The second night at Oregon’s 8,000-person outdoor venue brought with it more debuts in a song-driven first set and a short (by 3.0 standards) second set. Like the first concert, last night featured solid playing with a laid back tone. The song selection also had a notably new “vintage”…the average being 2002 according to The Skinny on Jambase. With a first set that had trouble captivating and a second set that ended too quickly and without much improvisation aside from Simple, I’d argue the first night was the better of the two.
Coming out again early at about 6:30, the band opted for the rare Stash opener. Stash was played very slowly. A lot of songs in this era have slowed down relative to previous and younger eras: Chalkdust, Reba, Rift, etc. But last night’s Stash was very cumbersome during the composed section, perhaps made more obvious by some of Trey’s note flubbing. The jam was nothing and came to a head that sounded incredibly juvinile because of Trey’s toothless “peak”. Let’s just move on.
The first Phish debut was Mike Gordon’s “How Many People Are You”. It sounds like a typical Gordo song, which he sung and after playing last year’s Winterqueen, the band dropped another member-contributed debut: Heavy Rotation. Heavy Rotation is a McConnell song that features some good keyboard swank. Perhaps the song’s title was foreshadowing the set’s closing song, Possum. After a very forgettable Back on the Train, Trey Anastasio Band’s “Scabbard” was debuted which I feel was the best debut of all four.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the song, it features fun and intricate instrumentals–something I’d compare to the composed part of Reba–with the piano and bass swirling around and copying the guitar notes. In fact, it’s ironic that Trey is was the weakest link in the song last night considering he’s the one that wrote it and has played it the most. But overall it was played very well and, if they continue playing it, will add a nice flavor into future setlists. It also has the potential to branch out into a jam song.
“Mercury”–written by Trey and Tom–also debuted last night. I know people are probably reading this and already thinking I’m being too negative on last night but I must say I found this song boring and cheesy. I look at it this way, if I heard this song on the radio, not knowing who it was by, I would think it’s garbage. I wouldn’t keep it on the station if I heard this. The lyric, which Trey struggles singing, are more of the same from Trey. Since 2009, he seems to want to have songs with all sorts of meaningful lyrics–something Phish really was never known for and can rarely do well. This is the era of Summer of ’89, Joy, Let Me Lie, and Valentine (TAB) among others. Trey somehow cannot avoid writing meaningful lyrics that end up being sappy sentimentalism. I might be a bit harsh on Mercury since it’s not as bad as any of those I just mentioned, but enough with the lyrics that are trying to move us! Do that with the music! I know, I know, I “suck at Phish”, right?
Okay, now that I got all the bad news out of the way, I can focus on the relatively short second set. Now, 74 minutes for a second set (plus encore) isn’t bad, but Phish has regularly played 90+ minute second sets since 2009, so it seems odd. Perhaps it has something to do with a curfew at the venue seeing as they also had to come out super early to start the shows. Out of the gates, the boys chose the powerful opening A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing. It was the first time since Deer Creek in 2009 that it opened a second set and the third time ever. The nine-minute version peacefully went into and even better version of Waves. Waves featured strong and beautiful playing but never moved beyond itself into something really special. It seems that in 3.0 the band (probably Trey) has some aversion to really taking some of their 2.0 gems for a walk. What happened to the massive Waves, Seven Belows, Walls of the Cave, etc?
Wingsuit served as a perfect landing pad, with Waves ebbing passionately into it. It was quite the perfect place for the song. Well done.
Phish saved the heavy type-II improvisation for a late-set Simple. The 15-minute rendition dipped into a heavy, throbbing pseudo-rock jam. The distorted guitar patterns, powerful bass lines, and psychedelic keys proved that Phish can indeed still jam in 2015–something to hope for in the coming shows!
In another setlist shakeup, Bathtub Gin appeared as the encore. It was the first time since 7/12/96 in Amsterdam that the song was an encore and, I believe, the third time ever. The Gin was of the typical 3.0 variety, featuring a soaring climax at the end after a linear upward jam.
Perhaps the most memerable part of last night was the Simple which I’m sure will be overshadowed as more gems appear this summer. Onto Shoreline!