[Jadedvet TLDR Capsule Summary: 6/10. Remarkable for a tour opener, as they played as if it were a mid-tour gig. Strong improv in the “Ghost->SYSF” sandwich opener and the “Ruby Waves” in the first (arguably the worst version—technically speaking—of “Mound” ever, but it’s at times hilarious), and the segue-heavy second set was great fun improvisationally, with solid versions of almost everything, a SHOCKING “Weekapaug” -> out of “Plasma’s” coda, and even the “Saw It Again” had a sublimely dark, throbbing jam that segued well into “Fuckerpants.” And Page was on the piano quite frequently, which as you know ain’t always the case. Overall an above-average-great show worth a listen and a strong terr openah. -cd]
IT’s the most wonderful time of the year! And with the beginning of summer tour: the sticky humidity, the hot asphalt, the commingling of musty moist smells of patchouli, skunky hybrids, and B.O. . . . smells like: VACATION!
So much EXCITEMENT, so many weeks of ANTICIPATION, building and building and building after the, uh, first-summer-tour concluded only like five weeks ago in Deer Creek, and after PORK TORNADO played a gig for the first time in nine years, and after Trey sat-in with both Goose AND Billy Strings! What would the tour open with?? Would Trey invite a child on stage for a-sing-along with the band!? Would the show be better than the Arkansas tour opener a year ago!? Would the show even be WORTH A DAMN!??
YES, IT WOULD. It was not only worth a damn, last night’s show was, on the whole, beautiful both musically and metaphysically. It was also not only the first show since 2019 (before COVID) for many fans in attendance, it was Phish’s first at Great Woods in SIX YEARS, specifically since 7/8/2016, which you may recall featured an excellent version of “Light,” and they closed the first set with “Space Oddity” (!) and encored with “I Am The Walrus” (!). In fact, last night and tonight’s show comprise the first time in EIGHTEEN YEARS—since August 2004—that Phish will have performed two consecutive shows at Great Woods (called the “Tweeter Center” back then, and now loathsomely referred to as “Xfinity Center”).
Opening with a compelling ~22 min “Ghost -> SYSF -> Ghost” sandwich, Phish made it plain from the start that this tour will bear witness to improvisationally profound giants. “Ghost” included AFUCKENBOMB from Mike, a note so low it vibrated the audience with life, a vibration-of-life effect if you will, seven beats per second? Dunno, but it was cool! The segue into “SYSF” was smooth, on balance, even though Trey arguably modulated the key abruptly, and “SYSF” itself proved to be thrillingly performed (an easily jamchartable version imo). “Wedge” was fine (one of my personal favorites, and, fwiw, my first version would have been the one on 6/30/95 if I had seen it live and not from the lot while waiting for a friend to get through the horrific traffic that day—he never made it!).
Trey’s call of “Mound” to follow seemed to surprise Mike at least as much as it surprised me (dunno if it was uh really rehearsed), and while “Mound” is always wonderful to hear, this version was hilariously flubbed in parts but, to Trey’s credit, he made the off-beat-off-key-dissonant-free-jazzy section of “Mound” extra wacky and weird. “Mountains” is one of my favorite ballads and I loved it in this mid-first-set spot, frankly, and Trey appeared to put extra-soul into his serene solo. “BOTT” was average-great and “Ruby Waves” was glorious, with sweet improv and fantastic interplay among the band members. I love this song. And this version is easily competitive with the one from Deer Creek last month. “I Been Around” has to be (is) a joke of a song so I hesitate to review it seriously; this “version” was akin to every other one you’ve heard. (I would have far preferred a “Beauty of a Broken Heart” (love it) or “Halfway to the Moon” (love it too) in this spot if a Page-song was in order.) And “Tube” and “About To Run” were perfunctory-but-still-fierce-and-great-to-hear versions to close the first set, with Trey at times Hendrixing his “About To Run” solo to great applause.
