The Top 10 Shows of Tour

7.16.14 (Jesse Herzog)

7.16.14 (Jesse Herzog)

I must admit, in ranking shows, I am essentially ranking second sets. There were a couple first sets that stood out over others this tour, but at the end of the day, when thinking back and spinning these shows, it’s all about the second sets. There were no first sets that were strong enough to sway my decision making process, so there’s my disclaimer. And therein lies the reason for a couple of rather tight calls on this list of shows. As always, thanks for reading!

Honorable Mention:  7/3 SPAC, 7/5 SPAC, 7/18 Chicago, 7/19 Chicago

10) 7/8 The Mann Music Center, Philadelphia, PA

This show breaks into the top ten on the strength of its “Fuego,” the second best jam of tour, and its late-set sequence of “Ghost > 2001 > Harry Hood.” Though Trey shanked the “Tweezer” jam, there is more than enough meat to carry this one. The story here, however, is the monumental “Fuego” jam that still stands as the song’s most developed and prolific outing.

I: Axilla, Gumbo, Taste, 555, Tube, Halfway to the Moon, Camel Walk, Sparkle, Halley’s Comet > It’s Ice, Ocelot, Walls of the Cave

II: 46 Days, Fuego > The Line, Backwards Down the Number Line, Tweezer > Ghost > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Harry Hood > Tweezer Reprise

E: Possum

***

9) 7/25 PNC Amphitheatre, Charlotte. NC

Charlotte Official (J.Santora)

Charlotte Official (J.Santora)

Living in the shadows of the Merriweather stand since the weekend they both happened, Charlotte’s performance actually has quite a bit to offer. This show’s centerpiece is a long form “Chalk Dust” that stands second only to Randall’s in summer’s top versions. The seamless sequence of “Fuego -> Twist -> Circus” boasts tour’s most impressive segue between the latter two songs, and summer’s most intricate and variant  “Reba” popped up late in the second set.  Trey’s “riftcord” in the “Piper” jam was the only blemish in this set, and Charlotte has  one has one of my favorite first sets taboot.

I: Mike’s Song > Back on the Train > Weekapaug Groove, Wingsuit, Possum, Tube, My Friend, My Friend, Winterqueen, Beauty of a Broken Heart, David Bowie, Golgi Apparatus

II: 555, Chalk Dust Torture > Fuego -> Twist -> When the Circus Comes, Piper > Rift, Waiting All Night > Reba > Character Zero

E: Loving Cup

*** 

8) 8/1 Amphitheatre at the Wharf, Orange Beach, AL

Phish’s first visit to the Gulf Coast resulted in a smoking second set that featured the jam of the south in “Down with Disease” and an original “Tweezer” that reached a gorgeous musical space. Pairing “Fuego” and “Slave” in the middle of the set and then closing things out with a seamless mashup of “Boogie On” and “Antelope,” Phish brought their best Southern effort on the three-night run’s opening night. A rock solid set of music gave the Phish-starved deep South something to write home about.

I: Chalk Dust Torture, The Moma Dance, Heavy Things, 555, Rift, 46 Days, Tube, Devotion To a Dream, Wolfman’s Brother, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Free, Character Zero

II: Down with Disease > Theme From the Bottom > Tweezer > Prince Caspian, Waiting All Night, Fuego > Slave to the Traffic Light, 2001 > Boogie On Reggae Woman -> Run Like an Antelope

E: Bouncing Around the Room > Tweezer Reprise

***

7) 7/26 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD

This second set flowed like water from start to finish and boasts plenty of high quality improvisation throughout. The jam of the show is a toss up between the ‘70s-rock infused “Ghost” jam and the avant-garde fusion that went down in “Light.” Each of these jams is quite good and of completely divergent feels. The opening run of “Carini -> Ghost -> Steam” came off without a hitch and a contained but blistering “Harry Hood” capped things off. A true powerhouse Phish set.

