, attached to 2014-07-19

Review by DevinB

DevinB It might seem pretty easy to write off this show on paper -- numerous repeats, no signature jams, no off-the-wall curve balls we expect the band to throw out every now and again. And if we're strictly discussing the first set, I would be inclined to agree with that assessment. It was a mostly-jamless melange of standard 3.0 first-setters, a couple of new songs, the one-two ambien punch of Brian and Robert and Wingsuit (which, frankly, seems to work better as a second-set cool down in the wake of a fiery jam), and a few old favorites thrown in for good measure. Looking at a standard Antelope closer, you would be forgiven for thinking it's worth glossing over, too, but be warned: you would be wrong. After such a lackluster first set, the quality of this Antelope came as quite a surprise and whipped the crowd into an absolutely frenzy. It included a wonderful jam segment, and the high-energy reading and wacky Istanbul teases gave it a certain playfulness that is reminiscent of some of those fabulous 1.0 Antelopes that we all know and love. I know you have probably heard 1001 versions of this song, but DO NOT SLEEP ON THIS ONE! It's wonderful!

Going into to setbreak, I felt that the Antelope redeemed what proved to be a mostly-pedestrian first set, setting the stage for what I hoped would be an extremely strong second set from the boys. Ultimately, I felt we got exactly that and more, though it seems the opinion in not shared by all. To be fair, I understand, but I don't agree...

Now, I completely understand how, lacking the kind of exploratory jams we saw at Randall's Island or the unorthodox quirkiness of the previous evening's second half, you might want to write off this entire set as typical average-good Phish. On paper, it might look like a series of jams that failed to take off, leading to segues or ripcords into other jam vehicles that also failed. It may have even seemed that way over the webcast, though I can't say for sure. I will say, though, that the energy coming from the band through this seamlessly segued set translated incredibly well to those of us dancing on the lawn. While none of the jams took root and flourished in the way Phish fans especially like, there was not a single moment of aimless noodling or uncertainty. It's also probably worth mentioning that the only true ripcord of the night came during Fuego, stranding it solidly in the type-I category, but setting the stage for an excellent Twist. Much has already been said -- rightfully so -- about the wonderful Harry Hood in the penultimate slot, but I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention the exciting-but-compact Light jam, which seems to have cruised right under the radar for many due to it either being A) too short or B) too similar to other versions. But does such a reliable jam vehicle have to produce totally original 20-plus-minute jams to be seen as an asset? Likewise, do we need to pick apart the individual pieces of a set to determine how that set works as a whole?

The reason I ask these questions is because, from way back on the lawn at Northerly Island, I felt that this second set, taken as a whole, was an absolute masterpiece. Phish at their finest. Sure, it didn't include a three-headed monster jam like that Randall's Island CDT > Light > Tweezer, but the jamming throughout was masterful without a single second of wasted space. The setlist itself was immaculately constructed, providing a fluid range of emotions, colors, and hues. The songs were played with such finesse that they were perfectly suited to a wild Saturday night in the big city with a gentle Lake Michigan breeze in your hair and Kuroda's impressive lights in your eyes. Rather than judge the second set on the merits of each individual jam, try to see it as an immaculately crafted psychedelic whole -- a journey from the dark anxiety of Carini's lumpy head through water, fire, and light, finally concluding with a triumphant feel-good anthem for the ages and a celebratory cave party serving as an exclamation point.

And that amazingly quirky three-song encore? It doesn't get much better than that, people. A perfect epilogue to the harrowing journey of one very special set by one very special band. As I mentioned before, I can't speak to how this one translated via webcast, but from my spot way out on the lawn, the second set was magic. But, hey -- don't take my word for it. Give it another listen and see for yourself. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.


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