What Could Have Been Great Was Only Good

Par of the course for 2010–A high energy show with lots of character, a new cover and a new original, Mike terrorizing the audience with his bass, Trey sounding great and cutting the rest of the band short during their best jams of 3.0.



Phish yet again put together two flowing sets of extremely energetic, fun and well played music last night–so, it’s hard to complain when we have been looking for that for 10 years now.  In what seems to be inevitable now, Trey yet again cut two wonderful jams short to abrasively and awkwardly go into another song.  The tho center piece jams of the second set, and night, were back to back and both amazing.  Sneakin’ Sally and Light had Phish’s new 2010 style jams–Sneakin’ with a more intense version of their newfound funk that we saw first in Hershey’s Drowned, and Light which contained their new take on spaciness/evilness that we first saw in Blossom’s Number Line.  Sneakin’ Sally had a vocal jam (a la 2009 Gorge) that went into a perfectly meshed showcase of funk with Mike using an effect that sounds like a new take on his 1998 “underwater” effect he used so often in YEM.  When the jam had finally locked and seemed to be set to move out of the funk and into some heavier guitar work, perhaps, Trey started strumming the intro to Light.  This jam was a real good jam, it probably had the most potential so far this tour to have been the best jam, though.  Light, however, is real good this time around–probably the best version of the year.  The bass becomes heavy with the drums slowly becoming in sync with them–just then, Trey makes everyone–including the rest of the best–shake their heads when he tries to force everyone into 46 Days.  In a far more abrasive and awkward transition than the segue into Light, and right up there with the segue from Sand->Horse from Hartford, Fishman tries to wrestle the jam’s reigns away from Trey by clearly drumming louder and more fluently–as if he is trying to say “Trey, we’re really goin’ here, chill out”.  In almost every other part of 2010’s summer tour, so far, the entire band has been in sync better than I have seen/heard them since 1999–it boggles my mind why that goes out the window when they start really locking in and jamming.  The awful thing is, these jams are coming almost on a nightly basis–think if Trey didn’t kill these–we could have unbelievable improvisation nightly.


It’s as if Trey is afraid of something–is he afraid the audience is going to get bored or that the jam will be mediocre?  Whatever it is, we have been waiting for years, a decade in fact, for Phish to be this energetic and precise again.  And now it’s this little road block to reaching Phish glory yet again–it’s something that Trey can easily fix.  The problem is no longer his lack of practice, his lack of energy, his lack of happiness–it’s far easier to change than all of those things.  Just let loose, Trey–If you are reading this LET LOOSE, STOP FORCING SONGS. EVERYTHING ELSE ABOUT PHISH IS WONDERFUL RIGHT NOW–YOU ARE ONLY ONE THING AWAY FROM UTTER EPICNESS.

Moving on to the rest of the show;
Keeping things fresh and fun–proving that they are practicing with each other daily (which their overall communication in every song clearly reflects), they opened up with another first time cover, Lit O Bit before busting out the first Camel walk of the year and only the fifth version post-hiatus.  


Phish went on to play another very fresh first set with thoughtfulness and specific highlights.  The first Dirt of 2010 popped up, along with another debut of a Phish original, Dr. Gabel–a poppy up-beat song ending with Bouncin’-esque guitar work.  Kill Devil Falls was a first set highlight–this 12 minute version, second longest song of the night after Divided Sky, sounded a lot like a longer version of Chalk Dust Torture.  The energy kept Trey ripping the whole way through.  


The set closed with Antelope–a version I find similar to Toyota Park’s due to its trouble finding a way to peak.  Seeing as how the first two versions of the year contained Fishman and Mike references and solos, respectively, last night “Leo Esquandolis” was on deck for his short solo.


Coming out for their second set, most wondered what they would open with–would it be a jam song, or a song with less room for improvisation?  It ended up being Mike’s Song–a song that could be either.  This version is certainly another solid effort, better than most any 2009 version, however not up to par with Blossom’s.  Weekapaug is a very solid version, with Trey floating frantically above the body of music the rest of the band created.  I can’t ever complain about a Mike’s Groove opener (I wasn’t too fond of Red Rocks 2009’s)– I loved to see it opening rather than closing for the first time this year, and Mike’s Song to open a set always brings down the roof–good choice.


They go onto the Sneakin’ Sally->Light->46 Days trio that I have already mentioned.  If I could say one more thing about it, it would be that I wish they did at least Light->Sneakin’-> 46 Days.  Sneakin’ is such a good/fun song to segue into, but easier and fun than going into light.  This string of songs is certainly a must hear despite Trey’s complete selfishness to the other band members and audience, yet again.  


They close the second set with a string of songs that made people question what the actual closer would be– Golgi, Slave, Loving Cup.  They did this a lot in 2009 and I wrote about it here.  All are great versions–Slave is arguably the best version of 2010, 3.0 and post-hiatus.  The show closed on an energetic note with the year’s second version of First Tube.


Phish is doing great–in fact Page and Mike, as I have said before, are on TOP of their games.  Fish isn’t missing a beat, he is better than last year too. Trey is thoughtful with songs, highly energetic and has great tone/sound/accuracy.  They just need to continue building off what they have–AKA, Trey needs to just let go and see what happens.  It’s ok if he isn’t the lead in jams, it’s apparent Mike is ready to leave most of the jams, Mike has gained so much confidence and insight it seems after doing his solo stuff–let might guide the band if Trey hits an improvisationally creative bump.  After all, Trey, Phish is supposed to be a unit–you don’t have all the weight on your shoulders, just relax!


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Tuesday, 06/22/2010 Comcast Center, Mansfield, MA

Encore: First Tube
Notes: This show featured the Phish debut of Lit O Bit and the debut of Dr. Gabel. In Antelope, “Marco Esquandolas” was changed to “Leo Esquandolas,” followed by a Page solo.