I: Sample in a Jar, The Moma Dance, Wombat, Backwards Down the Number Line, Roggae, The Wedge, Wolfman’s Brother, Nellie Kane, Lawn Boy, The Line, Stash, Suzy Greenberg

II: Carini -> Ghost > Steam -> The Mango Song, Monica, Light -> Also Sprach Zarathustra > Harry Hood

E: Julius

***

6) 7/30 nTelos Pavilion, Portsmouth, VA

Portsmouth Official (Kelly)

Portsmouth Official (Kelly)

Portsmouth’s second performance was far and away the best show Phish has ever played in the intimate nTelos Amphitheatre. It was always a treat to see Phish in such a small outdoor venue, but the shows there have always been medicore. That changed this year in a big way on night two, as Phish dropped only the third “Fuego” jam of tour (and first since Philadelphia almost three weeks earlier) and it was a keeper. The band was locked on this night and it showed in “Fuego’s” deep groove throwdown, a vibe that continued with the second-ever “Meatstick” jam (and first since 7.15.99), a funktastic piece that eventually bled into one of tour’s “Pipers.” This set boasted flow, bust-outs, surprise jams and just about everything you’d want in a Phish set (except a powerful closer).

I: Bathtub Gin, Devotion To a Dream, Yarmouth Road, Guelah Papyrus, Alaska, It’s Ice, Poor Heart, Mountains in the Mist, Meat, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, David Bowie

II: Fuego > Gotta Jibboo, Meatstick > Piper > Billy Breathes, Seven Below, Waste, Backwards Down the Number Line, First Tube

E: The Lizards

***

5) 7/20 Northerly Island, Chicago, IL

I’ve totally come around on this show, as I was in a poor headspace that night, and the back half of this set completely smokes! This is a “Mike’s Groove” to be reckoned with, as the band not only split open “The Wedge” like never before, crafting one of tour’s best jams out in the unlikeliest of places, but they followed it up with an incredibly unique “Ghost” jam that was as dark as “The Wedge” was light. A smoking “Weekapaug” this closed the “Groove” emphatically and an above average “Disease” kicked things off in a set that flows from start to finish, despite an unneeded “Theme.”

I: Gumbo, Runaway Jim, Tela, The Line, Scent of a Mule, Bathtub Gin, Silent in the Morning, Maze, Ocelot, Walls of the Cave

II: Down with Disease > Winterqueen, Theme From the Bottom, Mike’s Song > The Wedge, Ghost -> Weekapaug Groove, First Tube

E: Character Zero

***

4) 7/12 Randall’s Island, New York City, NY

When this second set ended I called in perfect. With everything it its right place, Phish played an airtight frame of music with highlight jams all over. “Ghost” is the true centerpiece of the set, a patient journey through rock and downtempo realms. A stunning “Harry Hood” closes things out, and an intricate and ambient “Carini” started things off. Tour’s only “Punch” opened the set and tour’s only “Rock and Roll” came as a blistering contained rendition. Throw in a strong “Wingsuit” in the middle of the set, and you’ve got—well—a perfect frame of Phish.

I: AC/DC Bag, 46 Days, Yarmouth Road, Devotion To a Dream, Free, My Sweet One,  Back on the Train, Halfway to the Moon , Sparkle, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, The Line, Run Like an Antelope

Set 2: Punch You In the Eye, Carini > Ghost > Wingsuit, Rock and Roll, Harry Hood

E: Tube, Joy, First Tube

***

3) 7/4 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY

7/4 Official (Mumford)

7/4 Official (Mumford)

Rarely does Phish open a second set with an hour of top-shelf improvisation but on July 4th that is exactly what happened. And they did it in grand style, debuting “Fuego’s” jam with an exploratory, twenty-minute excursion that peaked in tour’s most sublime moment. From the new to the classic, the band slid into a run of “Disease > Twist > Light” before ever looking up for air. They coasted to the finish with “Theme,” “Number Line” and “First Tube,” but the damage had most definitely been done. This one was a holiday show to remember, and—easily—the best July 4th show in since 7.4.00.

