Phish wrapped up their 2012 Deer Creek run last night with a show that fit right into this tour, packed as it was with bustouts, rarities, stage banter, silliness, and a couple of small but mighty jams. After a day that saw a battle between the weather gods — intense heat alternated with powerful storms — the band delivered a high-energy, solid show with some excellent moments.
As Thursday night did, Friday’s show opened with a string of bustouts: Crowd Control, played for the first time in 2 years, Dinner and a Movie, the first since last August, and between them, the whopper, the first appearance of Sweet Jane since the Loaded cover set on Halloween 1998. This last one was a bustout many fans had spent years praying for. And though this version wasn’t quite as powerful as the Halloween version, it’s hard to imagine any song that complements a summer sunset better than Sweet Jane.
Next up was the banter portion of the evening, which has somewhat surprisingly become a nightly occurrence this tour. The topic of this one was signs: echoing many a fan’s complaints (and our Tale of Mental Tangle), the band provided some much-needed discouragement. As I put it in that debate, I pay $70 to see the band, not the back of your sign. It’s good to see that the band shares my concern. When Page took the argument — sounding pretty darn perturbed by the whole issue — Trey warned that a “Page Rant” was to come. Apparently Page Rants are a thing, and I’ve got to say, they’re a thing I’d love to know more about — what else is driving him up the wall? Leo has been newly active on twitter; I strongly encourage him to take his rants there if he’s not comfortable sharing them on stage.
But I digress. The next portion of the set saw strong versions of Limb and Possum, followed by a string of really excellently chosen relative rarities: Mound and Life On Mars? — both soundchecked — and Mango Song, BBFCFM and Strange Design. Short but sweet versions of Birds and Halley’s came next, and the set came to a close with the first performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps since 2010.
All in all, a song-driven first set, but about as good a song-driven first set as you’ll ever see, with tons of fan favorites, a few excellent covers, and rarities galore.
But the second set held jewels of a different variety. To start, the show’s improvisational one-two punch: a stunning 25-minute Down With Disease / Sand combo. The Disease waded into relatively shallow Type II waters, not straying too far from familiar DWD jam territory, but still managing to blaze some new trails in that well-traveled area. As seems to be the case with many of this tour’s Type II jams, this one transitioned from a funky groove to a lighter psychedelic rock section before Fishman released the beat, and a spacey jam yielded to the next song.
In this case, that song was Sand, and in its fourth performance of the tour, this version was totally fresh. Trey got it started with a riff that sounded a bit like Marley’s Could You Be Loved, and the groove emanated from there. In ten minutes, it managed to weave between stop-start, band-wide riff-trading, and a series of downward key changes that led perfectly into Twist.
Fresh off its dark psychedelic turn from a week earlier, this version went in a completely different direction, providing the evening’s largest dose of silliness as Trey began “substituting every sound” in the band members’ names — Kime, Shif, etc. This was basically the song’s only improvisation, as the jam was cut short almost immediately for Rift.
The Twist name-shifting continued over the short Bathtub Gin jam (with that song making its first second-set appearance since 2010). Making its first appearance in a year, Blues Image’s “Ride Captain Ride” followed Fluffhead, and then made multiple appearances, in tease form, in the set-closing Antelope. The jam was solid, but nothing groundbreaking. The band had some more fun in the end, twisting around the name Marco, then playing a little Marco Polo with the audience, a la Broomfield 2010.
The encore blew the previous night’s Show of Life / Tweeprise out of the water. Cavern opened (notably, the “whatever you choose” line was gone, with “whatever you do” making at least a temporary return). Sanity gave the encore a bit of levity, and First Tube closed it out with a flash of fire.
All in all, this Deer Creek run did what many of the best ones have: provided some of the most memorable musical performances of a tour, with an extra helping of playfulness that this venue seems to uniquely provide. From this show, Disease -> Sand will give me far more repeat listens than anything else, but they are far from the only things that made this show special: anyone fan lucky enough to be in Noblesville last night will not be soon to forget the combination of rare treats in the first set, the twisted-around second, or the fantastic encore. This may not have been an epic show, but it was certainly a memorable one.