EDITORS NOTE: In honor of tomorrow night’s leg two opening show at Long Beach Arena, here’s a look back at one of the stronger shows from leg one, courtesy of Billy Morgan.
After a short 2-hour cruise from Burgettstown, we rolled into the Blossom lot early in preparation for a Sunday night party in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Having seen two great shows in a row, we were curious whether we were in store for another heater or, perhaps something a bit more mellow. We made our way to our seats early and eagerly waited to see what Phish would be serving up this go-round.
After the two previous openers, “Sample In a Jar” left me a bit underwhelmed, but I must admit the song has never been one of my favorites. The rest of the crowd, for the most part seemed to enjoy it. Next came another compact, funky run through of “Tube.” This is another one that I am waiting to see stretched like some of the famed versions of years past. Tube reprise jam please!
A punishing “Axilla I” followed, keeping the crowd energy high. The first bit of jamming was delivered in a mellow, yet nicely sculpted “Bathtub Gin.” The band patiently built a tasty little jam into a nice peak before returning to the composed section of the song. This was a solid “Gin” indeed.
When “Roses are Free” started I hoped for a jam like the beast played earlier this tour in Worcester, but should have known better seeing how it was still early in the first set. Instead, they opted to dive quickly into “Limb by Limb,” providing the best jam of the set. Trey’s precise playing and re-discovered dexterity was on full display as the band crafted a classic “Limb” jam that even featured a “Dave’s Energy Guide” tease. Although it was good seeing “Free” show up in the first set rather than the second, they seem to forego the jam more often than not these days, which was again the case at Blossom. I hate to say it, but this one has gotten downright boring. Some time on the shelf could help breathe new life into “Free” down the road.
After a standard “NICU” was “Possum” – a far cry from last year’s “Blossom Possum,” this one was relatively straight forward, yet like everything else this tour, well-played. The same was the case with “The Wedge,” which filled the next slot. A rare take on Taj Mahal’s “Corrina” was next before the band dug out the first “Meatstick” of the tour, much to the crowd’s liking. After Mike’s attempt at the Meatstick dance turned out to be a hilarious fail, Trey invited some folks, mostly girls, on stage to teach him the dance. The dance lesson didn’t quite go the way Trey had hoped, but was fun nonetheless. All in all, a solid set that had me hoping they would rev things up a bit after the break, and they most certainly would.
“Golden Age,” the TV On The Radio tune, and one of my favorite new covers, opened the second frame of music and set the pace for what was to follow. After the composed section and a short solo by Trey, the band dropped into a fiery funk jam, in which Mike took the lead and Trey laid back. Like the night before, patience dictated this jam and things began to take shape organically. After Trey strategically placed his notes things slowed down further and headed for deep space before segueing into “Ghost.”
Another deliberate and well-thought out jam oozed out of the composition with Trey at the helm and the others complimenting his every move. The jam flowed like water until dissolving seamlessly into the Rolling Stones’ “Sweet Virginia,” another Exile set survivor. The ballad provided a perfect landing pad after another fantastic segment of type II jamming. The band cranked things back up with an on-point rendition of “Rift,” followed by an interesting “Tweezer” that seemed to have it all.
Next, the “Tweezer Reprise” jam got the crowd going again. Trey added an “Another Brick in the Wall part 2” quote before Mike’s laid it down thick, leading the band off the beaten path that eventually arrived at “Under Pressure.” Trey then added a quote from Vanilla Ice’s rip-off “Ice Ice Baby.” After it became obvious that no one in the band knew the lyrics to “Under Pressure,” Trey suggested they just get a bunch of girls on stage to dance to the meatstick, which led the band into a short “Meatstick” reprise jam.
Following the Meatstick festivities, there was a return to “Tweezer” that transitioned into an absolutely raging “Walk Away.” As has been the case with pretty much every version of late, the band, most notably Trey, brought the house down with a ferocious solo. A well placed “The Horse”> “Silent In the Morning” allowed the crowd to catch their breath after the rowdy previous segment before being tossed right back into action with “Piper.” Trey took the reins early on, but then laid back and set the stage for more interesting full-band improvisation that eventually fizzled into “Waste.” Trey nailed the classic solo before dropping into a monster set-closing “Run Like an Antelope.” The intro featured “Under Pressure” and “Meatstick” quotes. The band pushed through an extremely energetic version highlighted by creative, focused soloing by Trey that brought the jam to a massive peak. The crushing rendition put an exclamation point on another killer set of Phish highlighted by jams, song placement, and precise, tight playing. The set was followed by the classic “Loving Cup,” “Tweezer Reprise” encore that kept the crowd energy high until the last note. The band had played their 3rd great show in a row and the place was absolutely buzzing.
The state of Phish is at an all time high in the 3.0 era after the Midwest melee that unfolded over the past weekend. The playing, creativity, playfulness, and endless possibility for the unknown have returned in a big way in just the first two weeks of the 2012 tour, which is already being hailed as the best yet since the return in March 2009. For great reason, this is the most positive and optimistic the Phish community has been in a long time. If you are not planning to do so already, I recommend getting out there and seeing this special tour unfold before our eyes.
SET 1: Sample in a Jar, Tube, Axilla, Bathtub Gin, Roses Are Free > Limb By Limb,Free > NICU > Possum > The Wedge, Corinna, Meatstick
SET 2: Golden Age > Ghost > Sweet Virginia, Rift > Tweezer -> Walk Away > The Horse > Silent in the Morning > Piper > Waste > Run Like an Antelope
ENCORE: Loving Cup > Tweezer Reprise
 DEG tease.
 Japanese lyrics; with fans on stage dancing.
 Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, Under Pressure, and Ice Ice Baby quotes; Meatstick jam.
 Under Pressure and Meatstick teases; Fernando (Abba) quote (with lyric changed to “Orlando”). Lyrics changed to Marc Orlando Esquandolas from Syracuse, NY” and “Run like Orlando out of control.” “Orlando” repeated several times.
NOTES: Limb by Limb contained a DEG tease. Meatstick contained Japanese lyrics and featured fans on stage dancing. Tweezer contained an Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, Under Pressure and Ice Ice Baby quotes as well as a Meatstick jam. Antelope featured Under Pressure and Meatstick teases, a Fernando (Abba) quote with the lyric changed to “Can you hear the drums, Orlando?” Antelope’s lyrics were changed to “Marc Orlando Esquandolas from Syracuse, NY” and “Run like Orlando out of control.” “Orlando” was repeated several times.