I: The Star Spangled Banner, 555, Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Reba,Waiting All Night, Runaway Jim, 46 Days, Rift, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil

II: Fuego > Down with Disease > Twist > Light > Theme From the Bottom, Backwards Down the Number Line, First Tube

E: Character Zero

***

2) 7/27 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD

MPP Official (J.Callos)

MPP Official (J.Callos)

Night two of Merriweather was a different kind of Phish show. Though breakthrough jams took place in “Tweezer” and “NICU,” the take away from this night was about energy. But not the balls to the wall energy one would associate with a rock show, but the wacky, Phishy energy that was necessary to pull off such a second set at all. This type of setlist trickery and antic/comedy driven show was part of the band’s repertoire in the early-Ninties, and here we were in 2014 witnessing a performance every bit as musically inspired and energetic. Watching the band perform this show was like watching them rediscover their youth. As if shot into some alternate zone by Fishman’s abrupt change of direction in “Tweezer’s” jam, the guys became possessed with a spirit of old—but a spirit that clearly still burns brightly in their hearts today, driving the modern version of Phish. We’ve all seen a lot of shows, and we’ve all seen the guys have a great time on countless occasions, but something was different on this night, they were having a whole ‘nother level of fun as they wove in and out of songs, stopped to jam where the spirit moved, and generally carried on with a zaniness that has lied just below the surface for the most of the modern era. This night was special for us, no doubt, but far more significantly, this night was special for them.

I: Fee, The Curtain With, 46 Days, 555, My Sweet One, Sand, Bouncing Around the Room, Saw It Again, Fuego, You Enjoy Myself

II: Wilson > Tweezer -> Back on the Train -> Tweezer > Back on the Train -> Tweezer > Waiting All Night, Free -> Tweezer -> Simple -> Tweezer -> Free, Catapult -> Slave to the Traffic Light, Down with Disease -> NICU -> Hold Your Head Up > Jennifer Dances > Hold Your Head Up, I Been Around

E: Boogie On Reggae Woman > Tweezer Reprise

***

1) 7/13 Randall’s Island, New York City, NY

7.13 Official (J.Flames)

7.13 Official (J.Flames)

No antics in this one, just the best improvisation of the entire tour in a Hall of Fame hour of music that went “Chalk Dust > Light > Tweezer.” “Chalk Dust” is up there with Phish’s all time jams, easily cracking the upper echelon of that discussion. A true masterpiece that soars out of the gates and then settles into the most intuitive and connected jamming of the summer, this one has replay value for days as it continues to wow with every spin. Showing ultimate composure and exhibiting patience rarely seen in this day and age, the band navigated a near half-hour piece of music that is ridiculously dense and rich, featuring countless feels and soundscapes. But that’s just the first half of the coin. On the backside Phish dropped “Light > Tweezer,” each a standout highlight of its own. The band dripped into a surreal “Mind Left Body” jam in “Light,” and packed the tour’s best “Tweezer” with totally inventive playing, building to a group-wide peak that saw brains explode across Randall’s Island. This first hour of the second set was real-deal Holyfield, sashimi grade Phish that will stand up to anything. Finishing the set with “Velvet Sea,” “Monica” and “Slave,” this one was airtight through the end. Randall’s final performance also boasts my pick for best first set of tour, featuring several juicy selections.

I:Sand, Winterqueen, Reba, Birds of a Feather, Water in the Sky, Possum, Runaway Jim, Bouncing Around the Room, Maze, Split Open and Melt

II: Chalk Dust Torture > Light > Tweezer, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Monica, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Backwards Down the Number Line > Tweezer Reprise

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692 Responses to “The Top 10 Shows of Tour”

  1. butter Says:

    Agree with this list

    I would put Randy’s 2 in the 3 spot above SPAC

    Feel like Randys2 lives in the shadow of Randy’s3 but is actually more of a complete set

    Randy’s 3 contains the best hour of Phish in a long time so I get it tho

    Also Alpharetta is a sleeper. Really enjoyed webcast. Haven’t respun

  2. butter Says:

    How many Phish kids does it take to screw in a light bulb?

  3. MrCompletely Says:

    Orange has been reset to the tour 16s folder. 8.1 and 8.2 going up now, a bit slowly, could take 30-40

  4. ren2.0 Says:

    Wanna start a food truck Baker? We’ll call it “CarnePane” I’d be down to do it pretty much anywhere.

