Sometimes one set can kick Phish into gear, and Friday night’s blowout seemed to do just that, as the band came back Saturday on fire from note one, triumphantly capping their first two-night stand of the fall. Using a far more balanced effort than either previous show, the band spread their jams over both sets, creating a fully engaging evening from start to finish. Completely settled into the arena groove, Phish put together another devastating second-set combo in “Rock And Roll > Ghost > If I Could,” but the jam of the show may have come before setbreak in the blissfully insanity of “Split Open and Melt.”
All of their jams, composed or otherwise, have been kicked up a notch since stepping indoors, and the first “Wolfman’s” of the tour held true to this pattern. As Trey picked lead lines over the band’s chunky groove, this version evolved into a smooth-operating dance-session to get the show underway in earnest. With jazzy grooves aplenty, the band got their improvisational chops warmed-up early on Saturday night. Following what has become a rather standard piece in “Ocelot,” the band dipped into their Halloween costume for the first time, breaking out the heavy favorite from “Exile” to remain in rotation,”Torn and Frayed.” Sounding even sharper than during their now-renowned cover set, Phish nailed a similar-length version that sounded sweeter than ever. Needing a new cover song oh-so-badly, the band chose a winner that fits their current style perfectly. A welcome addition to the catalog, look for a this one to open up a second set at some point this tour, leading into an extended piece of improv.
But the no-brainer jam of the set – and, in my opinion, standout piece of the evening – came a few songs later with an utterly mind-numbing “Split.” Moving through multiple phases of creative jamming, Phish progressed through a sublime melodic build before arriving at a menacing musical dungeon. Increasing in both intensity and abstraction, the band created one of the most incredible musical moments of ’09. Patiently molding a lasting psychedelic masterpiece, the band nailed the change back into the “Split” jam with ridiculous accuracy, exploding into the groove. A most outrageous piece of music, this is one that needs to be heard to be believed.
After coming down from the madness with a soft musical pillow of “Dirt” and a “Limb” that featured incredibly lyrical soloing by Trey, the band soared into a set ending “Antelope.” Showcasing the overwhelming guitar mastery of Big Red’s fall tour thus far, he drove this “Antelope” into smithereens with his retro-machine gun style that has recently emerged. Ending the first half on an incredibly high note, the band finally played a far-reaching opening set that contained more than one pieces of legit improv for the first time this tour.
On the first Saturday night of fall, Phish broke out one of their most popular openers in “Rock and Roll,” pleasing all in attendance with the cover-turned-type-II journey. Moving out of the blistering rock jam, the band broke things down into a series of percussive grooves that turned the music far more interesting and dancable. Naturally moving int a textured canvas of rhythmic communication, the band carried some distinct momentum into this second portion of the jam. But as things moved forward they only got more intriguing as the band entered a third plane – a deeply inspiring ambient section likening alien intervention. Harnessing the power of the other side, the band had moved from rock to groove to all-out psychedelia before morphing into “Ghost.” Bouncing with the rediscovered indoor energy, Trey led the band in a high-octane version that picked up the pace from its summer incarnations. Another example of his uncompromising play in Cincinnati, Trey crushed this version with an extended series of stunning leads that varied from the fiery to the melodic. Without getting far out there, this “Ghost” absolutely smoked, providing a jolt of adrenaline, that coupled with “Rock and Roll,” created – potentially – the most creative segment of tour thus far.
After a searing peak to a period of full-on jamming, the band dripped into a surprise landing point of “If I Could.” Maintaining the rearranged, more delicate, format from its Jones Beach return, the band collectively wove a gorgeous musical fabric that tickled the soul. This first half of the set presented us with one of the most engaging segments of improv this run; a tour that is slowly shaping up as the return of the well-oiled monster we once knew. At this point, the band turned to a series of singles to close out the show for the weekend crowd. Highlighted by a magnificent, multi-peaking “Caspian,” and a short but sweet “2001,” the band killed this run of songs despite the lack of any real jamming.
Building on an incredible two nights at the Crown, we make the quick turn-around up to Syracuse for the tour’s smallest show. With 8,000 people on a Sunday night, things are looking quite bright for tonight. I’ve got bags to pack. See you there!
I: Wilson, NICU, Wolfman’s Brother, Ocelot, Torn and Frayed, Strange Design, Ginseng Sullivan, Albuquerque, Split Open and Melt, Dirt, Limb By Limb, Run Like an Antelope
II: Rock and Roll > Ghost > If I Could, Backwards Down the Number Line, Prince Caspian, Suzy Greenberg, 2001 > The Squirming Coil
E: Sleeping Monkey, Axilla