Tonight’s show, the first of two in Portland, brings us to the Roseland Theater, a venue I saw a number of shows at while I lived in Portland. I spent about 5 years living in the city of roses, and of the downtown venues I saw shows at (Crystal Ballroom, Star Theater, Roseland Theater) this is probably the venue I liked the least. The acoustics always seemed off, the security was tight, and the building itself is nothing special. Of course, this is the Roseland Theater circa 2012-2016, not the Roseland Theater of the early 90s, so who’s to say what the venue was like back then. Besides for some feedback wails here and there the recording for tonight is very listenable, despite my complaint’s about the venue’s acoustics.
The playing during the first set is incredibly solid; the sloppiness present at times last night has vanished. A solid “Runaway Jim” opens up the set and gets the band warmed up nicely before a very well executed and dynamic “Foam.” A quick “Sparkle” gives way to “Split Open and Melt.” Some exploration with this song recently has whetted my appetite for big “SOAM” jams, but tonight’s jam is a very quick, single-minded dart to the song’s conclusion. That being said, there is good riffing from Trey throughout. “Mound” gets bumped up to the first set after several appearances in the second and is followed by solid renditions of “Punch You in the Eye” and “Sample in a Jar.”
After a set so far consisting of solid but standard performances,”Reba” takes the night to another level. A couple of minutes into the jam, around 8:15, Trey begins playing a great series of ascending melodies that unleashes several minutes of excellent ‘hose’ playing until a final peak before the song’s pause at 11:00. This is a superb “Reba” and a clear highlight of the show so far. The classic set-closing pairing of “I Didn’t Know” and “David Bowie” closes the set. “I Didn’t Know” has an entertaining interlude of Fishman playing a washboard instead of his usual vacuum. “David Bowie” has a long intro tonight that includes some eerie jamming and a secret language signal. The song proper starts at 2:40. Trey plays catchy, driving riffs about a minute into the jam at 7:30. This leads into several minutes of good, thrilling soloing before the end of the jam at 12:30. It’s nothing out of the box but it’s a better-than-average “David Bowie” for the tour.
This set is a slow burn; the first half consists of standard performances of heavily played songs and is fairly unremarkable. The band starts to catch fire beginning perhaps with “Punch You in the Eye,” and delivers excellent performances of both “Reba” and “David Bowie” that encouragingly display more patience than the band has sometime shown these songs as of late. The set ends strongly, increasing the anticipation for what is to come after setbreak.
Set 2 begins in unusual fashion with Fishman singing “Lengthwise” by himself. The crowd picks up the singing from him as he works his way back to the drumset, setting up a cool, crowd-led transition into the beginning of “Maze.” This “Maze” sounds a little more wild than usual, with a good Page solo and more riffing from Trey than normal at the beginning of his solo. I give Trey the edge tonight in the “Maze” duel for his slight departure from the typical trajectory of his solo. “Bouncing Around the Room” and “Uncle Pen” serve as snappy interludes before the band opens up further with “Harry Hood.”
The intro to “Hood” feels more loose and subdued than usual, with fills from each member of the band and a Secret Language tease. The jam starts quietly around 6:20 and builds patiently over the next several minutes until the first (of many) peaks at 10:00. Then the band, particularly Trey, just keeps pushing the peak further and further. This sounded to my ears much like a reprise of the ‘hose’ jam that we heard earlier in “Reba,” particularly when Trey unleashes a flurry of trilling at 11:50. The band rides out the peak of this “Hood” longer and harder than any “Hood” on the tour to this point (though I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a perfect memory). They don’t take this jam home until about 13:30.
“Big Ball Jam” and “It’s Ice” follow “Hood.” A long “You Enjoy Myself” anchors the last quarter of this show. While not the most exhilarating or intense “YEM,” the band does latch on to a highly danceable groove during Page’s solo at 10:40 that they stick to until the end of Trey’s solo at 14:20. Given the style of the band’s playing at this time that is a lengthy amount of time dedicated to one theme. The bass and drums segment is a little longer than usual but still less than two minutes. After the vocal jam comes only the second “Harpua” of tour, and by far the more elaborate of the two. The initial banter from Trey is very strange and surreal. Something about a bet, a piano strapped to someone’s back (?), and a submarine before he loudly screams “Make it stop!” From there we head to more familiar terrain of Jimmy, Harpua, and Poster Nutbag. There’s a full refrain of “She’s So Cold” with lyrics as Jimmy puts on a record in the narrative. It’s an entertaining “Harpua,” though not the most coherent. The set ends with an exclamation point with a concise and sharply-executed “Chalk Dust Torture.”
Before the encore, Trey announces that they will hold a food drive before the show tomorrow night. This food drive is to “become a staple” of future Phish shows. While it’s uncertain how long this food drive lasted, it shows that the band was already thinking of ways of giving back to the local communities that hosted them and their fans in the days prior to the Waterwheel Foundation. “AC/DC Bag” continues its return to semi-regular setlist rotation in blistering fashion before “Sweet Adeline” ends the night’s show. This is another strong night with clear highlights in both sets; including terrific, blissful playing in both “Reba” and “Harry Hood,” a good “Bowie,” and an entertaining “Harpua.” Hopefully the band will match tonight’s energy during night 2 at the Roseland.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Reba,” “David Bowie,” “Harry Hood,” “Harpua”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 78 mins.
- Second set length: 105 mins.
- This is the fourth Phish performed at the Roseland Theater. They will return the next night.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Harpua,” returning after a thirty-four show absence (2/12/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (6 songs).