Last night, Phish put together a high-octane rock show that featured guitar-driven jams. While the show contained notably less improvisation than the weekend in Bethel did, it was still another step in the right direction. The band played well together, and Trey sounded polished yet again (other than in Divided Sky).
The non-sellout crowd at PNC Tuesday night was treated to a classic Chalk Dust opener. Trey sounded furious off the bat. Instead of noodling during the jam, Trey built up some intense tension before ending the song–a strong version indeed. Phish decided to bask in the summer sun early in the set by slipping Roggae in the #2 slot. Roggae is a song that has been played better in 3.0 than any other era; while Trey isn’t impressive in this version, Mike’s melodic leads up and down his fretboard made for a perfect backdrop on an early-summer day.
Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, Roggae, Punch You In the Eye, The Moma Dance > Rock and Roll, Sand, Tube > The Divided Sky, Character Zero
Set 2: After Midnight > Possum, Drowned > Maze, Dirt, Alaska, You Enjoy Myself
Moma Dance had Trey wailing into a powerful end. Not wanting to stop playing the Ocedoc there, Red launched into the now-rare first-set Rock and Roll. Since the Jones Beach version last year, the band has been using this song as a 10-minute rocker, rather than an open-ended jammer–something I am totally fine with. Rock and Roll was becoming a bit cliche in its past form. PNC’s takes the song to an explosive peak with Trey trilling before entering the final “it was all right” lyrics.
From the first night of Bethel, it was apparent that 2011 shows were going to feature more jamming than the two previous years. Normally just having that 10-minute Rock and Roll would have been impressive enough in a 3.0 first set, but right after Rock and Roll ended, Sand started up–another song not seen in first sets very often. After dedicating the song to “Max”, among some other people, the band dropped a heavy version of the groove-tastic song on us. Trey takes snarling leads that all come to a head at the end–using slightly distorted sounds at some points. It’s a very strong version, probably one of the best of 3.0 considering its unique direction.
Trey references going to “Page’s house” from the Makisupa on 5/28 and launches into the first Tube of the year. While the version doesn’t branch out too far, the band holds a thicker groove than most 3.0 Tubes. The musical mesh of the band extended the groove that was in the Sand jam just a song before. Things were going smooth, almost too smooth–that’s when Divided Sky comes in.
About two-minutes before the silent part of Divided Sky, Trey misses some notes and completely loses where he is in the song. He attempts a few times to reenter, but to no avail. The rest of the band keeps plowing through–it’s an interesting sound, actually. Trey tells the crowd “I did that on purpose!” over the rest of the band playing. He turned his mic to the crowd and everyone cheered. Trey didn’t come back into the song until the silent part was over. Unfortunately, this version Divided Sky never hit any real peak–we can just sweep this one under the rug. Trey made up for the flat version of Sky with a soaring version of Character Zero to close the set. He sounded great in it, his chops were pristine–best version of 3.0.
The second half of the show opened with After Midnight–a song that seems to be creeping its way into rotation. Trey came right back with his chops for the middle-jam of the song, but what was more interesting is the jam that followed the end of the song. ‘Holmdel Jam #1’ dropped into a thick groove. Fish’s beat drove the instrumental with snaps on his snare. Mike was hitting every pocket he could. Trey, however, had some trouble finding his role in the jam–that is until Fish’s beat took a turn for complex. Once Trey found where to place his notes, the jam floated to a beautiful place, albeit shortly. The jam flutters away into the frantic beginning of the second Possum of 2011.
Like most of the show, Page was much louder during the Possum jam than we’ve seen him, probably, ever–it’s great. Trey makes an undulating sound by going down and up his fretboard before hitting a screaming peak–much better than the Bethel version from nights before. When it was obvious that Trey was building up to another peak, Fish starts rolling the drums behind him like the end of the song. Just a rockin’ version for a rockin’ show.
Drowned has been a second-set opener nearly every time in the past two years–last night they decided to place it in the middle of the second set. The rolling jam eventually led to Page on heavy synthesizer–making it sound as if aliens were coming down to take Zim away with them. Phish had completely reconstructed the song before fading away, only to leave Fish’s hi-hat throbbing. We’re now entering a Maze.
Page’s fingers exploded on his organ keys before reaching the jam’s middle oasis–his snarling lead was reminiscent from Trey’s during the end of Sand. During Trey’s part of the jam, he builds a massive swell before his trilling finish which, mind you, he nails.
After a gorgeous Dirt (oxymoron?), the first Alaska of the year rung out. I am a firm believer that Alaska is not a second-set song. This song should be played only in the first set–I’d go even farther and say that it should only be played in the first set of outdoor summer shows. It’s a daytime rocker–that’s it an’ that’s all mane. Trey, after wanking, hit a decent peak–still, nothing too special.
In popular 3.0 fashion, the first YEM of the year closed the second set. By now I’m sure that many of you know about Kuroda’s new lighting effects and canvass pattern style–the vocal jam was perfect in showcasing this. During the instrumental part of the jam, right as Trey lands on stage after the trampoline section, he teases Manteca slightly before continuing to solo. The extremely short jam ends with some rafter-rattling bass from Mike.
Mike’s growling-style synthed bass continued into the beginning of the encore, Fire; a song that would have been far more appropriate at Bethel as an ode to Woodstock–I guess that’s what Bold as Love was for.