If “Ghost” took home the Comeback Player of Tour award for Leg One, “Tweezer” certainly ran away with the trophy for Leg Two. Phish’s had tamed their exploratory vehicle in recent years, popping out of the box with an outstanding version every once in a long while. The band still wove creativity into each version in spurts, though usually relented to a quasi-standard guitar build, with the potential of something more tacked onto the end. But during Leg Two, “Tweezer” returned to its proper place of prominence with four standout versions, three of which were featured in the second set.
The first “Tweezer” of Leg Two unfolded in dramatic fashion in the middle of Bill Graham’s second set. Following a monster “Disease” and an interlude of “Birds,” one could feel “Tweezer’s” opening notes about to drop. And when they did the tiny 7,000 person concert hall exploded. The intensity throughout the composed section was palpable, as everyone seemed dialed into the energy of the band. Slow and heavy hitting grooves came growling out of the gate as the band hooked the undersized crowd with their larger-than-life rhythms. Trey integrated a plinko lead and the band was off and running in an infectious opening sequence. Gradually, Trey infused a heavier guitar lead pushing the piece into a more typical “Tweezer” build but once this section peaked, the band pushed forth into the most engaging music of the jam— a looped out, piece of storage-laced, bass-led psychedelia. The most experimental music from any “Tweezer” this tour, this sequence stretched further into legitimately abstract planes before slipping into “Twist.” Overshadowed due to its placement at the beginning of tour, Bill Graham’s “Tweezer” was as good as any played on Leg Two.
As the band flew from the Bay, they landed in Kansas City’s Starlight Theatre. To greet the Heartland in their first visit to the historic venue, Phish dropped a “Tweezer” to open the second set, and what blossomed was a thing of beauty. From note one of this jam, Phish had the course set for the heart, patiently laying down the foundation for a blissful excursion. Playing with a melodic sensibility, the band shied from outright groove for realms of the divine. This laid back music merged seamlessly with the gorgeous summer night, and on a dime, the entire band turned to an uplifting theme. As if whisked away on a magic carpet, the guys, with the audience in tow, took off for the heavens. Reaching a hugely cathartic peak, and sitting in IT for some time, the band, and Trey, specifically, poured their soul into this version, providing an 180-degree turn from Bill Graham’s darker concoction. Trey slayed heart-wrenching melodies while leading everyone to the mountaintop in my favorite version of the year. The band remained in orbit, hovering in a sparkling, ambient place, before seamlessly merging with “Piper.”
The next time “Tweezer” popped up was in the middle of a second set “Mike’s Groove” in Charlotte! The surprising placement only added excitement to the opening section as the band and audience, alike, prepared for takeoff. Splashing into the jam with a buttery groove, the guys immediately felt connected as they surfed a mellow opening wave. At a particular juncture within the whole-band exchange, Trey held a long sustained note and then launched into one of his greatest guitar solos of the year. Moving through several distinct themes within a blissful escapade, Red took the helm as his bandmates crafted the perfect pillow for his golden melodies. Inspired and letting IT flow, Trey, for a second consecutive version, took “Tweezer” into incredibly emotional domains. Turning into the centerpiece of the set, this jam provided the highest high in Charlotte’s Sunday night affair.
The final “Tweezer” of Leg Two—the only first set rendition of tour—came as the surprise third song in Dick’s second show. Though not as developed as the previous three second-set versions, this jam held its own just fine. Opening with a smooth and relaxed groove session, Trey turned the swank up to eleven with an assault of rhythm licks, the likes of which he rarely treats us to these days. Easing into more typical “Tweezer” territory out of the crack-like opening, the band moved steadily through a solid build-and-peak before Trey returned to the “Tweezer” lick, seemingly signifying the end of the jam. But the band moved right beyond this, oozing into a spacier, groove-laced denouement. This segment seemed, momentarily, like it was heading towards a Bill Graham-esque jam, but Trey came in with “Fluffhead” to keep the first set moving, and thus ended “Tweezer’s” summer.
It had been quite some time since Phish consistently infused “Tweezer” with creativity and original playing, but within a powerhouse second leg of Summer Tour, the band applied several of their modern sounds to their vehicle of lore. Crafting four unique versions that each possess start-to-finish playback value, Phish brought “Tweezer” back to significance in big way over Leg Two. With one version left in the year, most likely in The Big Apple, perhaps that monstrosity of a “Tweezer” that has been looming in MSG’s rafters since the band’s return will finally drop in all of its urban grit and glory. But I digress. Needless to say, among the many developments along the plot line of Leg Two, the return of “Tweezer” stood out as one of the brightest.
Four “Tweezers” For Friday:
“Bill Graham” 8.17 II, SF
“Starlight Theatre” 8.22 II, KC
“Verizon Wireless” 8.26 II, Charlotte
“Dick’s Stadium” 9.1 I, Commerce City