Trey’s guitar can slay giants again, and as a consequence, Phish has reclaimed its position as the world’s most powerful group of superheroes, Avengers be damned.
Trey’s flaming guitar was, of course, the weapon that allowed Phish to conquer America in the first place. But in recent years, as his fingers have slowed, his greatest asset has been his ability to guide full-band jams.
Not anymore. Thanks to months of hard preparatory work for his stint with the Dead, Trey’s playing is faster, cleaner, and more lyrical than it has been in years. And after last night’s show at the Forum in Inglewood, CA, he’s now left the entire west coast in flames.
The band made it clear from the first notes that they were in throwdown mode, opening with “Martian Monster.” The tour’s first run through a song debuted last Halloween was met with an explosion of approval from the Angeleno fans, which was uncharacteristically non-shitty for a Socal crowd.
A rare first-set “Disease” followed, and though this version was held to a first-set-friendly duration, Trey tore it up. Two songs in, the fans who whine about modern first sets were silent.
A mid-set slowdown did follow: “Heavy Things” allowed both Page and Trey to get off some fantastic licks. Trey was in absolutely glorious form for his solo in “Limb by Limb,” playing a flurry of gorgeous arpeggios, as Bill Walton’s hands rose a good 5 feet above the crowd in blissful approval.
A short “Ya Mar” was noteworthy for Trey and Mike lying down and kicking at the air like cockroaches while Leo played it. The set closed with a 3.0 juggernaut followed by a 2.0 juggernaut. Both “Fuego” and “Walls of the Cave” were absolutely ferocious, leaving Trey’s hair a total mess by the end of the set – exactly as it should be.
If you’re looking for a great sign of where Phish is at right now, how about the fact that two consecutive second sets have opened with big jams out of brand new songs? “No Men In No Man’s Land” was the show’s improvisatory highlight. And while it didn’t rise to the level of Shoreline’s “Twist” or “Light,” this jam included both a dance party and some spacey jamming worthy of any mothership.
Sadly, the “Carini” and “Tweezer” everyone was hoping for were both ripcorded just as their jams were heating up. The segue between the songs was seamless, but the beautiful “Roggae” and rousing “Number Line” were both longer than either of the two jam vehicles.
“Slave to the Traffic Light” is always great, but Trey was in especially soulful, soaring mode for this exceptional version, closing out a set that was brilliantly played, though light on exploration.
The somewhat short set left plenty of time for an encore, and though many expected a “Bowie,” the band did us one better: “YEM.” The song’s 16th appearance in an encore was one of the more memorable versions to watch, as the band took Vegas’s instrument-switching shenanigans to a new level. Trey did a bit of a guitar reach-around on Mike, standing behind the bassist, and playing his guitar around Mike’s chest. During Mike’s solo, Trey hopped on Fishman’s percussion, while Mike briefly took the keys.
This show had a bit of everything: raging rock and roll; dance-funk; antics; tender bliss-jamming. That each piece was so successful is a testament to how great Phish is sounding right now. While I hope the band will put their tightness and well-practiced chops to use in some more deep jams as the tour progresses, their shows are currently fantastic even without the big jams. Whatever Phish chooses to do in Texas and beyond, it’s becoming clear that it will involve musical flame-throwing, auditory destruction, and a shitload of sweat on the dancefloor. Do yourself a favor: don’t miss it.