We’re coming around the home stretch for leg one of Phish’s 2012 summer tour, which by all reasonable accounts has been notable for the consistently quality performances. The variance between each gig has been very low and containing something for everyone, and the peaks – including last night’s absolutely ripping “Sneakin’ Sally” – have soared. In other words, they’ve been bringing the heat, every night. That sometimes gets lost when breaking down shows song-by-song with the minor quibbles and comparison’s that inevitably arise. We’ll offer some broader tour ending recaps and reviews in due time, but I wanted to get that out there. Here at phish.net we engage in a lot of historical analysis and comparison that isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t appreciating the here and now. The here and now is pretty awesome.
Kevin Shapiro kicked off the evening with From the Archives #16 part 2 on SiriusXM. Starting off from Phish’s first headlining performance at SPAC, we are treated to the absolutely sick 7/10/94 “Mike’s Song” -> “Low Rider” -> “Mike’s” > “I Am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug.” Then what is widely considered the most innovative “Boogie On Reggae Woman” ever played, from the 9/18/99 performance in Chula Vista, CA, a singularly stunning achievement in group improvisation that thrills every bit as much now as it did then. “Maze” from 10/18/96 at Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena is next, followed by the lovely Trey jazz composition “Flat Fee” from the classic 7/20/91 Arrowhead Ranch gig with the Giant Country Horns.
A radical shift in tempo finds Kevin offering up the “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” > “Fly Famous Mockingbird” from 8/7/93 with the classic “Roller Coaster of The Mind” narration inspired by the Darien Lake Theme Park (and Gamehendge, of course). Next is another gem from SPAC, the amazing “You Enjoy Myself” from 6/26/95, followed by the deep, profound classic, “In a Hole” from 12/9/89. To wrap things up, “Bug” from ~5am in The Show at Big Cypress, an amazing achievement of endurance and beauty all in one. Finally, a bonus snippet from the “Headphones Jam” as “filler” takes us right up to showtime. Thanks for a great archives show, Kevin, as always!
Set one of the live* action kicks off in the a cappella formation with “Grind” – the first since 12/31/10 MSG, 58 shows – followed swiftly by the embarrassingly underplayed “Possum,” finally ending the long national nightmare of the JadedVet™ in all of us. The action stays fun – if based on stock footage – with the “Golgi” > “Moma” combo. “Torn and Frayed” offers tonight’s first of what has been a summer chock full of choices from their previous Halloween albums. “Rift” keeps this set churning along at a workmanlike pace, though the song is welcome back to the first set (the last three had somehow escaped into the $ set).
[*“Live,” for those at the show. For those of us for whatever reason relegated to the couch, SiriusXM dropped the ball and had the show on at least a five minute delay. Perhaps they hadn’t heard of this new upstart “Twitter” that has fans couch touring from home enjoying with friends and others in real-time. In the future perhaps they could indicate that their “live” show is in fact a tape-delayed simulcast.]
“Cities” breathes a bit of life from what was a lackluster first quarter with a sweet, sparse jam that was definitely good and could have really been great. Fortunately the hard ripcord stayed in the equipment rack in favor of a slick segue into “Maze.” “Lawn Boy” was its usual lounge lizardy self, albeit with a particularly inspired bass solo from Mike. A mostly clean rendition of “Peaches” gives way to “Bathtub Gin.” As it does so often, “Gin” anchors this set with its “typical” excellence, great stuff. “Good Times Bad Times” rocks the first frame to its conclusion. Thankfully stiff with competition (see for example Cincinnati, DC1, Alpine2 and JB2) this first set won’t be under consideration for best of the tour, but from “Cities” on out it was fun and well played. Good times.
“Down with Disease” opens, and as our friend Scotty Bernstein noted it was the 20th “DwD” second set opener since the band returned to the stage at Hampton in 2009. Promising as always out of the gates, a brilliant and patient segue into “Blister in the Sun!” An awesome call and the first since 7/9/98 (390 shows). Though only one verse was sung it was a great treat, one of so many this tour. Back into an unfinished “Disease” and then an equally spectacular and spacey jam that yields to “Boogie On.” A bold choice given what so many fans had heard earlier in the day on From the Archives! We’ll leave that comparison for another day, but this version smoked and was perfectly placed and started to jump off a small cliff with Trey uncharacteristically (for “Boogie On”) looping over the rock of rhythm by Mike and Fish.
"Golden Age” has been one of Phish’s more reliable jam vehicles this tour. This version quickly settled into a nice groove with Page leading the way but, in the second silky smooth segue of the set, gave way to a spunky if “typically excellent” “2001” before any truly adventurous improv took place. An excellent “Backwards Down the Number Line” follows maintaining the upbeat mood of the set and featured an obligatory “Blister in the Sun” tease from Trey. A perfectly respectable (and unfinished) “Prince Caspian” fills the ballad slot for this evening and makes a surprisingly cool segue into the decidedly more up-tempo “Scent of a Mule.” The first since the excellent 6/23/12 Star Lake version, Page takes this one on a short ride before yet another game “Blister” jam and then back into “Mule!”
In an excellent placement call “Mike’s Song” leads the charge to the finish line, with yet more “Blister” teases from Trey in the intro and later in the jam. A hearty “Mike’s” it was, and instead of “Hydrogen” or “Simple” we are treated to a splendid surprise with the first “Contact” of the year, the first following “Mike’s Song” since 6/30/95. “Weekapaug” takes this train into the station, a breezy and fun if not expansive version, with some ‘thank you sir, may I have another’ “Blister” teases, ending this “blistering” (too easy, I know) set of Phish favorites. The encore wraps this show with an appropriately feisty “Sabotage” that Trey dedicated to Adam 'MCA' Yauch who passed away in May of this year. RIP, MCA!
The conclusion on this show? Pull yourselves up from your bootstraps and make your own. Yours is the only one that matters. We’ll see you back here tomorrow night to put a bow on the fabulous first leg of the tour. Drive safe!