Wow! What a fucking Phish show! Stepping into The Centrum, one of the most legendary rooms of their career, Phish absolutely dropped the gauntlet on Worcester, Massachusetts, playing—in my opinion—their best show of this short tour. Showcasing unbridled enthusiasm from the very first note, the band played two torrid sets of music with their both their individual playing and group improvisation far more dialed in than just a week ago. Every time Phish plays in Worcester they seem to bring their A game, and last night was no exception. But what is so great about Fall ’13 is just how stellar their A game really is! Let’s go the videotape.
The band dove headfirst into the show, opening with a furious one-two punch of “Funky Bitch” and “Wolfman’s Brother,” each played with notably extra zest. The opening set throwdown continued with “Wilson”—in which Trey noted that Rog from the lyrical duo of “Rog and Pete” was in attendance, “The Curtain With”—which always seems to appear in special shows, and “Cities”—which was highlighted by Mike’s basslines right from the start. It was interesting to hear “Rift” in such proximity to “The Curtain With,” as the latter spawned the former and they share melodies, but the band played it with relative precision. The way the band plays “Free” these days, it’s far more suited to the first set, and it worked perfectly in that slot last night. A bustout of “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own” kept the set moving until the band dropped a sharp version of “Vultures,” a rarity which is always a treat to hear. The set ended somewhat abruptly after an arena-rousing “46 Days,” though the opening frame had absolutely slayed. And when Phish is playing that well before setbreak, it usually points to good things ahead. But what happened in set two was downright special.
Aside from a pinner, jamless version of “Waves” at the top of an Alpine ’09 second set, Phish hadn’t opened up a main event with “Waves” since 2003. A signature jam vehicle of the post-hiatus era, the band had only jammed on it a handful on times in the modern era, but never in such audacious fashion as last night. Page’s piano leads remained the anchor of an incredibly psychedelic affair that migrated through several sonic pastures. This is the type of stuff that comes when a modern Phish tackles the intricate jam vehicles of post-hiatus—pure and utter glory. But what did you expect? (Let’s hope it continues happening!) This “Waves” is the stuff of instant legend, and when paired with the following “Carini,” it was easily the most devastating one-two punch of Fall.
The band resolved the set opening “Waves” in hard rock fashion, winding their way into a particularly heavy texture. Presumably, this planted the seed of “Carini” in Trey’s head, and though this jam could have gone on forever, when the band dropped into the one of the most prolific jam vehicles of the past couple years, the venue exploded. And then, so did this “Carini jam.” After moving through an uplifting interlude, this piece got downright nasty. Flexing some of the smoothest and infectious dance grooves you’ll ever hear, Phish locked into a sacred stride and absolutely demolished the dance floor in a segment that will make any fan drool. Straight Phish crack of the highest grade, this “Carini” jam was but another piece of evidence that the band was throwing down the goods on this night, feeling the New England energy and transforming it into musical magic.
Stopping on a dime, just as Fishman was hitting a new rhythm, Trey led the band into a mid-set “Prince Caspian,” always leaving the kidz jonesing for a little bit more. Infusing the band and crowd’s collective enthusiasm into his “Caspian” solo, Trey kept the music at sashimi grade throughout the reflective anthem. As the jam neared a close, Trey began working in the intro to “Number Line,” and soon he led the band into the feel good number without finishing “Caspian.” Though “Number Line” never seems to fit in the middle of a set, to be honest, this one really popped. The band never broke form, but really nailed the song, highlighted by a stellar solo from the big guy. As the band brought the song to a close, the set hit a juncture. What would be the jam of the back half of the set? The answer—to the delight of all in attendance—was “Ghost!”
Within the contexts of a masterful whole-band excursion, Page’s piano playing, once again, stood out and provided the constant that the band built around for much of the jam, and certainly throughout it’s peak. This locked in and dynamic “Ghost” saw the guys navigate a mid-tempo, egalitarian exchange before turning the corner into groovy, major key, bliss-laden mind-hosery. Truly feeling IT all night long, the band peaked the show with this cathartic version of “Ghost” and segued—via whistle—into the tour’s first “Dirt.” Giving every one a moment—but not much more—to catch their breath, at the end of the succinct ballad, a mysterious ambient build gave way to a late set “Down With Disease.”
Everyone had “Disease” penciled in as Saturday night’s second-set opener at this point i the show, so the band figured why not continue throwing curves? One might have figured this would be a straightforward rock-rendition to keep the energy high, but lo and behold, the band would jam it, splashing into their fourth open-ended jaunt of the set! After obliterating the rock jam with a blistering solo, Trey led the band through a triumphant-turned-delicate second movement.
Dropping into “Sneaking Sally” at a time when another jam would have been outrageous, Phish made us feel, momentarily, like our lives had transformed into a cartoon reality. Hanging back on the improvisational front, however, the band simply played the song and stepped into “Cavern.” The guys chose “Antelope” as their set closer for the night, and proceeded to perform a laid-back, jazzy highlight-reel version. It was one of those nights when everything went right and the set—not to mention the entire show—contained relentless flow.
The band truly must have been feeling it, because even though they waited until 8:30 to start, they came out and played a smoking four-song encore that totaled twenty minutes! Can you remember the last time “Rocky Top” appeared as the third encore and wasn’t end of the show? Me neither. The band just didn’t want to stop playing, so they didn’t.
The Worcester Centrum is a special place in the Phish universe. It has been a relic of Phish tour since the early nineties and has never left their touring docket. The band absolutely loves playing the room and it shows every single time. Last night was but another page in a long and illustrious history of Phish in Worcester, and we still have one more page to write tonight. Don’t look now, but we are in the heart of Fall Tour in New England and the band has hit full stride. Before all is said and done, this weekend just may become the peak of the season. I, for one, can not wait to find out.
I: Funky Bitch, Wolfman’s Brother, Wilson, The Curtain With, Cities, Rift, Free, My Mind’s Got a Mind of its Own, Vultures, 46 Days
II: Waves > Carini, Prince Caspian > Backwards Down the Number Line, Ghost > Dirt, Down with Disease > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Cavern, Run Like an Antelope
E: Contact, Suzy Greenberg, Rocky Top, Good Times Bad TimesTags: 2013, Fall '13, The Moment