What a Long Strange Tour it’s Been

Phish’s 2010 Summer Tour wrapped up on Wednesday at Jones Beach after starting in early June.  The tour is one of the most interesting to review because of how different the first leg was from the second leg.  As most people reading this know, the first leg boasted a new opener every night and had a new cover close to every night.  The opening trio of shows–Toyota Park, Blossom, Hershey–boasted a new style of playing/jamming.

The style of jamming we saw in Toyota Park’s Ghost, Blossom’s Number Line > 20 Years Later and Hershey’s Drowned got me very excited for the tour.  I assumed that this would be the direction they would now go in–2009 was a solid year for them, but they were still trying to find their “style”, kind of like in 1996 they had blown past the intensity of 1995 and you can hear hints of what was to come in 1997 with Trey busting out his wah pedal a lot more (towards the end of 1996).  The jamming style of the first three shows of tour carried into some of the first leg, but not as heavily as I had expected or hoped.  

The two constants throughout both legs were Trey’s intense energy (which is awfully refreshing) and Mike’s unbelievable control and ability to crush venues.  The MVP of 2010 summer is easily Mike–pretty sure that won’t be argued by any.  Mike’s dexterity, volume and ability to manipulate his sound has been nothing short of stellar this year.

The first leg, culminating in the Fourth of July blow out down in Georgia, proved to fans that Phish was serious about learning new songs–showing that they were practicing often on the road together.  Even if they are just practicing new songs, it improved their ability to play with one another whether the song is Killing in the Name or Down with Disease.  On top of the new covers, Phish also treated us to bust-out galore–Fuck Your Face, Alumni Blues and Light Up or Leave Me Alone to name a few of the biggies.

Throughout the whole tour of incredibly chosen venues it became apparent that some songs that were once considered bust-outs might now be part of their normal rotation of songs–Curtis Lowe, Destiny Unbound, Light Up and possibly even Fuck Your Face which was played a second time at Alpine Valley–which I am certainly welcome to.  Unfortunately Phish neglected some of their post-hiatus anthems.  Scents and Subtle Sounds and Pebbles and Marbles did not make and appearance this tour, Walls of the Cave only popped up once.  These songs could have added to some more setlist diversity, allowing the band to use different second set jam vehicles than Rock and Roll, Drowned and Down with Disease.

The second leg, which I find weaker than the first, neglected Phish’s newfound style of dark jamming I mentioned was present in the summer’s first three shows and certainly the Camden CDT.  I think this would have been a positive direction for Phish to move in but at the same time am not worried because Phish has been improving linearly since their return at Hampton.  It is clear Trey is looking to evolve, which is always a good thing.

The second leg also highlighted Trey’s improvisational ADD that seems to be standing out more now than it did in 2009.  Telluride and Jones Beach featured second sets that were packed with open-ended jam song after another but little jamming to back it up.  This leg’s addition of Trey’s teleprompter raised a lot of questions about this, too.  Was he paying too close of attention to the ‘prompter?  Was it hindering his mind from listening to his band mates for open improvisation?  

Regardless, the Alpine Valley shows contained wonderful full band jamming–even some type II in Down with Disease -> What’s the Use?.  Those two shows alone tell me I don’t need to be too worried about his telepromter. 

The second leg does stand above the first leg in one aspect, certainly–the segue.  While the first leg had some very forced segues, it was obvious the band was working on segueing more seamlessly in the second.  Deer Creek had the wonderful Jibboo -> Gin and the outstanding Meatstick -> Mango–both of those were a real treat.  The segue into What’s the Use? from Down with Disease was also truly fantastic.  (I’m just going to ignore the Ghost > Mike’s Song from the Greek here, that was Trey’s fault, not the band’s)

Although I was awfully critical of Trey this tour (especially second leg), I had a blast this summer.  It was a successful and fun tour and has me very excited for fall’s tour.  Fall dates should be coming out by this Wednesday.

My next post will be the best moments of Summer 2010 with an OPT fan photos post soon thereafter.