass. Page stabbed at his Hammond, providing the only melodic comping to this rhythmic tangent, before the guys remerged with the end of “Steam.”
It was high time for the band to take a breath, and they did so in the form of “Prince Caspian.” But the set found its way into too much filler after that. “Boogie On” had some extra zest, and carried the energy of the night just fine. But after that came “Theme” (which was actually quite good). And then came “Wedge.” “And then “Silent in the Morning.” At this point, we could have been in the middle of a first set! The guys did, however, close things with a bang, scripting a haunting and twisting version of “Harry Hood.” The set, though, had already lost considerable momentum, an issue that has seemed to plague an older Phish.
Just like that, we are one night away from fall tour’s first weekend being complete. And if the first two nights are any prediction of what is to come, we are in for one hell of a run. Phish took but one night to stretch their legs, and on Saturday, Trey used his newly dusted off Ocedoc to announce, “Game on!” And you know what they about Sunday shows…and with a “Tweezer” looming at Hampton Coliseum?! Yikes. Hide the women and children folks—we’ll see you in a few hours!
I: Bathtub Gin, The Moma Dance, Tube > Fast Enough for You, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Ya Mar, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, My Sweet One, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen >Weekapaug Groove
II: Ghost > Down with Disease > Steam* > Prince Caspian > Boogie On Reggae Woman, Theme From the Bottom, The Wedge, Silent in the Morning, Harry Hood
E: Quinn the EskimoTags: 2013, Fall '13, The Moment