While Phish’s take on Little Feat’s “Waiting For Columbus” was the clear centerpiece of an amazing evening, Phish played two other sets as well. The first frame, filled with Halloween-themed selections featured one of the jams of the tour in “Stash,” and a dancy early sequence of “Ghost > Spooky.” During the third set – practically an afterthought following such a masterful Halloween cover – Phish marched out a sequence of high-energy anthems to close the show, weekend, and tour. Without getting into any serious jams other than a smoking “Jibboo,” Phish used a fun finale to celebrate the achievements of the season. And after a transformative few weeks, that felt just fine.
Phish crafted a Halloween-laced opening set with the heavier rock of “Frankenstein” and “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars,” before catching everyone off guard with an early “Ghost.” Playing with a collective direction and relaxing feel, the entire band toyed within the song structure while building closely off each others’ offerings. Trey stepped out front with an enthusiastic solo while Fishman kept a cymbal heavy beat. Continuing the holiday theme, Page seamlessly came in with piano chords that smoothly transformed the jam into the late-’60s cover, “Spooky.” One couldn’t tell where “Ghost” ended and “Spooky” began in a particularly seamless segue. Though Trey has often teased the guitar lick from this piece (a la 12/31/95’s “Weekapaug”), the song hadn’t been performed since April ’93, making it the largest bust-out in Atlantic City.
Phish passionately nailed “Divided Sky” as a mid-set interlude and continued the holiday cheer with “Roses Are Free,” but the improvisational peak of the Phish-only section of the show came in a staggering “Stash.” The band dove headfirst into this top-notch highlight; a jam that illustrates the band’s current no-nonsense style as well as any. Within a minute of exiting the lyrics, Phish fully locked into a synched pattern that began to build away from the song. As Mike and Page joined Trey in a major key, the band transformed the usually evil opus into a blissful magic-carpet ride into the sunset of Fall Tour. Fishman remained loosely-anchored in “Stash’s” rhythms, while the other three band members took off into an alternate reality. Forging a pristine path through this musical wormhole, the band subconsciously slid right back into the key of “Stash,” picking up the snarling journey at the end of the sonic rainbow. A crunchy “Character Zero” punctuated a highly-engaging opening frame, bringing the evening to into its first setbreak.
After playing, arguably, their most impressive Halloween set to date, Phish came out for a third set with all sorts of possibilities. Some darker selections that seemed like a given – “Mike’s Groove” and “Light”- never showed up, and the band favored an upbeat, high-energy affair to close out their tour. A scalding “Disease” ripped the frame wide open, roaring out of the composed rock into a snapping section of percussive grooves. Locked and loaded, the band seemed to be on the brink of something significant as Trey wove guitar effects into the increasingly abstract piece. Slowing into a series of collective hits, the band landed in a murky psychedelia; Phish was set for liftoff. But in an inexplicable move, Trey called for an abrupt change into “Back On the Train” as “Disease” reached its deepest point. This move signified the type of set that would roll out – a fun, song-based third frame rather than a Vegas ’98er.
The centerpiece of this high-octane conclusion came in a fiercely-active “Jibboo.” Trey’s non-stop solo formed the scintillating icing on a musical cake which showcased more full-band interplay than usual. Trey even drew the band into his melodic template towards the end of the excursion. But when the dust settles, “Jibboo” is a vehicle for mind-numbing guitar work, and that is exactly what underlined is what this third-set standout. Building to a white-hot peak, Phish settled the audience with the slowed-funk of “Camel Walk,” a clear nod to Little Feat’s musical influence.
The set got a bit choppy in the middle, as “Suzy” and “Wilson” seemed completely out of place; but the band decided to jam out of “Wilson” for one few times in their career. Beginning with a guitar lick that sounded like the precursor to another Led Zeppelin tease, the band stayed on their own turf this time, crafting a thrashing heavy metal-turned-ambient passage that showcased far more creativity than they have infused into the song in eons. As Phish drew out the cosmic sludge into a drone landscape, Trey subtly teased the original lick that got this shindig started before he dropped out for the opening drum roll of “Harry Hood.” A delicate and mellow version of the usually high-spirited jam reached the ending chorus with no real build up to it, leaving the last “Hood” of fall a bit short of spectacular. But this entire set was gravy after such a stunning and satisfying Halloween performance.
As soon as Trey started “The Horse,” everyone in the venue knew where we were headed – “Horse > Silent,” YEM.” And so it was. A largely guitar-based “YEM” jam put the final stamp on an unforgettable evening of music on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Finalizing things with a set of joyful Phish songs, everyone drifted into November 1st with the energy and inspiration that only Phish can provide. Bringing all their guests back for a “Julius” encore, the show ended with the band of the hour – Little Phish – on stage for one last time. Closing tour with a special encore, the band took a bow to a notably enthusiastic ovation. Putting down their instruments for the last time of tour, Phish had arrived. Sometime during the magical fall of 2010, their comeback came to a close, and Phish took the first bold step into in the next golden era of their career.
I: Frankenstein, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Ghost > Spooky, The Divided Sky, Roses Are Free, Funky Bitch, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Stash, Character Zero
II: Little Feat – Waiting For Columbus
III. Down with Disease > Back on the Train, Gotta Jibboo, Camel Walk, Suzy Greenberg, Wilson > Harry Hood, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, You Enjoy Myself
* with Giovanni Hidalgo and horn section