10/25/08 The National, Richmond, VA
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Within a stones throw of Hampton Coliseum, the Phish community’s current Mecca, Trey closed out his encouraging Northern Exposure Tour with a show south of the Mason-Dixon Line. With a show that concluded his ten-day comeback tour, Trey displayed the enthusiasm, goofiness, and incredible guitar playing that has defined the run. Consistently impressing crowds in each and every city he pulled into, Richmond was no different. Trey took his favorite songs from tour and put together, in the words of many Southern fans, “the best Trey show I’ve seen in a while.” With high octane power from the moments the lights went out, Trey seemed enthralled and engaged, eliciting similar emotions from the excitable audience.
Slamming his foot on the gas from the moment he stepped on stage, Trey opened the show with the ripping improvisational duo of “Push On ‘Til the Day” and “Sand.” Catching up the Southern crowd to what has been going on up North, Trey used two staple jams from this tour to spark the fireworks of the final night. A potent one-two punch, “Sand” followed up the opener with session of screaming phrases and blazing lead melodies, creating a militant soundscape of improvisation.
The bookends of the first set brought the most intense moments, and concluding combo of “Backwards Down the Number Line” and “Money, Love and Change” took the set to its musical peak. Dedicated to his lighting director on his 50th birthday, Trey played the song that Tom Marshall created for Trey’s own birthday. After not appearing in the first four nights, “Backwards Down the Number Line” appeared in every show thereafter. Boasting catchy verses, melodic hooks, and vocal harmonies- all giving way to a shredding, yet controlled jam, this song seems to possess the tangible qualities of many Phish hits. Perhaps performed for the last time before Hampton, time will tell what will become of this piece.
Taking liberty to annihilate the set closer, Trey took “Money, Love and Change” out further and more aggressively than any time of tour. Beginning with a series of classic rhythm licks, Trey funked hard for the early part of this jam. Enraptured by his playing, head nodding subconsciously side to side in tempo with his grooves, Trey was a portrait of his old-self, losing himself in his guitar playground. Inspiring to watch, and equally addicting to move to, it is these type of moments that keep us eternally coming back- bearing the crowds, traffic, teenagers, and general mayhem to get to the source.
The opening three songs, the meat of the second set, featured near forty minutes of intensely tight playing that had the room collectively bouncing like a pinball being slammed around a triangle of three bumpers. Putting a spotlight on “Sweet Dreams Melinda” for the second time in three nights, Trey used the smooth pop textures to improvise a flowing series of stirring melodies that brought the room to an elated state. With Boston’s version, tonight’s represented the best of tour from a song that many wrote off three years ago when released on Shine. Taking the energetic highpoint, and blowing it through the roof, the band launched into the tour’s second “Mr. Completely.” A crowd favorite, last night’s version one-upped the The Orpheum’s rendition with vicious improv from everyone on stage. Matching the intensity and insanity of Philly’s tour-best “Sand,” this Completely will no doubt wind up on many a post-tour highlight compilation. With all of Trey’s best on display in this jam, the audience responded to the extended jam with the raucous adoration.
As if the he hadn’t just given the entire crowd 1000 cc’s of adrenaline to the dome, as “Mr. Completely” came to an end, Trey launched into the final “Jibboo” of the run. Appearing in every show and highlighting the first four nights of tour, it seemed quasi-nostalgic to hear the last run through of the candy-grooving TAB composed vehicle. Soaring through a final set of guitar acrobatics, Trey looked as joyful as ever as he crafted a second set centerpiece.
After the initial high-paced segment of the set came the most emotionally poignant moment of the night. Playing a gorgeous, slowed down rendition of Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting In Limbo,” Trey seemed to embody the lyrical path of an unknown future. Only played five times with 70 Volt Parade in the lackluster year of 2005, this performance had the vibe of a debut. Not only rife with Phish symbolism, this song choice evoked the spirit of Jerry Garcia, as he also covered the reggae classic with his side band. With undeniable parallels between the lives of the two guitar gods, this performance by Trey at this time in his personal journey, seemed incredibly relevant. This was a particularly powerful moment at the end of a very significant tour.
After closing out the electric part of the set, his final acoustic mini-set took on some final meaning. Preceding the segment some funny banter about heading down the road to Hampton and camping out for five months to practice Phish songs, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand, drooling over the reality of March. Sending out a “dual dedication” to his daughters- both in attendance- and to Mike’s daughter who was born yesterday, Trey played the acoustic treat of “Strange Design.” Without Page alongside, hearing Trey’s voice delicately sing these lyrics, which he wrote himself, seemed like an affirmation that the tires are off the lines these days. Reminding us that life is an imperfect episode, this composition spoke to the resiliency within us all to persevere hardships and life’s speed bumps. Another intentional song choice for its layered meanings at this point in time, Trey seemed to move inwards as he gracefully strummed the emotional Phish ballad. Topping his last acoustic set with a sing-a-long Sample In A Jar, the anticipation of Phish ballooned considerably and filled the room. The energy that both Trey and the crowd possessed during this Phishy classic only foreshadowed “teensy-weensy” preview of the type of energy that will build over the following months and explode in Hampton. With no other dates scheduled between now and then, this could have been the last time we see Trey on stage until March 6th.
With a show that highlighted the best parts of tour, Trey finished his brief return to road in high style. On a Saturday night in Richmond, VA, finalizing a triumphant comeback tour, Trey officially was declared back in action and as good as ever. As the crowd filtered out into the temperate Virginia night, Hampton was certainly the buzz. Maybe he’ll play New Years and maybe he wont, but in the end, the moral of the last couple weeks has to be the rallying cry, “Viva Phish!
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
In possibly the best start to finish show of tour Trey gave the Red Sox faithful something to celebrate. A great recording, and standout jams throughout, download it now for your Sunday afternoon!
(Thanks to Jon Goldberg for the upload!)