A night after playing a second set of virtually all improv in Hartford, Phish played their second to last show of summer centered around only one adventurous jam. The entire show was popping with energy from note one, strewn with spirited and precise playing throughout. The band played a great show from start to finish, but in the end, Merriweather will be remembered for its array of bust-outs rather than open-ended adventure. The first set saw the band drop seven songs they hadn’t played this tour including the promising debut of “Party Time,” but the second second set featured only one blowout jam. Following Hartford with a show of a completely different vibe, Phish played their last Saturday night of the summer.
As the band stepped onstage following an enticing first set, they deciding to open the second set with “Tweezer.” In a tour that has featured memorable jams out of almost every second-set opener, and a long summer that has showcased the song, we had the recipe for an epic throwdown. We were finally in for the “Tweezer” we had all been waiting for- the last “Tweezer” of summer would no doubt be a creative highlight of the season. In a tour that opened with Fenway’s distant highlight, it was only proper to end the summer with a massive psychedelic exploration of the vehicle. But Phish played a dud. Where most every second set opener has had several pieces of original improv, this “Tweezer” had zero. Sounding like they were merely going through the motions, the band loafed through a version that was completely forgettable. Before it peaked- or even got going- the jam fizzled into “Taste,” creating an ’09 version of their classic combo. But this time “Taste” far outshone the “Tweezer.” Launching into a soaring and creative version, it was as if Phish had somehow refueled their tank onstage- a bizarre beginning to the set, no doubt.
After a slight lull with “Alaska”- a song that has no business in the second set- and “Let Me Lie”- a ballad that seemed to come at a time where none was needed, Phish entered, by far, the most engaging segment of the evening with “46 Days > Oh! Sweet Nuthin’, Harry Hood.” Taking “46 Days” off the shelf for the first time since Bonnaroo, the band launched the blues-rock composition into the stratosphere, birthing a multi-faceted psychedelic opus . Letting things hang out for the only time in the show, Phish oozed outside of the composition, into a jam that left the crowd in awe- something Phish is, once again, doing nightly. Beginning with some lighter funk and moving into a growling ambient groove, the jam quickly progressed into a heavier abstract psychedelia. The band laced up their musical adventure boots and went to play. Amidst a soft melodic ambient canvas, Fishman kicked a dance beat and the band was off and running into a second half of the jam that was pure hose. Trey was absolutely killing the fast-paced jams with melodic lines that tugged on your heart mightily. The band took a big musical risk with this jam, and while the entire thing didn’t flow flawlessly, the payoff was pure Phish glory. The clear highlight of the evening gradually slowed down as Page rolled into the opening notes of the tour’s second “Oh! Sweet Nuthin.”
Once again, completely owning the cover, the band used the ballad as an emotive breath of air before the summer’s final version of “Harry Hood” rolled off the stage. A song that has shined all summer since it’s opening incarnation at Jones Beach, Phish took one last swing at their revitalized classic. Another creative masterpiece, the full-band interplay of the jam was typical of the band’s many awing renditions of the tour, and provided a fitting end to the chapter of Summer ’09 “Harry Hoods.”
Well, we have wound our way to the end of the road. That elusive SPAC show that never seemed like it would come is today. Set up to annihilate their final show in one of their favorite venues, tonight will surely be one to remember. Final shows of tours have taken on an iconic status in Phish history, and the end of such a magical road coupled the band’s first visit to SPAC since the their final flashes of brilliance in 2004, tonight should be something special.
First Set Notes: The band came out of the gates, on the heels of Hartford’s epic night, with all sorts of energy. Starting with the “Crowd Control” opener, Phish threw down seven songs not played this summer, including the debut of “Party Time”- one of the definite highlights of the show. Written by Fishman, the polyrhythmic song that reminded me a Phishy take on a sort-of New Orleans funk riff. Sure to be a huge part of fall tour, it was great to see the band begin to bring out their non-album new songs. Look for a big “Party Time” to kick off Indio just a bit down the road. Other notable well-played bust-outs were “The Sloth,” “Foam” and “Axilla.” The set also featured a free-flowing version “Beauty of a Broken Heart” which is going to turn into some retro-Phish disco jams at some point soon. Once again, the longest individual piece in the entire show was the set closing “Time Turns Elastic.” Clocking in at just under 17 minutes, the song worked decently as a set closer, but at some point the piece just seems over-indulgent to continue playing in regular rotation.
I: Crowd Control, Kill Devil Falls, The Sloth, Beauty Of A Broken Heart, Axilla I, Foam, Esther, Ha Ha Ha, Party Time, Tube, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Strange Design, Time Turns Elastic
II: Tweezer > Taste, Alaska, Let Me Lie, 46 Days > Oh! Sweet Nuthin’, Harry Hood
E: Good Times, Bad Times, Tweezer Reprise