Phish greeted the South with a song driven affair totalling 28 selections and little improvisation to note in a disjointed show that never achieved liftoff. The band played sharply but with little creativity as they delighted the noticeably-drunken audience with a show reminiscent of their Hampton recitals of ’09. Featuring quasi-bustouts in “Destiny Unbound,” “Buffalo Bill,” “Dog-Faced Boy,” “Roses Are Free,” and “Mexican Cousin,” Phish dotted the show with some rarities along the way; and though not playing anything poorly, they didn’t do anything particularly special in a show that will unquestionably be eclipsed by Saturday night.
Opening with a scalding combo of “Punch,” “Possum,” and “Bathtub Gin,” things looked promising as Page’s dad, Dr. Jack McConnell joined the band for his famed spot “Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home?” But after Phish front-loaded the set, things took a turn for the generic for the rest of the frame. Only “Stash” and “Antlelope” provided notable structured improv, each boasting legitimate first set high points. An old-school “Stash” reached a supremely psychedelic peak without ever leaving its build, and featured some nasty guitar wizardry by Big Red. And when Antelope ended the set with a bang, anything seemed possible in set two.
The second half started in blistering fashion, as Phish unveiled the “Disease” that eluded Broomfield; though it would provide the only significant jamming of the second set. The band moved from high speed rock and roll into an uptempo rhythmic section that bridged the way to a legitimate ambient experiment. Drifting into “Prince Caspian” to resolve the opener, Phish slayed the anthem favoring a heavier guitar solo than the summer versions, though the song came at a time that slowed the opening vibe of the set. As the band started up the subsequent “Twist,” the show felt like it could be restoked – especially after Broomfield’s stellar rendition. But a meandering jam that noodled around the theme for its duration never developed into anything to write home about. With the onset of “Roses Are Free” amidst the second set, Phish held the fate of the show in their hands. It sure felt like they were stepping to the song for the third time of their career, as this was an unprecedented slot for the coveted cover. But just as the jam prepared to launch, Trey called for “My Friend, My Friend,” killing the possibility of a improv-based show and initiating a string of songs that would take us to the end of the set.
“My Problem Right There” featured a new bridge between verses, possibly signifying more to come from the Trey’s clever new song. And though “Tube,” “Mike’s,” “Weekapaug,” and “Slave” all look good on paper, none of these crowd favorites blossomed significantly last night, all bringing standard fare to the table in Charleston, South Carolina. And that was about it for night one. A fitting encore of “Character Zero” ended this relentless escapade of songs that will likely be balanced by a Saturday night show strewn with improv. Ya’ gotta figure, right?
I: Punch You In the Eye, Possum, Bathtub Gin, Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home?*, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Destiny Unbound, Backwards Down the Number Line, Bouncing Around the Room, Stash, Joy, Buffalo Bill, Dog Faced Boy, Run Like an Antelope
II: Down with Disease > Prince Caspian > Twist, Roses Are Free > My Friend, My Friend, My Problem Right There, Tube, Mike’s Song > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Mexican Cousin, Weekapaug Groove, Suzy Greenberg, Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Character Zero
*w/ Page’s dad