Kicking Things Off

After fans fought their way through awful travel conditions to see Phish start a five-show New Year’s extravaganza, many left feeling a bit less energized then when they entered–reminiscent to 2009’s Fall Tour kick off at the Cobo Arena. With a solid, but typical of 3.0, first set, Phish opted for a second set with more psychedelic offerings than rock.

Set 1: Sample in a Jar, Funky Bitch, Cool It Down, Roggae, Heavy Things, What Things Seem, Roses Are Free > It’s Ice, Mountains in the Mist, Julius

Set 2: Mike’s Song > Mound, Weekapaug Groove, Farmhouse, Seven Below > What’s the Use? > Twenty Years Later, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Possum > Cavern > David Bowie

Encore: Loving Cup

Although the songs were played well, and the second set offered three distinctly unique segments, the individual parts remained stronger than the sum of the entire show. This show may have fit well into the middle of a fall tour, but this was the kick-off to their NYE run in the North East! There were a lot of reasons to have high expectations for last night’s concert: not sold out, first night of NYE run, Monday night, and, the biggest one, the horrible weather conditions that were keeping many from even making it to the venue. Phish used to thrive in settings like this, Trey used to try to make people upset for not attending a show. The only shows of 3.0 that lived up to the hype surrounding it have been Utica 2010, Red Rocks 2009, Gorge 2009, and Hampton 2009. Remember the Fox? Remember Telluride? Remember Cobo? Remember Greek? I know, I know, Greek had a great Cities and a cool Light (well, the last half).

Last night did not surprise me; in November, I made a list when I wrote my article about NYE runs of what shows would be the best to the least interesting for this particular string of shows:

  1. 12/30
  2. 12/31
  3. 12/28
  4. 01/01
  5. 12/27

As you can see, I had last night’s show in last place. You guys voted in a poll at the time; OPT fans seemed to be in agreement:

  1. 01/01 (31%)
  2. 12/30 (26%)
  3. 12/31 (23%)
  4. 12/28 (16%)
  5. 12/27 (2%)

I don’t understand what Phish is thinking; they can only sell out 3/5 shows of a New Year’s run (in the North East, too!), but they are charging us over $60/ticket to see them? Playing cookie cutter first sets and relatively jam-less and discombobulated second sets is no way to convince people they are getting their money’s worth.

After many had wished for a fun opener to reflect the weather conditions (Buried Alive, etc.) Sample kicked off their first show in almost two months. Cool it Down (like It’s Ice, probably a shout out to the snowy conditions outside), last played in 2009 in Albany, was unexpected and certainly welcome. Heavy Things used Trey’s loop throughout that had not been present for almost exactly a year since they axed it in Miami’s version– something I feel that no one else has been noticing.

In fact, Phish did somewhat of a shout out to the trek many of their fans had just endured. A poll I had up yesterday shows that OPT fans guessed what, if anything, Phish would do because of the forecast. The results:

I had been hoping Phish would play What Things Seem from Mike’s recent album, Moss, ever since they debuted it in Denver last tour. I was happy they played it, however, there isn’t much else to say about the first set. The Roses lacked something that the Trey has simply not been able to grasp since playing it in the 90’s. An energetic and standard Julius would close out the first set before a nearly 40-minute setbreak.

10.31.10 Atlantic City

The Mike’s Song opener had everyone swinging from the rafters. It was a particularly strong version. It accomplished its job as a set-opener; energetic and boisterous. What came next may have been the highlight of the show: Mound.

In what I think was the only time ever done, Phish sandwiched Mound between Mike’s and Weekapaug. The last time the fan favorite was played was at Red Rocks last year. This was only the third time the song has been played since the 90’s. Right after Mound, ‘paug started up. Trey absolutely soared with full band support in this one. The ripping version left everyone’s faces in liquid on the ground. This was actually a longer-than-usual Mike’s Groove (for 3.0); Mike’s Song was about ten minutes, and Weekapaug was about ten minutes. Often, this year, Weekapaug would be around five to six minutes. Hopefully this is a sign that they are planning on getting more creative with the songs. I’m surprised they busted the Mike’s Groove out on the first night, I was expecting New Year’s Eve.

Farmhouse gave plenty of time for people to gather themselves. I love Farmhouse, but this was not the correct placement. After a three-song Mike’s Groove to open up a second set, fans need more to chew on before a break is needed. Seven Below, expected due to the weather, came next. Unfortunately this song has been awfully short since their version last year in Albany. The open-ended song certainly needs to breathe a bit more. Nevertheless, the version was solid and segued right into…

What’s the Use? turned up again for the first time since the Alpine shows this summer. What’s the Use? perfectly set up the next song, 20 Years Later. I have said a number of times since their wonderful version from Blossom earlier this year, 20 Years Later is one of their best new “landing pad” songs. When everyone thought What’s the Use? would be the psychedelic landing pad to Seven Below, they took the darkness a step further and dropped this 3.0 gem. This was certainly a highlight for me. I had never thought of the pair before, but now I need to see another What’s the Use -> 20 Years Later.

The Wading definitely had me thinking about the Cobo show, especially because we were due for a hot jam at this point. Possum was certainly fun but didn’t fill that void. It led into a fakeout set closer with Cavern, in which Trey says “take care of your boots”, rather than “shoes”. The set would actually close with Bowie. This version had a particularly punctuated opening. Don’t even get me started on my feelings about Bowie being almost primarily a set-closer now. It drives me nuts that they use the song like it’s Character Zero now.

They encored with Loving Cup; am I the only one that is disappointed when they play this song? Although that xtra normal video I posted on Sunday was a joke about the upcoming tour we now find ourselves in, I think the pessimistic character had it right when he said that Loving Cup should have been retired at Festival 8.

I know many people are going to dislike this review. If this show were a middle-of-fall show, I would have had a very different view on it. But, IT’S NYE RUN AT DCU AND MSG—comon Phish!

Here’s to getting the tamest show of the run out of the way. Only uphill from here. Remember, Phish needs a show to buffer themselves from an extended break. Watch out for 12/30, too.