Last night Phish kicked-off their last stand of Leg One with a very solid performance. While the show follows the structure of most of the first leg shows, the first night of this three night run was a “great success.” With stand out jamming during Tube->Psycho Killer->Tube, Carini>Sand and Sneakin Sally Through the Alley->Ghost, the first Cracklin Rosie since 1999, and an appearance by Tom Marshall and the Dude of Life, Phish played a show that will hopefully be a launching pad for a promising three night stand at SPAC.
The show began in pretty straightforward fashion with standard first set versions of Runaway Jim, Ocelot, and Heavy Things. Back on The Train finally got some breathing after the song seems to be truncated in its second set role. The jam didn’t explore new territory, but its nice to see a little more life in BOTT. Page got down during Funky Bitch and delivered some nasty soloing. Next up is the first set highlight Tube->Psycho Killer->Tube. Although this section of the set is somewhat short, its very sweet and packs a mean punch. After playing the first section of Tube, Trey navigated the band into Psycho Killer. As Mike picks up on the Psycho Killer baseline, Fishman stays with the Tube’s shuffle/disco-esque beat combining the two songs as the rest of the band transitions from the Talking Head classic back into Tube. Add a little plinko into the mix and you have yourself a definite set one highlight.
After the Tube/Psycho Killer bustout, it was time for some Fishman antics and tucking banter (You’ve tucked it once, why tuck it again?). As Page led the band into Hold Your Head Up, Trey and Fishman, or Friar Tuck, gabbed back and forth before Fishman sang the first Cracklin Rosie since 99. Even though some fans may not be into the Fishman ridiculousness, the “tuck” is to 2012 as “what!” was to 2011 which shows that the band is having fun on stage and trying to keep things fresh.
Next up was a tension-filled Stash that may have been released and peaked too early, but tasty nonetheless. Phish rounded out the set with Bouncing Around the Room, the first Paul and Silas in 41 shows, Horn, Corinna and Light Up or Leave Me Alone. Even though the last section of the first set was a bit songy, its nice to see the band keep Corinna and Light Up or Leave Me Alone in the rotation after being played as a part of Phish’s chase for 200.
Set two opened with Chalk Dust Torture for the second time in three nights. The sinister Carini delivered the first improv of set two as the band navigated the dark textures of the jam before settling into a lighter and beautiful final section of the jam. Carini has maintained its importance in the rotation as one of the most prominent jam vehicles of “3.0.” While last night’s version wasn’t “groundbreaking” it did the job. Phish played another successful version of Sand- it was funky, had great licks by Trey and treated fans to a dance-able moments, but one of these days Sand needs to kick the training wheels off and explode. Roses are Free and a well played second set Punch You in the Eye set the table for the undeniable highlight of the show Sally->Ghost.
After the Sally vocal jam Trey pushes the band deeper into the jam and Fishman adds to the standard Sally beat by doubling the bass drum. As the jam’s pace picked up, the table was set for an interesting ride and Phish did not disappoint. I wholeheartedly recommend listening to this Sally. The jam is a much different excursion than Blossom’s (6/4/2011) funk/plinko which perfectly demonstrates why I go see Phish: each take on a tune always has the potential for something fresh (or “groundbreaking!!!”). Last night’s Sally covers a lot of musical territory with ease and perfect flow. No TreyDD here as Big Red leads the band throughout the jam. Ghost proved to be the icing on the cake. The band allowed this Ghost to breath. Fishman took a major role in leading the jam and seemed to guide the band further into improvisational territory. Once the band settles on the jam, the following improv displayed grade-A full band interplay.
After 24 minutes of unadulterated improv, Phish closed out set two with Suzy Greenberg and Run Like an Antelope that brought out Tom Marshall and the Dude of Life, a Crosseyed and Painless tease and some lyric changes. Although this Antelope falls short of the Jones Beach version, Phish closed the set with in a strong way before encoring with Loving Cup. While I do love this Rolling Stones classic, AND although this is the perfect placement for the song, I sometimes wish encores would be more surprising like the Lizards, Fluffhead or Meatstick encore from earlier in the tour.
Overall, this show stays true to the structure Phish has crafted during the first leg of the 2012 summer tour. Drop a few cool bustouts, play a bunch of songs well, entertain the fans with banter/antics/shenanigans, bring out Fish and his tuck and drop some improvisational bombs in the second set. It has become pretty clear that when Phish is feeling it and wants to make things interesting they are able to do so in standout fashion. While fans are allowed to voice frustrations and complain about the lack of this or that in a show, Phish has settled into a template (which may dissipate during leg 2) and for the most part, has been successfully and skillfully crafting great shows.
Either way, this was a great way to start of the SPAC weekend. Lets hope the band doesnt lose Steam and builds on last night’s efforts, because if they do, SPAC 2012 could be a special three night stand.