Phish stepped into a room of legend on Wednesday night in Glens Falls, New York, and bounced back from their Tuesday night clunker with a fiery two-set performance. Leaving their rust in western New York, the band was on point from the get go on Wednesday, hitting Glens Falls in stride and treating the intimate 7,000 person audience to a high-octane mid-week performance.
When the band stepped foot in Glens Falls Civic Center—a room whose lone Phish show spawned their most popular holiday tradition—it was only appropriate to start right where they left of in 1994, with The Beatles “White Album.” Opening the show with the third-ever “Back in the USSR,” a song debuted in the same building 19 years ago (the other was 12.6.94), Phish quickly gave a nod to their seminal Halloween concert. Right away, one could tell Phish was a different band from the sluggish quartet that took the stage in Rochester. The guys sounded sharp, focused and enthusiastic from the jump, attacking their opening run of songs—including a popping version of “Undermind”—before truly igniting the show with a scorching, fifth-song “David Bowie.” Within the “Bowie” jam, the band illustrated a clear command over the music, displaying tight, full-band, tension-and-release jamming that was strewn with nuances and mini-peaks. Their willingness to take such a deep dive early in the show fully showcased the band’s confidence on this night in New York state.
The entire first set was comprised of tour debuts, less “Stealing Time,” and the fresh setlist got the crowd going early. One point of note—if only for a blazing set of blue balls—came in “Gumbo,” when Page took his final piano solo on clav and began to push it! Trey was even feeling it and hit a couple rhythms chords as accompaniment, but Fishman slowed down the backbeat and thus dissolved any shot of a jam. Also in the first set, the guys played a blazing version of “Limb by Limb,” featuring a wildy passionate solo by Trey.
Come the end of the set, the obvious choice seemed like “Antelope,” thus the band veered the other way and dropped an intense rendition of “Split Open and Melt.” So many times in this era, the band has gotten discombobulated during “Split,” often losing direction all together. But not last night as the guys remained notably coherent throughout this version. Even when the jam elevated to a space cloud and Captain Treyhab went on an intergalactic whaling mission, the band was able to return to earth and hit the ground running, tearing through the peak of “Split” with a fury and ending a very high quality, opening frame.
Tour’s first “Rock and Roll” opened Glens Falls’ main event, but things didn’t exactly go as one might expect. For the first time since tour’s first show, the band didn’t go huge on their second set opener, this time electing for a concise jam that seemed to end prematurely. As Fishman dropped into half-time, “Rock and Roll” seemed primed for take off, but before anyone could get their bearings straight, Trey strummed a signal to wind things down, and up came “Seven Below.” Phish allowed this second jam in the set to breathe considerably more than the first, as Trey took center stage with precise, six-string theatrics. Though this piece never moved too far from its theme, “Seven Below” gave the band the confidence they needed as a unit to dive into the centerpiece of the set—“Twist.”
On most nights, Phish places their largest improvisational effort on the second set opener, giving shows in which they do not, completely different contours. This show was weighted towards the back of the second set, as the two most impressive jams of the night were the final two—”Twist” and “Harry Hood.” During “Twist’s” contained jam, Trey bucked convention and set his sights much higher, speeding up the piece into wide-open territory. Where so many “Twists” have gone dark before, this one turned towards the heavens as the band opened the magic door to some awe-inspiring music. Locked in and playing as a single unit, the guys navigated a cathartic, uptempo jam for some time before hitting a change with which things turned ethereal and majestic. A extended down tempo segment in which the band played some truly sacred music provided the final piece of this melody-driven “Twist”—the shining gem of the night.
“Velvet Sea” bridged us to the second-place highlight of the show—“Harry Hood.” The throwback environs must have evoked something in Trey, because it had been quite a while since he laid into a “Hood” jam—and peak—like he did on this one. Moving from a plinko-esque beginning to a staggering end, this “Hood” is a must hear for any Phish purist. Trey’s exquisite playing throughout this version is enough to send shivers down any fan’s spine.
Following a surprise “Chalk Dust” closer, Phish brought things full circle, playing for an encore, the one song from the “White Album” that remained in Phish’s repertoire—”While My Guitar Gently Weeps”—a move, in and of itself, that spawned a tradition. As we move to Worcester, and tour’s halfway point, we have begun to see the development of a legitimate Fall run of shows. The band has been on fire every night less one, and each of those shows has produced a timeless piece of creative Phish—“Carini,” “Ghost,” “Tweezer” and “Twist.” What will come next is anybody’s guess, but if I were in a few hundred mile radius of New England this weekend, I’d make it a point to get to Worcester and Hartford to find out.
I: Back in the U.S.S.R., Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Water in the Sky, Undermind, David Bowie, Golgi Apparatus, Gumbo, Yarmouth Road, Camel Walk, Horn, Limb By Limb, I Didn’t Know, Split Open and Melt
II: Rock and Roll > Seven Below, Alaska, Twist > Wading in the Velvet Sea, Harry Hood, Chalk Dust Torture
E: While My Guitar Gently Weeps