I have to be honest: when I first started this blog, I would have put the odds of making it this far at 50/50. But here we are, at the end of Phish’s longest tour, and I have to say I’ve had a lot of fun with this project. I’m going to post a ‘debrief’ post tomorrow where I reflect on this tour as a whole, so for now I’m going to put aside reflection and get on with tonight’s show. An official LivePhish recording of this show is available, bringing the total of officially released shows from this tour to six (currently). I would highly recommend the CD version if you can find it; it includes the “Shaggy Dog” soundcheck from this show as well as the incredible “Tweezer” and “You Enjoy Myself” from the Albany shows as filler. “Shaggy Dog” appeared during at least one other soundcheck on this tour, but was never played during a show proper. The song is a fun listen for that novelty, but there’s not much improvisation to speak of.
“Chalk Dust Torture” opens the show, a slot the song has increasingly called home over the course of the tour. No complaints about that from me, I think it’s a great show-opener. Tonight’s performance is typically-great. “Guelah Papyrus” follows in its usual number two slot. “Rift” and “Mound” follow and both sound good, as has everything the band has played so far tonight. “Stash” is the centerpiece of the set, and opens up the show considerably. The “Stash” jam begins at 4:55 and quickly takes a dissonant turn at 5:30. While still recognizably a “Stash” jam, the band breaks from the song’s main progression. The jam takes a sinister feeling, which is accented by tom fills Fish starts to add. This groove builds for a couple of minutes before Trey starts to break out of it with his soloing at 7:15. From there the jam returns to more familiar “Stash” territory at 8:00, and Trey brings the song to an initial peak at 8:30. The next couple minutes feature great playing from the whole band with a lot of fun flourishes as the band embellishes the peak they built to. You can faintly make out the band returning to the “maybe so, maybe not” refrain at 10:45, but they instead take a hard left turn and begin breaking the jam down.
The jam once again takes a dissonant feeling, led by anarchic and jazzy playing from Trey. Gradually Trey’s playing dissolves into feedback, and the “Kung” chant begins at 12:45. The feedback swells in the background so that by the end of the “Kung” chant the jam has built into a giant ball of energy, which propels the band back into the end of “Stash” at 14:30. Trey takes a brief, triumphant solo before wrapping up the song. An excellent “Stash,” without a doubt! The band really began to break this song open during this tour, so it’s fitting that we get another great performance on the final night (with an assist from “Kung,” of course).
“Glide” brings the set back to earth with its own quirky brand of fun before a solid “My Friend, My Friend,” which lacks an extended outro tonight. “Reba” is the second big moment of the set, after “Stash.” The “Reba” jam quiets way down around 7:45 for a section of exquisite soloing from Trey. He starts repeating a delicate, ‘sweep picking’ riff, which is quite an unusual style for him. From there the jam builds to a somewhat standard “Reba” peak. Overall I would say this is only a good, not a great “Reba,” but that middle quiet segment is really sweet.
After “Reba” Trey thanks the crew for their hard work throughout the tour, which he slightly exaggerates as “three and a half months” long (he does correctly identify the number of shows: 71). He notes that there are “more [crew] each year” and lists Paul, Chris, Pete (monitors), Brad (“big ball thrower,” but actually band manager), Mark and Stew (lights), Terry and Charlie (truck drivers), Bob (sound), Amy, and Andrew (tour manager). “Satin Doll” makes only its second appearance of tour and is dedicated to the crew. “Cavern” provides a snappy end to the first set. Between the excellent “Stash,” the good “Reba,” and the overall solid playing and setlist flow this is a great first set.
“David Bowie” opens the second set for the first and only time this tour (though it was played as song #2 of the second set during one of the Colorado shows). The band takes the opportunity to deliver the most adventurous “Bowie” I have heard so far writing this blog. The fun starts with “Jessica” (an Allman Brothers song) quotes during the “Bowie” intro, initiated by Page. The rest of the band joins in, and the result is a three-way combination of Secret Language signals, eerie “Bowie” intro ambience, and “Jessica” teases. While LivePhish tracks “Jessica” separately from “Bowie” that’s a bit misleading; it’s far from a full (or even partial) performance of the song. “Bowie” begins proper at 3:00, and the main jam starts at 6:40. There may have been some timing issues going into the jam for it sounds like Trey missed a change. The band doesn’t let the mistake rattle them, however, and they use the dissonance introduced by the mistake to set the tone for the beginning of the jam.
The first few minutes of the jam are dark and power-chord driven. Once the band has fully established this heavy metal-esque groove, the tempo begins to rapidly increase at 9:00. Trey begins to unleash passages of truly metal shredding, and the rest of the band joins him in singing/screaming. This is an intense and very unusual-for-“Bowie” segment. Trey starts taking a full solo by 10:30 and delivers a lot of good shredding until 12:30, where the jam starts to break down. You can faintly make out Trey starting to play the intro “Llama” chords, but he abandons that as quickly as he begins. Instead, the jam breaks down further to just drums and bass. Mike starts a new groove, and the band segues smoothly into a full verse of “Have Mercy” at 13:30 (only the second “Mercy” of tour). After the “Have Mercy” verse Trey takes back the lead of the jam at 15:00 and quickly brings the band back into the standard “Bowie” progression. After a standard but energetic build to the “Bowie” peak the band transitions into the song’s end at 16:20.
Looking at the setlist one might write off this “Bowie” as only receiving a lot of praise because of the “Jessica” and “Have Mercy” shenanigans, but that would be selling this jam short, for the best part is really the first ~5 minutes of the jam where the band establishes a dark, quasi-type-II groove that builds into terrific, metal shredding from Trey. The “Have Mercy” verse only works as well as it does because it lets the band emerge into the light after the initial darkness. “Bowie” gets the treatment here that “YEM” and “Tweezer” got earlier in the week, and to equally awesome results. Definitely one of my favorite “Bowies” from this tour.
