I’d like to immediately apologize for the title of this review–I just had to do it. With that out of the way let’s get to the show from last night. Phish played this <10k-person venue for the first time of their careers. The venue didn’t sell out (nor did the small nTelos in Virginia)–I won’t over analyze that fact but I’m sure there’s something to be said about it and Phish frequently staying in the Northeast and Midwest.
The band seemed to be happy to be in southern Alabama and so were the southern phans that rarely get to see the band come closer than Alpharetta in the recent era. After opening up with a traditional CDT–which seems odd not to have a 20-minute jam attached to it now–the band moved through an energetic song-based act that kept energy high. The last sentence could pretty much be used to describe every first set of the year. However, the band did thoughtfully treat Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alambama” with the year’s first Curtis Lowe.
The second set was a lot of fun but unfortunately didn’t reach the heights of other Phish shows this summer. There was improvisation to be sure but with a lack of flow and sometimes a lack of inspired playing, it’s hard to see this show as something that will stand up with the other tour stops of 2014.
The Down with Disease stretched over twenty minutes and had some gritty cohesiveness, however it didn’t boast the multifaceted jams that they’ve been known to throw down in second sets recently. For a jam that had little clear direction the playing still sounded great especially towards the end when they found a nice lock among their instruments. There was however some inspired improvisation in the Tweezer that came a couple songs later, unfortunately quality of the Tweezer jam was inversely proportional to the quantity. Trey found a nice theme in the jam and built off that, reaching really a nice head before moving into Prince Caspian and then a beautifully played and well-placed Waiting All Night. I really can’t get enough of that song in second sets lately.
Fuego came out for the second time in as many shows, this time remaining fairly standard apart from the brief Tweezer jam at the end getting hopes up in the crowd that they might be converting this set into the second Tweezerfest of the summer perhaps. They sang brief quotes of Fuego over the theme moving into pure instrumental improv–still sounding like a jam coming out of Tweezer. The short jam segued quite nicely into Slave: a -> and not a > like is currently listed on Phish.net. A mid-set Slave isn’t a bad thing, the song is great anywhere. But when it’s followed by a 2001 (and a dirty one at that, thanks to Page) and then a brief Boogie On, it tends to bring thoughts of TreyDD and horrific flashbacks to Detroit (I know, that’s an EXAGGERATION…FYI). The Boogie did however help Trey become more playful in the Antelope that followed with yet another really interesting smooth segue.
With Fish still playing the Boogie beat, Trey moved into Antelope for a brief overlap of songs. Then Trey teased Boogie on (and the Munster’s Theme Song) throughout the Antelope. I’d dub it “Boogie On Like an Antelope” but that’s already reserved for the version from 12/30/09.
The show was good. It wasn’t, however, as memorable as others we’ve seen this year. It really begs the thought that Phish perhaps feels awkward outside of multi-night runs. It seems like they try to play too many songs when they are at a venue for one night, not focusing on the music “playing them”. They seem to be a band that feels more comfortable in the structure of a two or three-night run (more-so three) able to make it a “mini tour”, knowing they have four or six sets to breathe in, they extend songs with a sort of comfort not displayed at venues like Pine Knob or the Wharf in Alabama. Maybe I’m wrong and tonight’s and tomorrow’s show (which will be webcast for free on LivePhish) which are both single-nights will be amazing. Regardless of what happens tonight in Pelham and tomorrow in Alpharetta, I still think they find the most comfort in three-night runs now.
I definitely suggest checking out this show for the beautiful take on Curtis Lowe, the DwD, Tweezer, and the Fuego -> Slave.