Phish proved a lot in 2009, mainly that Trey was capable of shaking off the rust and executing songs that he had a lot of trouble with towards the end of Phish 2.0. Both his sobriety and practicing obviously plays an important role in this.
However, there are some songs that the band (usually Trey) seems to still have trouble with. Sometimes the trouble is with a composed section of a certain song, and sometimes it’s with trying to make the improvisation meaningful and interesting in a song that was once known for that.
Let me give some examples; I’ll start off with Ghost. The problem with Ghost since Phish’s return has not been the improvisation, as we have seen with NYE ’09’s version and Albany’s version(I do think Trey kind of drops the ball in that version’s jam, but that’s for another post). The problem is with the composed part, and a very simple composed part at that. They can play Fluffhead correctly, Foam correctly and You Enjoy Myself correctly but they **cough** Trey still can’t get down Ghost?
My first problem is with how they start it now. Ghost always was a thick song, heavy with the bass and the drums. Up until 2009, they would always either start it by the whole band popping into it, the very quiet hi-hat and snare thumping out the beat while getting louder and louder until the whole band comes in or by segueing into it from another song (and Ghost is such a perfect song to do that with, almost anything can go into Ghost if they want it to). Every single version of Ghost in 2009 starts with Trey scratching out the chords. It sounds sloppy and very un-Ghost-like. Ok, I can deal with that, but the lyrics also seem to not jive properly with the music anymore and every version except one (NYE 09’S) Trey botches the part where the band stops and then Fish pops the snare and they all yell “I feel I…”, which eventually leads into the jam. His guitar has been off every time, making a simple song remarkably awkward.
A song that at one point needed work on both the composed section and the improvisational segment is Harry Hood. Every since they played it at Hampton, Trey completely butchered the “heavy metal” part, often throwing the band off or forcing Page to use his synthesizer heavily to cover it up. If I remember correctly, 6/18/09 was the first show where he didn’t flub it, and since then it doesn’t seem to be a problem. That all being said, Harry Hood’s jam now wanders and completely lacks any sort of direction or inspiration. We all know how Harry Hood is usually known for it’s quiet beginning, building beautifully up to a glorious crescendo and then eventually “you can feel good…I feel good…good about Hood…” Are there any versions in 2009 that are even tolerable? I give Festival 8’s version a pass because, although it’s almost 18 minutes, they had that huge balloon floating around and they were simply providing background music as everyone stared at it. Now, when I hear this song come on, I just think “this better not close the set, because I want them to leave on a high note”. Now the song just meanders around, comes to a forced and apathetic peak and then goes back into the lyrics. I really wouldn’t mind them shelving this song until they play it with the intensity it deserves.
This post’s related shows:
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Saturday, 11/28/2009 Times Union Center, Albany, NY
Thursday, 12/31/2009 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL
Friday, 03/06/2009 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA
Thursday, 06/18/2009 Post-Gazette Pavilion, Burgettstown, PA