Come one, come all for a Phish celebration of the most sacred of all hippie holidays: 4/20. This is the penultimate 4/20 Phish show; the last time the band played on this date is in 1994. Tonight’s show opens with a short but solid “Runaway Jim.” Trey sounds good, but there’s nothing too special about this version. “Weigh” and “Sparkle” round out the opening sequence of songs. Tour MVP “Stash” is up next. Despite the band pushing at the edges of this song during most of its recent appearances, this performance feels fairly standard. The song’s jam starts at 5:00, and the first section is centered around a repetitive Trey riff based on only three or four notes. They start to break from this at 6:40, and Trey starts to transition to a more traditional sounding solo at 7:30. The jam starts to peak not long after that, around 9:00, and transitions to the composed end at 9:50. There’s not much experimenting in this version and the peak isn’t particularly intense, so I would have to rate this as one of the less memorable “Stash” jams of late.
Fishman takes two tries to get “Bouncing Around the Room” started up, which fills its usual role as a breather. A well-played and fun pairing of two of Phish’s quirkier songs (“It’s Ice > Glide”) is next, followed by a decent “Uncle Pen.” Due to tape flips or some other technical irregularities we fade-in to both to a smooth “Lawn Boy,” which has a Trey guitar solo in place of Mike’s, and then into the set-closing “David Bowie.” The “Bowie” intro has multiple Secret Language signals, and the song’s jam is underway by 6:00. Initially the jam is subdued and mysterious. The song gets very quiet by 7:15, and has an airy feeling to it. This slowly builds back into a more traditional “Bowie” sound shortly after 8:00 that quickly builds in intensity. After some great riffing from Trey comes the best peak of the set from 10:00-12:00 as the song transitions into the ending. Easily the highlight of the set for me and one of the most memorable “David Bowies” in recent memory (the song hasn’t been surprising me very often this tour).
Up until the end I found this first set to be average. I did enjoy the relatively quick pace to the set (the whole thing clocks at almost exactly an hour), and some of the sequences are quite fun (“Jim > Weigh,” “Ice > Glide”). However, while “Stash” has gone deep recently, this version felt more by-the-books, and otherwise until the end of the set there’s not much improvisation to speak of. The set-closing “Bowie” changes the story though, with a great multi-section, dynamic jam that has a strong peak. It’s an exclamation point for the set and hopefully sets up a big set 2.
The second half of the night starts with a good “Chalk Dust Torture” that has a typically-ripping solo from Trey. This is followed by a well-played “Fluffhead” that has a satisfying end solo and outro into “Sample in a Jar.” After “Big Ball Jam” comes only the third “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY” of tour, which adds some novelty value to the set. The whole setlist so far has been strange, with “Fluff” and “Sample” usually coming in the first set. “My Friend, My Friend” and “Llama” continue the streak of short, fast songs (there’s not much of an extended outro to “My Friend” tonight).
“You Enjoy Myself” occupies its usual set position as the last big moment of set 2. Page’s solo begins around 8:00 and quickly works into a “Mission: Impossible” tease by 8:50 that he plays with for a while. He takes his time with his segment and transitions back into a fun and more typical sounding solo. Trey comes back in at 10:00 but Page doesn’t stop until shredding about 11:30, where he drops out to let Trey have his turn. The song gets quiet as Trey takes over and breaks down almost completely at 12:30. It picks up in volume shortly after 13:00, leading to really good riffing from Trey at 14:00. Instead of driving the jam into a big rock solo, Trey lets the song transition smoothly into a groovy bass and drums segment shortly after 15:00 that’s more melodic than usual. The vocal jam starts at 16:45 while Fishman is still drumming, though he drops out soon after. While not very out-of-the-box I greatly enjoyed this “YEM” for a few reasons. First, both Page and Trey’s solo segments were extended enough to let each of them work through multiple segments. The whole jam sounds tight, and there’s a number of unique flairs, from the “Mission: Impossible” teases to the great, melodic riffing from Trey near the end of his solo. Like “Bowie” in the first set, this “YEM” injects a big shot of improvisational creativity into this set that it would have been lacking for otherwise.
The Henrietta segment is next and features a bust-out of “Whipping Post,” last played in December. This will be the last time we hear this song for over three years, so enjoy it while you can. Unfortunately, for fans of the song, it’s treated with the same amount of reverence “Great Gig in the Sky” has been treated in this slot, so don’t expect a great blues jam. Expect a long vacuum solo instead. Still, it’s fun to hear this song make one more appearance before a long hiatus. “Golgi Apparatus” returns to the night’s theme of playing short and fast songs intensely, and closes the set. A fun rendition of the infrequently played “Funky Bitch” and a without-microphone “Amazing Grace” comprise the encore.
This night gets off to a slow start, but by the time gets to “Bowie” they’re cooking and they don’t let up for the rest of the show. The “Bowie” jam is the most creative I can think of in recent memory. The second set doesn’t have a big improvisational moment until a great “YEM,” but the songs are played with precision and conviction, and flow together better than I expected. I also appreciate the band digging deep into their catalog at this show and bringing out some lesser-played songs (“Weigh,” “TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu,” “Funky Bitch,” “Whipping Post”). Between the good setlist, overall high quality of playing, fast pace (even for the time), and big moments in each set (“Bowie,” “YEM”), this is a thoroughly enjoyable show and a great way to kick off a three night swing through Ohio.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “David Bowie,” “You Enjoy Myself”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 61 mins.
- Second set length: 91 mins.
- This is the second time Phish performed at the Newport Music Hall. They first played here on 12/02/92, and will return tomorrow night.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Whipping Post,” returning after a sixty-seven show absence (12/05/92).
- The best represented studio albums are Rift, A Picture of Nectar, and Junta (4 songs).