REVIEW / PHOTOS: Phish @ Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA 8/15/12

Last night Phish kicked off the second part of their 2012 tour in front of a Southern California crowd that was anxious from the get go, and just like that another must-hear tour opener is in the books with yet another legendary second-leg-second-set “Rock and Roll” for the record books. The band sure likes giving the treatment to the Velvet Underground cover on the West Coast; they’ve played it on each trip out here four years in a row now. The first was at the Gorge in 2009, then at the Greek in Berkeley during the three-night run in 2010, then one-upping both of those versions the next year back at the Gorge. This version may top them all, especially considering that I got a 13 minute “Ghost” to follow…

The first set was solid — good song selection — but nothing to really chew on except a well placed “Cool It Down,” “Stash” and “Bathtub Gin” that had some nice work by all four members but didn’t grow into anything of importance. I loved the “Quinn The Eskimo” as the first set closer, with really nice fret work from Trey. The real stuff to talk about at set-break were the rumors that the one-and-only Justin Bieber and his girlfriend Selena Gomez were in attendance; this was confirmed earlier by @bizarchive on Twitter who had his dancing room taken up by Bieber and his entourage. Then Brad Sands posted a photo of the couple backstage; perhaps the bigger #kangfirmed moment ever. And why the hell would Biber be dressed up all heady and throwing glowsticks at a Phish show? He was most likely invited by Dan Kanter (@DanKanter), Bieber’s Guitarist and Music Director, who is widely known as being a huge Phish fan. And interestingly enough, Chris Kuroda recently mentioned at All Good that he will also begin light design work for Bieber on his next tour. Very interesting.

When the second set started and “Rock and Roll” began, little did we know that Phish was about to make a statement in Long Beach. Delivering the first 25+ minute jam of the Summer then sliding into a “Ghost” that gave me jam flashbacks to 12/31/10, the band could do no wrong. They navigated through several musical landscapes that all felt familiar yet new in their own regard. Dropping out of “Ghost” into “Limb x Limb” proved to be a smart choice as the band kept the ideas flowing from one jam vehicle to the next as if scripted by nature. “Guyute” brought things back from the cosmos and was more spirited than normal, most likely due to the avalanche of great music that had just unfolded. Once “Rock and Roll > Ghost > Limb by Limb” concluded, Phish had completely turned the tables on Summer 2012, letting the improv all hang out. “Dirt” followed the Ugly Pig, bringing the audience back to a calming reality — “Kneel down and kiss the earth — And show me what this thought is worth.”

After “Harry Hood” came out to play and was the perfect choice. This version doesn’t reach the Worcester 12/28/10 Worcester standout but it does it’s job even containing a quote of “Roggae” at the conclusion. The “Good Times Bad Times” closer was fitting, seeing how Led Zeppelin has some history in the Long Beach Arena dating back to 1972 with How the West Was Won. The arena-rocker named “Julius” encored the show and everyone left grinning, still trying to collect their “Rock and Roll”‘d thoughts off the arena floor.

If Phish plays like THAT after hanging out with Justin Bieber at set break…Bieber may have to jump on tour, like it or not.

See you in San Francisco! Get ready… because the band sure is!

Setlist From
Set 1: Suzy Greenberg, Cities > Kill Devil Falls[1], Guelah Papyrus, Cool It Down, Rift, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room > Bathtub Gin, Quinn the Eskimo
Set 2: Rock and Roll > Ghost[2] > Limb By Limb, Guyute, Dirt, Harry Hood > Good Times Bad Times
Encore: Julius

[1] Whole Lotta Love tease.
[2] Roggae tease and quote.

This was my first time shooting the band from the pit. It was an absolute pleasure. Here’s what I got: