We’re now fully in the swing of tour, show #6 of summer leg #2. Tonight the band returns to an old Phish haunt not visited in thirteen years, Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in Pelham, AL, a ~10,000-seat all-reserved open-air venue. This was the third Phish show at this facility (10/15/94 & 9/28/99) and the seventh in the state of Alabama. This show was provided as an official LivePhish webcast. Let’s cut to the action.
“Possum” starts off, a little “early” @ 7:55 local time. Uneventful but fun, a quick break and then “Cities,” an easy call given the “A lot of bridges in... Birmingham” line which received the requisite crowd appreciation. An unusually rough rendition of “Sample in a Jar” was next, about which the less said, the better. “Timber” held early promise but retreated into it’s 3.0 shell before it developed into something interesting, giving way to a solid if concise version of “Back on the Train.”
In a rare instance of Trey getting his facts right from the stage, he noted that “It’s good to be back here, it’s been like thirteen years or something. Thanks for having us back. The people in the back are much higher than they were the last time!” Page then came to center stage to deliver “Lawn Boy” which was dedicated “to the people out on the edges of the venue that [couldn’t] quite see him at his piano.” Trey then dedicated a comparatively rare first set “Down with Disease” to “the people out on the tiny strip of lawn.” A quick proto-jam is abandoned in favor of a proper finish to the song, followed by an unadorned “Gumbo,” “Ginseng Sullivan” and “The Wedge.” The crowd is then treated to a string of set closers: a workable though unspectacular sequence of “Julius” > “Cavern” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
So, does this 85-minutes of Phish beat a sharp stick in the eye? You bet it does. Was it a good first set, for Phish? That is of course for the listener to decide. My humble opinion: no real flow, safe song choices, no jamming (almost impossible with thirteen songs)... it is a tough set to love. Let’s all take a breather, regroup, and hope for a more inspired second half, shall we?
Set two opens with “Rock and Roll,” a song that had provided so many thrills and chills in its last performance, the monster from 8/15/12 in Long Beach. The peaks of Long Beach wouldn’t quite be scaled here, but it was a great jam nevertheless, two major segments – hard driving power, yielding to the spacey jam that has been so prevalent in the last year or so. This jam could have extended (much) further but had evidently run it’s course and dissolves into “The Lizards!” The second of 2012 and only the eighth since Phish’s 2009 return to the stage, this fan-favorite was mostly well-played and delightful. “Halley’s Comet” is next, adding to the list of “short songs made jamming vehicles made back into short songs” from this night (“Cities,” “Timber,” “Gumbo”).
“Sand” then blasts out of the gates and throws down a solid dose of hard-driving power funk, before shifting into a short transition of Humpback-infused space that led into “Twist.” A delightful jam was building and offering a glimpse into soaring possibilities when the first truly jarring rip-cord of the night produced “Birds of a Feather.” “Birds” was on virtual 78-rpm speed and ended almost as soon as it began – wham, bam, thank you, ma'am! This song-filled set cruises on high-octane funk with a very quick “Boogie On Reggae Woman” into a typically soaring “2001.” “Waste” finally brings this rip-roaring energy train of a set into the station for a needed breather, and a lovely “Slave to the Traffic Light” takes us home to end this ten-song set. A “Good Times Bad Times” encore closes the door, and we’re off to the ATL tomorrow.
This gig did not nearly reach the heights scaled earlier in this leg (LB, SF3) but it wasn’t without its high points. The first set was a grab bag of entertaining songs but without anything in the way of long-lasting highlights. “Rock and Roll” -> “The Lizards” was a spectacular opening sequence to the second set, and both “Sand” and “Twist,” though not all-time versions by any means, offered their fair share of rewards. Whether in attendance or rocking the couch, this was mostly a fun dance party, as well it should be.
We’ll be back tomorrow. Drive safe, folks!
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Mike Gordon: September 23, 2016
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