Setbreak emphasized and featured one of the show’s highlights: FRIENDS—who clearly had not seen each other in years—JOYOUSLY SCREAMING AND EMBRACING! While the “vibe” at a Phish show is almost always great (cf. 10/7/00, 8/14/04), which is why saying that the “vibe was great” at a Phish show is worthy of the utmost scorn and disdain, the “vibe” at times last night was BREATHTAKINGLY LOVELY, in no small part because there were so many people so very happy to be together again—at a Phish show—after several very unpleasant years for the country, world.
Second set opened with around a 45min “CDT->Plasma->Weekapaug->Saw It Again->Caspian” run, worth your time to check out if only for the true segues. Mike teased “Passing Through” in “CDT’s” jam a bit and for a few measures the jam could very well have segued into it, but Trey led the fluid, mellifluous jam somewhat seamlessly into “Plasma,” which grooved and peaked hard, and only a few measures after its peak, Trey SUDDENLY started playing the opening chords of “Weekapaug Groove,” which surprised EVERYONE. Yes, everyone. No one saw this coming, including Mike, Fish and Page. (Fwiw this was the first “Weekapaug” in a set without “Mike’s” since 10/26/21.) As a result, the opening measures of “Weekapaug” were a bit meek and tentative (e.g. there wasn’t the typical opening Mike and Fish counterpoint/jam), but eventually the jam began to simmer, particularly after Page moved to the piano to accompany Trey—and Page did so masterfully over the thick Mike&Fish bottom for several minutes.
The improv gelled quite well into a brief “stop/start jam” (with a “woo” from some in the audience during the breaks) before shooting skyward a’la traditional ‘paugs, and then while Fish and Mike maintained the traditional ‘paug rhythm/bottom, Trey revisited the earlier “stop/start jam” theme and began playing some off-key bizarro-world notes, seemingly haphazardly, as if in an effort to get Fish and Mike to “go type II.” But they didn’t bite, even though Page joined in with some freakish outbursts on his synth. And then finally about eight and a half minutes in, Fish and Trey began to kick out a ska rhythm and I believed they might segue into “NICU”---and they may even be teasing something at this point of the jam that I don’t know the name of (~9 mins LP timing)---but no, Trey led a hilariously messy segue into “Saw It Again” (Trey even cracks up during the opening lyrics).
The very dark, plodding, mesmerizingly disturbing jam out of the “Saw It Again,” though only lasting a minute or two, was a show highlight imo simply because the segue into “Prince Fuckerpants” was so fierce and raw and brutal. There’s not much of a “Saw It Again” jamchart because it hasn’t “gone type II” or jammed much, but I will be lobbying the team for this version to make the chart, as I think its improvisational coda is easily competitive with 7/4/2000’s version, which is the last version sharted. I mean charted, forgive me.
Fourth quarter thankfully kept the groove and segues going, with solid versions of “Caspian” > “BDTNL” > “Bug” > and “Sand,” and by “solid” I of course mean “average-great” versions that probably won’t qualify for their respective jam charts no matter how charming parts of them certainly, indisputably, are and were. All were pleasing to hear, and “BDTNL” was apropos given all the old friends seeing and hanging out with each other again after so long.
And the “PYITE -> S.A.N.T.O.S.” encore was welcome as well, of course, NOT ONLY because “PYITE” is always great to hear, even when Trey flubs the shit out of parts of it to the point of hilarity, and “S.A.N.T.O.S.” is always-triumphant and impressive as a set or show closer, BUT ALSO because closing a tour opener with a ONE-TWO-ROCK-PUNCH! like this gives everyone the JUICE and ADRENALINE to exit the venue to the lots SMILING, and ROCK further into the evening with the energy to make it to the next show as well! (Or to make it home safely, sleep peacefully, wake up, and return to work.)
Will there be a “Mike’s” on its own tonight? Will there be a lot of cover tunes tonight since there weren’t any last night—setting aside the fact that “Bug” is arguably a cover of “Oh! Sweet Nothin” ? We’ll see. See you there? Say hello if you see me (or don’t); I’ll be easy to spot: I’m a 51-year-old corpulent white man wearing a 30-year-old faded Jerry tshirt.
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