“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” is next and provides a welcome breather for band and audience alike. “It’s Ice” follows and has one of the longest and coolest ‘underwater’ segments that I have heard. The segment starts at 5:15 with lots of extra playing from Page, and Mike introduces a dark bass line that he plays throughout. Even Trey joins the fun with actual riffing, not just added ambience. A bluesy groove is established by 6:50, and Trey makes a move like he’s about to take a full solo, which would effectively blow this “Ice” out into a full type-II jam. Alas, he restrains himself, so the jam ends at 7:20 with the transition back into the end of “Ice.” Despite the opportunity to take this “Ice” for a wild ride, there’s still an awesome, extra 2 minutes of jamming in this “Ice” that fans of the song will enjoy.
If an “It’s Ice” with a lot of extra embellishment wasn’t enough for you, the band follows it with a seventeen minute “Squirming Coil” with a full-band, type-II jam (!!!). Like…when does that ever happen? When the band is taking extra risks with songs like “Coil” and “Ice” you know they’re feeling it. Page takes a normal solo, without band accompaniment, as usual. At 10:00 Fishman comes back in on cymbals, and Trey gradually starts introducing feedback. Page just starts going absolutely crazy as Mike and Fish work on establishing a structure for the forming jam. The rhythm section locks into a groove by 11:10 that Trey manages to latch on to. Page keeps soloing on top before settling down at 12:20, letting Trey lead the jam with his chording. Trey starts to solo at 13:00, and works into an almost “Tweezer”-like riff. After riffing on this for a few minutes the band segues smoothly right into “Big Ball Jam.”
The band just doesn’t let up this set, and goes straight into “Mike’s Song” after “Big Ball Jam.” While relatively short tonight, “Mike’s” packs a lot of punch. The jam starts at 2:35 and goes through a standard first build before the second jam begins at 4:50. Initially this jam is driven by the “Simple” riff Trey often plays here, but Page goes nuts on the organ and the mood becomes more major-key-feeling than the second “Mike’s” jam usually is. Trey starts playing a very catchy riff that quickly builds to a very fun peak and a seamless transition into the debut of “Crossroads,” which was briefly teased during “Harpua” last night! “Crossroads” is full of energy and features a good, though brief, blues jam. After a full run through “Crossroads” the band briefly returns to “Mike Song” and the end chords of that song.
“Hydrogen” is a welcome reprieve from the anarchic and energetic feeling of this set, and sounds decent tonight. The “Weekapaug” jam starts at 1:30. After Trey plays some initial soloing he settles into upbeat riffing at 2:30. The jam breaks down from there into a reprise of the “Have Mercy” groove, sans lyrics. Page starts playing the “Amazing Grace” melody shortly after 4:00, which leads the band to gradually fade the jam into nothing and begin singing “Amazing Grace” proper (leaving “Weekapaug” unfinished). After the usual, a cappella performance of “Grace,” the band begins to play instrumental refrains of the song. Trey solos over the “Amazing Grace” verse, creating a euphoric jam similar to the type of playing that emerges from “Auld Lang Syne” at a New Year’s Eve show. Trey thanks the crowd as the band continues to jam, remarking that the band is “going home” tomorrow and “taking a vacation” until summer. I hope they did take it easy; they deserve it after this tour. Considering “Grace” was performed so frequently on this tour, in the same manner at every appearance, ending the last set of tour with a fun twist on the song feels very appropriate, and ends the night on a blissful note.
There’s only one encore tonight, but it’s a good one. “AC/DC Bag” ends the tour, and is a great symbolic choice as the song was busted-out this tour and slowly crawled back into an infrequent rotation.
“See you guys in July…” – Trey
This last week has been a thrilling one to listen to. While listening to these May shows it felt like the band managed to pull together everything they had been working on for a run of incredible homecoming shows. As great as the shows have been, this one might take the cake. The second set is a non-stop trip with a highlight reel including: a twenty-minute opening “Bowie” that takes a detour through a “Have Mercy” after a dark, intense jam, extra jamming in “It’s Ice,” a full-band, type-II “Squirming Coil,” a fun “Mike’s Song” that goes into the”Crossroads” debut, and a full-band jam on “Amazing Grace.” Outside of “Horse > Silent” and “Hydrogen” the set is unrelenting. The first set is no slouch either, with good energy throughout and excellent jamming in “Stash.” I don’t think Phish could have ended this tour on a much higher note.
…and that’s a wrap, folks! 71 shows in the bag (though only 69 and a half had circulating recordings). As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, and because this post is already well past 2000 words, I’ll be saving my overall reflections on the tour for a post tomorrow. I’ll also start to lay out my schedule of posts over the next couple months, so that you can learn what plans I have for this blog between now and the band’s next shows (festival appearances on May 29th and 30th, and then summer tour in mid-July). So, until tomorrow…
- Show rating: 5/5
- Highlights: “Stash > Kung > Stash,” “Reba,” “David Bowie > Have Mercy > David Bowie,” “It’s Ice,” “The Squirming Coil,” “Mike’s Song > Crossroads > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove > Amazing Grace > Amazing Grace Jam”
- Phish.net setlist
- Debuts: “Crossroads” (Johnson)
- First set length: 73 mins.
- Second set length: 91 mins.
- This is the fourth and last time Phish performed at the University of New Hampshire Field House.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Have Mercy,” returning after a fifty-six show absence (2/20/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (6 songs).