Sometimes there’s such a good jam in a show that it overshadows its supporting actor. This is the case in last night’s show at PNC. A day after Toronto’s show was cancelled last-minute, phans were anxious to see if Phish would make it up to them with an impressive show–they did. Last night’s first set was dotted with energetic and well played fan favorites before treating us to a well-crafted second set that never let up.
Set 1: Llama, Wolfman’s Brother, Sample in a Jar, Julius, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin,Lawn Boy > Ya Mar, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Theme From the Bottom >Suzy Greenberg
Set 2: Crosseyed and Painless > Harry Hood > Axilla > Sand > Light > Good Times Bad Times > Slave to the Traffic Light, Rocky Top > Cavern
 Lawn Boy tease from Mike.
 Manteca tease and Maria (West Side Story) tease from Trey.
 Maria teases from Trey.
The year’s first Crosseyed popped into action to open the second set. The band took this for quite a spin during its 18 minute life. Trey was lively from the beginning when he was adding layers of echos to the notes he was playing during the composed segments. The jam flowed perfectly through a number of different musical sections before settling down into a melody that featured Trey looping some psychedelic sounds behind the rest of the band. That loop was revived during the beginning of the unusually-placed Hood and at the beginning of the fantastically dirty Sand. The Crosseyed stands up as probably the most impressive jam this year so far. Phish dug deep and wonderful results ensued–as is often the case, especially since 2011.
The second set moved from one song to the next flawlessly, with NO breather songs. Unless you consider Axilla and Good Times Bad Times breather songs! It’s a ridiculous set of energy with pockets of creativity along the way. As I said in the first review of the year, Page seems to be louder and dirtier (opposite of the girls I like), he shows this in the beginning of Sand. Eventually Mike’s thick bass lines guide the way for Trey’s sharp noodling before–somewhat abruptly–landing in Light. I sure wish there was a more delicate way to enter Light, they often segue into it so perhaps thinking of a tamer intro would be appropriate for those situations. I know, that’s getting pretty picky now.
The Light is my jam of the night. Yes, I LOVE the Crosseyed, but ever since the Dick’s Light in 2011 I feel like Light has offered the most unique and impressive jamming Phish has to offer with EVERY Light in 2012 being special and re-listenable in its own way. This Light starts pretty standard, just as SPAC’s did, but after a Manteca tease the entire band sinks into a funky groove that sounds as if it was planned. Mike switches over to his effects, Trey strums with his wah pedal and Page moves to the synth. Some of you might notice how Phish has been working on their funk game ever since Atlantic City in 2012. Trey has been flirting with the wah pedal once again, stop/starts (you know, the things that made ’97, ’97), and just improving the plinko/pocket jamming from 2010 and 2011. I actually wrote about the 2012 funk last year here (with videos). Trey closes the jam with a Maria (West Side Story) tease that Page picks up on before unexpectedly taking a turn into GTBT.
After ANOTHER fantastic 2013 Slave that is notable for the beautiful mesh Mike’s Modulus and Trey’s Languedoc create while soloing around each other as if they are two kittens playing (I know, that sounds super cheesy, but it’s really beautiful and tranquil) before coming into a soul-searching finish.
On paper some people may look at this show and think to themselves, “wow they played a lot of songs, there must not be much substance to them”–remember, this isn’t early 3.0 anymore. I look at their playing as if their setlists are being created with the same mindset they had in the early 90′s: lots of songs, segues, and silliness. However, since it’s taking place after their late 90′s and 2.0 playing, the jams feature funk, rock, newer sound effects and everything else the band picked up along the way since the early 90′s. The large amount of songs was becoming frustrating in 2009 and 2010 because there were not as many impressive jam segments in between to back up the fact they were playing so many songs; it’s a different situation now. Phish is riding the transformation we saw in late 2011 and during all of 2012 into a whole new type of Phish music. Every tour Trey has been sounding better and more tight. Every tour Fishman sounds tighter and more active. Every tour Mike becomes more confident and more of a musical leader in jams…same with Page.
This is an exciting era for Phish…now if we could get a sneak peak of some of those new album songs!