Phish’s journey northward comes to an apex tonight with a show in Vancouver, Canada. This is the first stop outside of the continental U.S for this blog. An international Phish show is always exciting, if only because they are relatively rare. While international, Vancouver is only a 90 minute drive away from last night’s show in Bellingham. The show starts with a pairing of “The Landlady” and “Rift.” “Rift” is shaky tonight; there are some clear timing issues and Fishman briefly loses the beat at 4:00. This shakiness continues into the following “Guelah Papyrus,” which has some noticeable off-moments despite sounding okay overall.
Thankfully, the band puts the screws in after that. Starting with “Sparkle” and through the rest of the set the playing tightens up and I didn’t notice any more flubs. “Split Open and Melt” follows “Sparkle” as song #5 of the night. The jam in this one is short and sticks to the standard progression, but Trey is sounding good. He builds the song to a strong peak with some nice riffing and shredding. Another mid-set “Squirming Coil” appears as a cool-down after the intensity of “Melt.” “My Friend, My Friend” is shorter tonight, with the outro they have been experimenting with lately mostly axed in favor of a closer reading of the the song’s composed ending.
“Reba” is up next, as the set draws to a close, and provides an opportunity for the band to open up this show more. This “Reba” felt largely by-the-numbers to me, however, and didn’t stand out in my mind compared to other versions we have heard. It’s a pleasant “Reba,” but didn’t strike me as much more than that. “Horn,” a personal favorite of mine, has been played only sparingly this tour, so it’s nice to hear it in this slot as the penultimate song of the set. “Run Like an Antelope” closes the set and is the most exciting song of the evening so far. There’s nothing out-of-the-box or particularly unusual about this “Antelope,” but Trey’s strong playing that I first noticed in “Melt” leads a high-energy jam. I like his passage of shredding around 5:45, right as the band kick up the song’s intensity another level.
This set looks stronger on paper than I actually found it to be. “Melt” and “Reba” are songs that always have the potential to be something special, but these performances didn’t reach that level for me. The setlist flows well but is hampered by some shaky playing in the first few songs. That being said, Trey is sounding good during his soloing, and the “Antelope” that closes the set raises the bar for the second half.
Set 2 opens on a fun note with “Suzy Greenberg.” This is followed by “Stash.” When Phish plays “Stash” early in the second set you can generally take this as an indication that the band is going to get serious with the song. That holds true tonight. While not as long as some other recent “Stash” jams, the performance tonight is just as creative. The band alters the final lyrics before the jam in “Stash,” adding dynamism and shouting the “maybe not” lines, and slowly fades out their singing over the beginning of the jam from 5:45-6:00. This jam is initially subdued and dissonant but slowly starts building at ~8:00 around Trey’s riffs. It sounds like they might be headed into the end of the song at 9:15 but Trey pulls back for a couple more minutes of the same excellent, tight soloing we heard in “Antelope.” This leads to a chaotic lead-in to the composed end of the song at 11:15, as Trey wails away in the background and Page runs up and down his piano. While not ‘type-II,’ this is a very good “Stash” that builds a lot of intensity within the structure of the song.
Two Rift tunes follow “Stash”: “Mound” and “All Things Reconsidered.” Both are well-played. “The Sloth” sounds a little tighter to my ears tonight than normal, before a long “You Enjoy Myself” takes its place as the middle of the set. This “YEM” begins with a dark and murky, very experimental ‘bliss’ segment from 2:00-3:45. Their playing here makes me think of the intro to a long, spaced-out, late-90s “2001.” It’s a promising start to the song, to say the least. Page’s solo begins at 10:00, and the backing from the rest of the band is initially very sparse. Page throws down some strong runs in his solo before Trey takes over at 12:20 with chunky riffing. He sticks with this riffing and the rest of the band locks into a groove behind him. They stick with this theme for several minutes, slowly building up in intensity. Trey doesn’t break from this riffing for the beginning of a traditional “solo” until 15:35. After a minute of high-energy soloing, the jam begins to break down at 17:00, becoming very minimal. Near silence at 18:30 before the band slowly comes in to transition to the bass and drums segment, which is underway by 20:00. The bass and drums is typical before the vocal jam begins at 21:40. This vocal jam morphs into a full-on “My Girl” refrain with lyrics at 22:50, before becoming quite subdued at the end.
There’s no doubt this is a highlight-reel “YEM.” Between the psychedelic intro, the strong solo from Page, the driving riffing from Trey that leads into a great a groove, and a fun quote of another song in the vocal jam, there’s a lot to like here. And what better way to cool down from this half-hour “YEM” than with the always fun “Jesus Just Left Chicago?” That’s just what we get here. “Jesus” gets a good treatment, highlighted by another fun Page solo. The set ends with “My Sweet One,” a “Love You”-driven Henrietta sequence, and a quick “Cavern.”
The beginning of this show is shaky, but by the end of the first set the kinks are worked out and a strong set-closing “Antelope” is a sign of what’s to come in a strong second half. “Stash” continues its hot streak with another creative outing, this time based around an intense, melodic build instead of murky dissonance. One of the longest “YEMs” of tour anchors the back half of the set and has a lot of fun jamming. “Jesus Just Left Chicago” is the cherry on top. This great, top-shelf second set more than makes up for a somewhat forgettable first frame.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Stash,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Jesus Just Left Chicago”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 69 mins.
- Second set length: 94 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the 86th St. Music Hall.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Jesus Just Left Chicago” returning after a fourteen show absence (3/17/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (6 songs).