Coming off the heels of a particularly strong three show stretch, the question coming into last night's show in Reading, was could Phish sustain the momentum, or were we in for a relative letdown, much like last week's Rochester show? Looking at what had been played over the last few shows, it looked like we were due for a "Disease," "Piper," and "Hood" centric second set (we went two for three), with the show-before-Halloween factor lurking as the wildcard. Would Reading deliver?
The first set was, let's just say, uninspiring. Even accounting for the fact that first sets have largely felt like warmup acts in 2013, last night's opening frame left much to be desired. The song selection to start was fairly pedestrian. Even a pleasant surprise like "Walk Away" fell short of the standards the band has set for that song as of late. "Melt" sounded like a litter of dying kittens before awkwardly transitioning into "Julius." The rest of it? Look at the setlist; that's pretty much how it sounded. But we all know by now not to judge shows by the first set, right?
So, as I mentioned before, the "DWD" opener was pretty much a given last night. They hadn't opened a second set with it yet this tour and most of the other likely candidates had been played recently. I sometimes think of "DWD" openers as the meatloaf and mashed potatoes of Phish sets. You know it's probably going to taste pretty damn good and it will fill you up, but it's hard to get too excited about it. It lacks the novelty of "Waves," the gravity of "Crosseyed" or the history of "Tweezer." On the right night, though, it can stand up to any of those, and the band cooked up a legendary helping of meatloaf last night that might just have been the best jam of the whole damn tour. It simply did not quit as it wound from theme to theme over the course of 20+ minutes.
"Taste" was up next and was a nice version. The "Twenty Years Later" that followed seemed like an odd call as it didn't seem like we needed a breather quite yet. Luckily we didn't get one. Instead we got easily the best ever version of the song with the ensuing jam actually resembling a Dead-like jam. Page, in particular just slayed this "20YL." "Piper" was its usual incendiary self and featured a quasi-start/stop jam (not really, since Fish never really stopped, but rather relentlessly pushed things forward until Trey started up "Number Line." Even a late second set "Number Line" couldn't hurt this set, though (and this version was actually quite good. One of the stronger recent versions of "YEM" effectively closed what was basically a six song set (sorry, “Grind”).
When “Bouncing Around the Room” started, you could forgive the band for playing a perfunctory encore after such a huge set. While clearly no such forgiveness was necessary, the band went and made it doubly so by starting up a rare encore “Reba.” At this point I’m not sure if I could even say how good this “Reba” was (though it seemed really well-played). Just playing the song in that spot was gift enough. “Good Times Bad Times” served as the cherry on this fantastic set, yet another contender for best of the year. It seems like we keep on saying that on this tour. If the trend continues in AC, we may start talking about October ‘13 in the same hallowed tones as we do August ‘93, December ‘95 and November ‘97. I wouldn’t bet against it.