With a stellar second set full of maestro-like improv, Phish officially announced the beginning of Fall ’09 leaving memories of the previous three sets in the dust. In complete contrast with the composition-heavy opening frame, Phish blew apart The Crown with a series of major jam vehicles, crafting their first mega-set of the the fall. Strewn with dramatic flair and amazing improv, the second set reminded everyone in the building why they had made the trip to Cincinnati.
Launching off a fiery “Punch” opener that never gets old, the band dropped their first indoor “Tweezer” since their comeback show in Hampton. And boy how far they’ve come! In a straight-up dance odyssey, Trey led the band through a full-on escapade in swamp-groove; exploding with swank and ferocious licks over a crack-like backdrop. Engaging the entire band in a jam of pure, unadulterated swagger and rhythmic acrobatics, Trey annihilated his leads throughout, forming the stuff of dreams. In an all out aural assault, Phish destroyed The Crown into oblivion within the course of fifteen minutes, and the set wasn’t even half way done.
Using a short ambient outro after a endless swarm of nasty grooves, the band segued into their newest standout vehicle, “Light.” Flowing seamlessly from one of most passionate jams of this era, and into their newest cathartic launchpad, the band crafted an indelible memory in the second-ever incarnation of “Tweezer > Light.” Taking off into “Light,” their musical palette turned distinctly more melodic as Trey turned from his snarling side into geyser of organically cascading melodies that made this one of the strongest outings of the song to date. Absolutely re-writing the book with his dizzying guitar work, Trey brought his magical song of summer indoors for the first time, and the confinement of its energy seismically shifted its future potential.
Just as the band began to climb back down the backside of the mountain, they entered a delicate funk groove that transformed into the most creative use and exploration “Get Back on the Train” in memory. Immersing themselves in short, collaborative textures, the band played off each other masterfully, clearly feeling IT. Featuring another seamless segue, this time into “Possum,” Phish continued their non-stop musical suite, upping the levels of intensity considerably from their copious summer jaunts through the song. With far less focus on the bluegrass side,, the band dove into a more psychedelic-rock assault on the usual country bumpkin. And when the music finally stopped, we were left with an amazing portion of Phish that read “Tweezer > Light > Train > Possum.” An unlikely combination of songs came together to create one of the now-indelible portions of ’09 Phish. And to put an exclamation point on their adventure, Phish delicately fluttered into “Slave.” A truly magnificent version, it has been a long time since the band came together with such a fierce passion on a “Slave” jam. A song that can sometimes fall into a generic build, this version stood out among the many versions we have heard this year with multiple builds, plateaus, and crescendos. Carrying undeniable majesty with sublime phrasing by Trey and immaculate full-band improv, this version sits on the top shelf of ’09 renditions.
With time for one more solid jam, the band dropped the nastiest “YEM” of the modern era. Ever since coming indoors, Fish’s beats have become increasingly dirtier, and this shift was showcased during the tightly wound groove-factory of this “YEM.” Once Mike and Trey landed on stage from their final leap off their trampolines, shit was on as the band kicked into some of the most infectious rhythms of the night. Showing everyone they’ve still got what it takes to rock a party right, Phish crushed their classic song with a version that inspired the inner dancer in everyone in the venue, and reminded us of a band we once knew.
This second set provided a blistering example of Phish fully beginning to hit their stride again. With a couple runs under their belt, the publicity of their return over and done with, we are back on Fall Tour. Each piece of improv from the first two shows has been outstanding, and they finally threw out all the filler in last night’s second half, crafting one the year’s standout sets of music and an all-out throw-down of serious magnitude…for the kidz.
1st set Notes:
Using the first half of each of the last two shows more like recitals, Phish put the spotlight on their complex compositions last night featuring “Divided Sky,” “Time Turns Elastic,” and “Fluffhead.” Totaling nearly fifty minutes of jam-less Phish, this decision seemed, in my opinion, a bit over indulgent. Coupled with the uber-generic 3.0 opening of “Chalkdust,” “Moma,” the first set amounted to a beautiful “Fast Enough” and a killer “Jibboo.” And though the “Jibboo” certainly killed, one jam a set ain’t gonna cut it, unless… (see above)
I: Chalk Dust Torture, The Moma Dance, The Divided Sky, Alaska, Water in the Sky, Fast Enough for You, Time Turns Elastic, Gotta Jibboo, Fluffhead
II: Punch You In the Eye, Tweezer > Light > Back on the Train > Possum, Slave to the Traffic Light, You Enjoy Myself
E: Joy, Golgi Apparatus, Tweezer Reprise