Finishing the second half in a pair of Lone Star State shows, Phish treated the crowd to air conditioning inside the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie which is located, according to Trey, just “20 minutes from where [he] was born”. Little did he know that “many years later” he would be sharing a stage nearby with a “man in a dress”.
While the show a night earlier garnered largely poor reviews, last night featured a band–and guitarist–that was more focused, creative, and commanding. Trey switched back to his Koa on this night and I think it helped his tone although I still found his playing odd in some songs, this includes the show opener: Tube. Trey kind of awkwardly noodled during the jam with a series of empty notes, much different from the standard funk we’re used to that normally features chords. Also, Trey’s sound lately seems to be particularly on the high end; notes easily end up screeching or with a lot of feedback. I’m not sure if it’s his playing or his setup.
Punch was dropped three songs in with a slightly extended intro. The song was executed very well…until the end. Trey seems incapable of slaying the end of this song in 3.0. But for all the crap we’re giving Trey right now, he redeemed any fault with the first first-set Steam to date. Trey’s potent guitar licks pierced through the froth of the bass, drums, and fog on stage. During the jam, Trey wailed in a way that would even perk Stevie Ray Vaughn’s ears up. Then, after the song’s closing lyrics, the band moves into a brief segment of slow, dripping funk. I commented to my friends that “I could listen to this for an hour”. The funk crawled across the finish line as Trey started Poor Heart.
After a particularly, albeit short, Stealing Time, the tour’s first Divided Sky started up. The song was executed beautifully however the improvisation of the second half seemed to be slower and less energetic than we’re accustomed to.
The second set played out like a lot of second sets play out now. It was top-heavy with highlights with the second half featuring a series of songs that don’t really have any bite. Chalk Dust Torture set things off with an extended jaunt. CDT was finished as it normally would be but the music just kept going. The song moved into ethereal and spacey territory before Trey snapped into Simple. The simple jam was short and sweet and featured a very cool segue into Silent in the Morning.
Birds of a Feather started promptly following a “THEY ATTACK!” quote. While not quite as extensive and explosive as the tour’s first version of Birds, last night’s take was no less potent. Trey seems to be in perfect control of his ax during these Birds jams, a song that I felt was often played sloppy throughout most of 3.0. I would love them to really push the song to its limits soon.
Fuego is a song that seems lost. Like Number Line, the song appears just about everywhere in setlists. It started off as a jam song but now seems to be nearly jam-less. The song is cool but seems pointless in the middle of a second set as a 9-minute ditty. Then Julius. Aside from the poor placement, Trey played it in the most timid and sad way last night. Instead of reaching a huge blues-rock peak, Trey kinda just falls flat on his face, playing a series of soft autonomous notes before closing the song out.
Harry Hood closed the set. Of all the 1.0 songs played in 3.0, Harry Hood gets the award for reinventing itself for the better. Hood had lost its direction through most of this era…until last year. Now Hood jams can go any direction and last night’s, while not a best-ever, was a good way to close the set out on a high note.
Phish chose to bust out The Connection for the first time since 2010 (200 shows), and the first time it was played anywhere other than the first set.
In closing, last night’s concert was good. It was certainly much better than the night before, but it isn’t on par with what we witnessed at The Forum earlier this week.