Phish ended their first leg of Summer ’09 in style, playing a second set filled with psychedelic exploration, and composing a masterful final stanza to cap their month of June. Completing a three-week tour at Alpine Valley, the band treated Sunday night’s crowd to a complete show whose second set will stand up against anything from this run. Complimenting Saturday’s upbeat show, the band erupted with darker improvisation in their final performance, leaving us with a gem to listen to during the five weeks off.
Coming out for their last set of the tour, “Crosseyed and Painless” was the last thing anyone expected to hear, and when they band broke out the cover to the roar of the crowd, everyone knew it was on. Taking a trek through searing percussive grooves, Phish completely killed the Talking Head’s cover as the entire band was taped in to the source. Exiting the verse and entering one of the tightest and most exciting pieces of tour, the band stretched out the rock grooves before launching into a purposeful and directed ambient jam, putting an exclamation point on the several ambient excursions of the tour. Stretching the psychedelia further than previous trips, Phish never lost their cohesion as they built a multi-layered piece of standout improv. Morphing seamlessly into the muddy bass intro to “Disease,” Phish pulled off a memorable transition as they stepped into their staple jam. The band combined two impressive explorations, ripping “Disease” every bit as cohesively as “Crosseyed,” and molding one of the most magnetic musical segments of the summer. Bringing the “Disease” jam “out” as well, Phish put together a textured palette as they wound their way into another abstract piece of aural art. Taking their classic vehicle in a distinctly ’09 direction, the band continued to carve out their newest sound- tightly wound jams releasing into ambient soundscapes. Out of “Disease,” Phish’s improvisational adventure dropped into “Bug,” a song that served as soaring mid-set landing point and whose ending was extended with a subtle pass into “Piper.”
Quickly adhering to the nights exploratory theme, “Piper’s” jam developed into a speed-funk excursion, led by Trey’s aggressive rhythm chops and Fishman’s driving beats. Riding a rhythmic roller coaster, Trey began to bend his notes, bringing the jam in a more laid-back direction as Page stepped up to complement his playing. Locked together, the band established a layered canvas on which Trey began to solo with ethereal lead melodies. The band progressed into a dense concluding part of the jam, heavily strewn with effects from each band member. With this abstract segment that could have sprang from somewhere deep in Summer ’95, the band concluded their jaunt with a poignant piano transition into “Velvet Sea.” The emotional ballad signified the impending end of tour, but as soon as anyone felt slightly bittersweet, the band picked the vibe right back up with the “dready-mama funk” of “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” A song that has brought thick bass effects and hot clav solos to the table for most of the tour, did just that, adding a spunky moment before Phish dramatically closed their set with a phenomenal “Slave.” The band took their time to nail their chosen farewell jam, building slowly and impeccably into a triumphant punctuation to an amazing set of Phish.
Last night’s first set was centered around the compositional side of Phish, highlighting “Divided Sky,” “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday” and “Time Turns Elastic.” The rocking first half of the frame saw the summer debuts of “Funky Bitch”- as a response to a fan’s sign- and “Brother”- played as a Father’s Day shout out with all of Phish’s kids comically sitting in a bathtub at the front of the stage. Yet, the most compelling aspect of the set was how the band tied together a string of more tender songs to close it out. Flowing naturally between “Horse > Silent,” “TMWSIY,” and “Time Turns Elastic,” the band created a mellower and intricate vibe to the second half of the set. Well-placed as a first set closer, especially in this context, “Time Turns Elastic,” came across better than the its previous mid-second set incarnations, and brought the set to a different sort of peak.
Capping off three-weeks on the road, Phish will have plenty of time to rest up for their late-summer run, and we’ll have plenty of time to break down what has happened over the course of the band’s first full tour in years. In the five weeks before Red Rocks, we will discuss, analyze, and investigate all the musical mayhem that has fully back returned to our lives. The future looks promising for our Fab Four, and we are all lucky to be a part of it. Much more to come in the upcoming days….as for now, I’m signing off. Miner- over and out.
I: Brother, Wolfman’s Brother, Funky Bitch, The Divided Sky, Joy, Back On The Train, Taste, Poor Heart, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkanu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Time Turns Elastic
II: Crosseyed and Paiinless > Down With Disease > Bug > Piper > Wading In The Velvet Sea, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Grind, Frankenstein