What a Great Set List…for a 5 Hour Show

–I wrote this post last night right after the show ended.  I am listening to it again right now and will be amending some thoughts to this post on OPT’s Facebook Fan Page under the link to this.–

Come on, WTF, I go to 6 Flags to go on roller coasters….” -T.J. Hartford

All Star show, right?  On paper, yes–and if you have no idea that the average Phish show is 3 hours of music, on average*.  This show has even less improvisation and creativity than the Great Woods show, SPAC shows and the nTelos show–I honestly did not think that was possible.  

The first night of Camden has 22 songs; 8 songs in the second set and 13 songs in the first set.  Of the 22 songs I would consider 7 “jam” songs.  

The show, like every 2010 show, had great energy, wonderful execution and an interesting setlist.  Opening with David Bowie is a great kick off to any show–it’s not expected and has the crowd’s energy up and attention by the end.  It rarely opens a show, the last time happening in Syracuse last November.  However, like all 3.0 versions of David Bowie, the intro is short and through-the-motions.  The jam sounds very similar to every other one, and Trey almost stumbles into the ending, not doing anything exciting or different between the “lulls” in the trilling.

Stealin’ Time was played for the third time of the year, this time not closing a set.  I like this song, but was hoping, after 2009, they would try to take it somewhere new by possibly extending it.  Water in the Sky followed, a great version, however, probably not as beautiful as Blossom’s version–I will have to listen to the show again tomorrow, usually I write these after a second listen in the morning. 

Uncle Pen was certainly a welcome guest– again, I will have to relisten tomorrow morning, but Trey seemed to have nailed it.  After he could’t play most of the quick blue grass songs post-hiatus, it’s great to have his dexterity back in 3.0.  

Boogie on soon followed–I was certain we were going to have a first set throwdown by the way they were playing.  Mike, again, was allll over this, and the whole band was locked in.  At one point Mike stopped and let the band groove before he came back in to anchor them back down in a fierce way.  Alas, it did not last long before Trey looked at Page, then Fish signaling to end it.  

Next came a string of 3 2010 first timers; Gumbo>Timber (Jerry)>I Didn’t Know.  Gumbo was played with the classic ending, after an impressive sounding Trey peaked–Timber was standard and I Didn’t Know had people wondering what Fish was going to do without his vacuum.  During the song, Trey referenced his 6/7/2009 prediction that the Flyers would win the Stanley Cup and Fish would return performing a voodoo vacuum solo.  Fishman came out with a vacuum and played.  The crowd in this song and in YEM’s vocal jam were audibly chanting “Let’s Go Flyers!”.  

Birds of a Feather was an overdue treat, however there is literally nothing worth writing about in this short rendition.  Reba two songs later was solid and unfinished.

Playing yet another first time cover this year, reminding people of Summer 1998, was Led Zeppelin’s The Rover off of Physical Graffiti, an album considered for Festival 8’s musical costume. This obviously was a highlight of the show.  The fact that Phish is playing so many new covers, on top of so many new originals, shows that they are really spending a lot of time together between shows.  Even if they are only practicing the covers, any daily practice between them spawns excellent communication and accuracy in anything they play–I think most will agree it’s pretty obvious they are much more in tune with what they are playing this year compared to last.

Oh boy, then the set break came.  What was going to happen?  Obviously the buzz among almost all fans is that Phish is due for a type II monster to come out.  It has to be tonight, right?

Well, the most beat to death 2nd set opener came out tonight, Down with Disease.  It wasn’t a huge deal, because Down with Disease can lead to some of their best jams.  After about 8 minutes of the usual guitar led rock solo out of the song, the jam sank quick–seemingly led by Page.  This, too, is also normal for the song.  Like Rock and Roll or Drowned, they come out blazing and sink down into a tight jam before deciding to come back up venture into another sound.  Neither were the case–the band executed their most smooth segue of 2010 by going into Crosseyed and Painess.  At this point people didn’t care about the Down with Disease jam because they just segued wonderfully into another huge jam song.  It was as if Phish was tricking us by saying “nope! THIS is going to be the real jam!”.  Crosseyed was played real well–at one point Fish was clearly mimicing Trey’s guitar with his snare.  This was before the end refrain of “still waiting”, after which they usually launch into the extended jam for the song.  Unfortunately, this version would have no “Camden Jam” (ok I just looked at www.livephish.com and there actually isn’t a Camden Jam at all, wow).  Just like nothing came out of David Bowie, Birds of a Feather and Down with Disease, Nothing came out of Crosseyed and Painless. 

I enjoy the song Nothing, but not in a second set after two of Phish’s huges jam vehicles just went through the composed motions.  In the long string of this second set’s songs came Twenty Years Later.  I love this song, I love how dark it is and it’s lyrics.  It was perfect out of Blossom’s Number Line jam, however, tonight it only had me thinking, “twenty years later? It’s only 20 minutes later and we are already in the fourth song!”  The end of the song did feature Mike going psychotic on his Modulus, though–making me and others wonder if there would be a Blossom Number Line-type jam coming out of it.  Instead, the band popped into Harry Hood.  With another playful intro, Mike dominated much of the composed section.  The jam sounds similar to Blossom’s version.  Again, without taking a breath between songs, Fluffhead arose.

Again, another song I love, but going into a 15 minute song when there has been no improvisation yet really left me shaking my head.  On the brighter side, this version is about as impressive, execution-wise, as the SPAC version, and just as impressive with the soaring outro.  Another wonderful version.

A solid version of Julius came next, leading people to believe it would probably be the set closer.  You Enjoy Myself closed the second set.  It was another shorter than normal version.  Mike, again, terrorized the venue from “BOY” all the way through the bass & drums segment.  There was an especially imperssive lock of instruments during the trampolines segment–the only time Mike, Fish and Page can play without worrying about Trey starting up The Horse or Bittersweet Motel out of nowhere–never say never though, right?  Bug encored.

A friend wrote to me tonight, “it’s like we can’t have both”.  He was referring to the band communication, accuracy, dexterity, energy and execution vs the jamming.  In 2003 and 2004 the jams were there, but the other part wasn’t.  Now it seems to be the other way around.  No, I don’t blame Phish, I blame Trey.  I love Trey, he is so close to reaching Phish’ full potential right now.  He just needs to take one more step–I have no idea what’s keeping him.  The rest of the band is itchy to throw down.

Trey needs another intervention.  Not for drugs, but for just letting go when he plays.

*This is the 2009-present average.  The average Phish 3.0 shows are actually longer than the average Phish show from 97-04.

Thursday, 06/24/2010 Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, NJ

I: David Bowie, Stealin’ Time from the Faulty Plan, Water in the Sky, Ocelot, Uncle Pen, Boogie on Reggae Woman, Gumbo> Timber (Jerry)> I Didn’t Know, Birds of a Feather, Bouncin’ Around the Room, Reba**, The Rover*
II: Down with Disease-> Crosseyed and Painless-> Nothing> Twenty Years Later> Harry Hood> Fluffhead> Julius, You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Bug