Night 2 at the Newport Music Hall (and show #57 of tour, for those not keeping track) begins with a snappy pairing of “Buried Alive > Poor Heart.” An average “Foam” is next, followed by “Guelah Papyrus,” which appears a little later in the set than normal. “Maze” is the first opportunity the band has to open up, and while a standard performance both Trey and Page deliver good solos. I can’t really pick a favorite between the two of them tonight.
The first “Forbin’s > Mockingbird” in about a week occupies the middle of the set. Tonight’s narration centers on “little gremlin creatures you never really think about but are flying all around.” These creatures succeed in transforming the venue into a giant metallic ball. At some point in the narration the continental United States becomes a giant game of “Labyrinth” that the gremlins play, using the venue-as-metallic-ball. Eventually this ball slips through the cracks of the game, floats through space, and lands in Gamehendge. I think you can piece the story together from there. It’s another delightfully bizarre narration and the most memorable part of the set so far.
A competence performance of “Rift” is next, followed by “Punch You in the Eye,” making a welcome return after 10 shows away. “I Didn’t Know” is found in its typical spot, and leads into the set-closing “Run Like an Antelope.” Musically I think this is the high point of the set. There’s a cool mini-jam before the intro to the song is even over, from 1:00 to about 2:15, and the jam itself is rocking. It’s not the longest “Antelope,” they return to the ending of the song shortly after 8:00, but there’s great dissonant playing from Trey and Page sounds very good with his comping as well. The jam ends with a solid peak, and there’s several Secret Language signals during the ‘verse’ of the song.
I found this to be an average first set for the tour, though the quality of the playing is generally high. The standout moments are the narration during “Forbin’s” and the quality tension jam during the quick “Antelope” at the end of the set. Hopefully the musical fireworks at the end of the set are followed up on during the second half of the show.
Set 2 gets off to a strong start with “Possum,” which once again impresses me after a good showing just a couple of nights ago. The song breaks down nice and quiet at the beginning of Trey’s solo at 3:30. There’s interesting playing from him as the song slowly builds back up, and it has a strong peak before the end. “Possum” makes for an exciting start to the set; I’m surprised the band doesn’t play it in this slot more often.
A good sounding “Mound” leads into “Split Open and Melt,” which is making a rare appearance in the second set. The jam starts at 4:20 with repetitive riffing from Trey. He starts to break from this at 6:30 and solo over the groove that has been established. From there the band pushes at the structure of the song more than they have at any show this tour, save for one or two performances in March. The feeling of the jam gets quite intense and the “duh-duh-duh” refrain that is usually omnipresent from Mike and Fishman gets deemphasized to the point of being almost unnoticeable. This performance feels much more akin to how this song is performed in the modern era. The band works back into familiar “Melt” territory at 10:00, though Trey keeps soloing for a while longer. This is a great “Melt” that hopefully portends good things to come for this song.
“The Squirming Coil” escapes out of the second-set closing role it had started to adopt to once again take a mid-set position. Page’s long piano solo serves as a nice cool-down after “Melt.” “The Horse > Silent in the Morning” keeps up the mellow, mid-set vibe. “Big Ball Jam” leads into a late-set Mike’s Groove. The “Mike’s Song” jam begins at 2:35 with Mike’s thumping bass groove, before Trey jumps in at 3:15. He drives the song straight to an early peak and the end chords at 4:55. The F-key, “Simple” jam begins at 5:20 Trey establishes a dissonant groove through his riffing by 6:15, and the song gets increasingly noisy and anarchic from there. There’s flashes of interesting playing during this segment, but it’s a little too messy for my tastes. The end chords kick back in at 8:10 for a transition into “Great Gig in the Sky,” in lieu of a proper Henrietta segment tonight.
“Weekapaug Groove” cold-starts after “Gig in the Sky,” and the “Weekapaug” jam is underway by 1:20. After a little bit of celebratory soloing the jam becomes sparse sounding by 2:30, with good interplay between Trey and Page. There’s some neat drumming from Fishman as he breaks down the song to its bare rhythm. The band slowly starts to build the jam back up around 4:00. Trey breaks into furious trilling at 6:00 to drive the jam to an early, and intense peak. Instead of going straight from this peak into the end of the song, as they usually would, they break the song back down again at 7:30, settling into a funky groove. After yet another peak (at around 8:40) the song peters out and transitions, unfinished, into the second “Gumbo” of tour! “Gumbo” once again features a ridiculous, “Free Bird”-esque ending. The song closes a second set that is a significant improvement over the first. A quick “Sweet Adeline” and “Cavern” send the crowd home as the encore choices.
Like last night, this show starts off in slightly pedestrian fashion. The first set has some highlights, namely the Forbin’s narration and a strong “Antelope,” but the second set is really the noteworthy part of tonight’s show. There’s a rocking “Possum” to kick things into high gear right away, and a multi-segment “Weekapaug” that segues unfinished into tour bust-out “Gumbo” to close the set. Sandwiched in between is an intense “Split Open and Melt” that moves the song closer to what I would expect from it today. The set makes for a very good top to bottom listen.
Tomorrow night will be bring us to our third and final Ohio show of the tour…
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Run Like an Antelope,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Weekapaug Groove > Gumbo”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 77 mins.
- Second set length: 85 mins.
- This is the third and last time Phish performed at the Newport Music Hall. Fishman’s Jazz Mandolin Project and Pork Tornado will play here on 2/4/00 and 4/8/00 respectively, and Mike Gordon’s band plays here on 6/11/15.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Punch You in the Eye,” returning after a ten show absence (4/5/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).