By Elayne Best (@jugglerswithfire)
Seeing Phish at Walnut Creek Amphitheater has been like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. Historically, shows have ranged from spectacular (7/22/97) to uninspired (6/25/00). So what would we get on 6/18/11? The night before was a standout in performance for this summer tour. How would they respond in a venue with as mixed quality of performances such as Walnut Creek?
Pre-show, the weather was incredibly hot, and a thunderstorm warning was in effect. The storm went around us and it rained just slightly. It was kind of perfect, just enough to cool the temperature down a few degrees and create a nice southern evening breeze.
Phish came out and started the show with a smoking “Cars Trucks Buses,” which had not been played since 8/12/10. This was an enjoyable opener, and I was happy to be in Page’s House. Next came a first timer for me in 147 shows, “Peaches en Regalia.” It was a lot of fun to hear, although it was not performed flawlessly. It was interesting that Phish had chosen consecutive instrumentals to kick start the show. The energy in the crowd and the band was high. When “AC/DC Bag” began, the energy only elevated. Listen to Mike during this “Bag.” The energy slowed a bit as Phish began “Guyute,” but continued to build into the frenzied ending of the song.
We were next treated to Phish’s seemingly favorite song to play in the 3.0 era, a standard “Possum.” Then came fan favorite “Halley's Comet.” The first thoughts when “Halley’s” starts these days is will it be jammed or will the cord be pulled? Although I could have enjoyed this “Halley’s” for much longer, Trey rips right into a strong rocking type I version of “46 Days.”
As only appropriate looking at the night sky, “Divided Sky” began. The band then launched into a soulful version of “Curtis Loew.” As usual, the Phish did great justice to this cover, and it was indeed one of the highlights of the evening. A standard version of “Antelope” closed the first set.
Second set began with a good short version of “Twist,” which really had strong potential to go exploratory, but was launched into “Rift.” “Prince Caspian.” a song that I’m normally not fond of, has a very exploratory outro as a beautiful rendition of “Esther” awaited on the other side.
Was it due to a sign for the next song? After much band debate, Trey calls for Brian Brown who sets up for what is to come, and gets a shout out from the crowd. A small banter about Mike Gordon’s bell, he can ring his bell, ring his bell, ensues. Then the stage banter ended and the venue exploded with energy as “Been Caught Stealing” erupted.
A short yet exploratory funky “Piper” > “My Friend My Friend” > “Kill Devil Falls” followed. A song I had wanted to see, “Split Open and Melt” came next. The psychedelic type-II “Melt” was quite dark and enjoyable, although I felt like it never got to where it needed to go. I’m sure to be finished later, like at Superball IX.
The end of the second set included another seemingly favorite of the band’s, “Golgi Apparatus” and the crowd energizing “First Tube.” The show encored with a standard 3.0 version of “Good Times Bad Times”
Verdict? Following a show like Charlotte is tough, but there were definitely a few good chocolates in this box.