There seems to be 2 patterns forming this tour that’s hard to ignore and each relates to different sets. First sets have been used almost exclusively for playing straight-forward Phish staples. Rarely have we seen much improv or segues in any of 2014’s first sets. The songs that Phish does play are played really well and a new sense of musical vigor. Take Trey’s particularly thick and lively playing in last night’s short and sick Moma Dance, the full-band “Smoke on the Water” tease in an otherwise basic Tube, or any of the other teases injected into Free and the furiously hot Antelope.
The second pattern is that there’s a heck of a lot of “>”s or “->”s between songs in the second sets. The second sets have been about as different as you can get from their first sets–it’s hard to know if this is intentional or not but I’m not complaining. It’s kind of fun to see the dance hits while the sun is still out and the smoke swirling in the air is still fresh. It’s fun to know that come second set, even if there’s not some enormous single jam, the entire set is going to flow from one song to another with tidbits of improv scattered throughout. Last night show followed the pattern and was really quite good.
Aside from the highlights of the first set I’ve already mentioned, there was yet another classic sounding Wolfman’s featuring Mike slapping and Trey scratching the neck of his guitar, there was the first Brian & Robert in a year, and there was a delicate Roggae.
The second set opened with the second Carini -> Waves this tour. I’m starting to get the idea that Phish purposely trying to avoid covers is forcing some repeats that otherwise wouldn’t happen–if so, no one can be to blame but them. They have plenty of songs to avoid this but choose to rely on specific songs. Where is the 2.0 help? Where are the Seven Belows, the Scents & Subtle Sounds, the Pebbles and Marbles and more? There is so much material waiting to be dusted off! That being stated, it doesn’t mean a repeat is a bad thing either. Look at the Harry Hoods this tour. Look at the Chalkdusts. It’s just simply an observation.
After a Fuego that demanded the crowd’s attention from the beginning because of the insta-street cred it’s earned this tour, the jamming becomes a bit loosened up in the Twist. It should also be pointed out that Trey teased “Little Drummer Boy” for the first time not on an NYE run since 2004. In fact, there’s about seven or eight teases of different songs throughout this show. The Fuego-laced Twist bled into Light which had the band wooing in the intro.
Here we get our first real taste of open improv. The 13+ minute song found some spacey places with a full-band lock throughout. The psychedelic affair found a landing in 20 Years Later. The pairing of the two songs was almost like the Number Line > 20 Years from Blossom in 2010. Beautiful and dark.
From 2009 until this year I had considered Harry Hood to be a song that had seen better days. An aging song enjoying it’s part time gig during retirement, minus very few exceptions. 2014 has shown that this song still has life in it. Every version, including last night’s, has been absolutely incredible. They broke the song’s typical structure again and drifted into creative new realms, rocking out to a guitar-led theme, before finding itself back in the ending to tie things up in a nice little bow.
Last night was a lot of fun, and it was good. It didn’t quite match the highs of Friday’s in my opinion but it’s close. I think after what happened in Chicago last year, the perfect weather makes everything Phish plays on the stage at Northerly sound great anyhow. Let’s see if Phish goes for flow or goes for big jams tonight in the Windy City finale.