Listening to the recordings of Austin City Limits got me excited going into Broomfield. It was apparent that they came back from the after-summer break tighter than we have seen them in 3.0. This carried over into the 1st Bank Center. Trey has broken his new guitar in and has clearly been practicing; he is no longer getting ahead of himself and then stumbling trying to keep up with the band. They are playing together as a unit better than they have since 2000. While heavy improvisation seems to still be off the table, going in and out of songs at break-neck speeds and accuracy are just fine by me.
Remember during the first leg of summer tour when Trey was forcing segues, awkwardly stumbling into songs the band wasn’t ready for, or just flat out killing jams (the infamous Sand > Horse). That Trey is no longer with us. He has worked on communication with his band mates again, and it’s certainly showing. Take the second night of Broomfield, the Golden Age -> Piper -> Camel Walk–those segues are about as clean as they come, on top of the fact those three songs are completely different from one another.
Trey isn’t the only band member shining during seuges; Page comes out of Simple bridging the gap into Ghost for the rest of the band to safely arrive on the other side. Despite the fact that Trey is still starting Ghost by annoyingly scratching his guitar (rather than the bass and drums start the song), this week’s start was impressive due to the Chairman of the Boards. Listen to Page’s effects below, coming out of Simple, into the start of Ghost–eventually settling on the Moog.
Another promising aspect from their playing the past three shows is Trey’s musical ferocity. If he keeps this up, we could be heading for some intense jams. Trey is really getting his chops back, going beyond the execution of the song’s structure and into some real shredding. The clip below is from Broomfield’s Moma Dance; listen to Trey go off and the point where Fish thinks Trey is going into the end of the song. Fishman starts the drum segment for reentering the song, but then Trey keeps going and Fish has to play it off. A few seconds later you hear Fish scream, “WHOOOOO!”, something he doesn’t do all so often anymore.
I hope they play What Things Seem again. However, it may not surface for a while, if ever–like Mike’s Idea. The intro is so thick, I see it as having some serious segue potential. The reason I like the song 20 Years Later so much is because it is such a great landing pad to dark jams (see: 6/12/10 #Line > 20 Years). Think of the mood that would fill the room after a long journey through a Mike driven jam…and then the following emerges from the murk.
Last year’s fall tour built exponentially off of what they had accomplished the summer earlier, it’s apparent that is what they have done already since this summer. One of the main differences (aside from Trey’s playing) between 3.0 Phish and post-hiatus Phish is that this time they are looking to evolve every tour–and that’s what keeps them fresh.
Chucktown here we come!