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    I’ll play along…”I dunno butter, how many?”

  6. butter Says:

    4 to hold the light bulb

    And 1 Dead Head to spin the room

  7. ren2.0 Says:

    Tempted to spin the room right now…probably a bad idea…especially with a 6:30 dinner

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    HA! http://i.imgur.com/kleJ2jJ.gif

  9. ren2.0 Says:

    Instead I’ll take a walk and get some light bulbs LOL

    Glad I finally got to meet you at Randys butter. Wish I were coming out your way this fall.

  10. Kaveh Says:

    OK BBers…I’m getting excited…what is our roll call for Denver? And where are people staying?

    I’m in and staying at the Embassy Suites Hotel-Denver Stapleton (aka the Rage Cage).

  11. Stoney Case Says:

    Check out this photo, y’all. This is the kind of thing that gives seasoned fire fighters, cause to pause, and a shudder. This thing actually started its own weather pattern, called a Pyrocumulonimbus Cloud. That went ahead and started about a dozen more fires. CAn’t make this up. The earth is becoming an inhospitable place for humans. Guess who wins in the end?

    https://twitter.com/royalgoldsoil/status/499594329145765890

    Then check this NASA link quick for an explanation of those fire clouds:

    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/pyrocb.html

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Nice mix of tunes from the new Spring ’90 Box set…

    http://www.relix.com/media/audio/grateful_dead_spring_1990

  13. tela's_muff Says:

    kaveh – i wish you had your bike and a couple extra days in CO. love to show you some trails. i have a suite booked at Embassy Suites downtown. AJ and Stapes with me. prob just gonna take in downtown breweries, whatever else interests us.

  14. phlorida phan Says:

    I’m in for Dicks! Hyatt Place Aurora (aka The High Place).

  15. tela's_muff Says:

    @Stoney – it makes bitching about The Whale seem pretty wasteful huh?? 😉

  16. Vapebraham Says:

    Thanks, C. Love the baby gif. True happiness right there.

    Stoney: glad you’re safe. Sad what’s happening out your way. Been a pleasant, moist summer on the right coast. Vibes to the Left.

    Life is short. Don’t be a victim of habit. Thrilled to break the pattern of downing 2-4 brews a day. Better to feel pain than to numb it. Also intent on finding more balance w jah herb.

    Lucid dreams last night after a day w/o. Like being in a strange, disjointed movie. In one scene, I looked in the mirror at a younger me (full fro) and discovered that I had tomato paste in my hair.

    Today, sitting at the computer and trading replaced w yoga and walking.

  17. MiA Says:

    The Whale sucks more than fire clouds.

  18. Stoney Case Says:

    would much rather bitch about the whale and trey’s wandering focus than watch our natural resources go #UpInSmoke Great point!

    Used to be fires like every 10-20 years in a given area. We’ve had 3 of the last 5 years.

    As far as the ranking, Chicago went from banishment material to #5 on the list. So it goes.

  19. MiA Says:

    Finally booked hotel room at Westin downtown Denver

    May change back to Westminster…

  20. MiA Says:

    Stoney the lobbyist

  21. tela's_muff Says:

    what about tasteful whale? i’d take tasteful whale over dragon clouds any day. maybe it’s me. ha.

    all kidding aside, a 3-4 min section of the Randall Gin ranks way up there as fav music of tour.

  22. Vapebraham Says:

    The good: nature – gardens, beaches, clouds, trees- walking, art, music, experiences, family, friends, caring, and sharing.

    The not so good: valuing things above people, greed, pollution, and violence.

    Here’s to the good.

  23. little umbrellas Says:

    NEVERENOUGHRHODES!!
    FTMFW!!!!

    (Specially when you run your through a Roland Space Echo like Herbert)

  24. George W. Kush Says:

    Telas, you and your crew should hit Film on the Rocks on Tuesday 9/2. Big Lebowski screening at Red Rocks opened by great Denver band The Congress.

    http://film.redrocksonline.com/fotr

  25. MrCompletely Says:

    yeah @lilum I thought the existence of that blog in general was kind of the buried headline from that explosion of material

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