, attached to 2015-08-14

Review by kent241

kent241 Southwest Virginia does not have an official home base or venue. If there were a home base venue for SWVA Phish fans (as distinct from RVA and eastern shore VA fans), then it would probably be John Paul Jones (JPJ) arena at the University of Virginia (UVA), which Phish played back in December 2009, and to date, only once (come back!). Whenever SWVA fans want to see Phish, we have to make a drive, and sometimes a flight. Raleigh and Charlotte, NC are roughly 2-3 hours away give or take, so I like to think of these amphitheaters as home turf. Hampton or Portsmouth from SWVA is a good 5-6 hours drive, just about as long as it would take us to get to get Philly or Merriweather Post.

Mann night 2 is not a show you can easily top. It’s tough following, perhaps, one the finest shows of tour thus far (with Atlanta night 1 and Blossom not far behind – who knows what is in store for the now SOLD OUT Magnaball?) So what does the greatest band in America do? They let it go: no expectations, no anxiety, no worries – they are just going to play a Phish show, and that is what they did. High expectations will always be met with dissatisfaction – so don’t have any. This Phish “tour of the ages” has not been without its lulls, but by no means duds. Shows stand out, yes, but Phish tours, ultimately, come down to the tapestry of the whole (and we are not done yet!)

Those that like to speculate on set lists could easily see this performance as a likely “hits” show – more radio oriented tunes for the uninitiated (or to some fans, the show to unload many of these tracks to make room for other things). By some extent, it was. Hence, “Waiting All Night” (which is a solid ballad – it is a different sound for Phish and I dig it) as well as some Phish classics like “Bouncing” (face it: people have talked smack about this song since Phish wrote it in the early 90’s, myself included; but every time Trey hits that solo at the end, it is bliss). I had been calling “Llama” all tour to open a show. And just like they did in the underrated Raleigh 2010 show, they opened with it (also performed at the 2003 Raleigh show – I’ve seen three “Llama’s” at the same venue). However, this “Llama’s” arrangement was slower, funkier, and all together a big surprise. Mixed in with first set crowd pleasers like “Moma Dance,” “Maze,” “Lawn Boy,” and “Wolfman’s Brother” and a particularly good “Yarmouth Road” if I do say so myself (am I the only one who likes this song?), there is nothing on paper or on tape to complain about, besides these songs being staples. Last first set note: I'm digging “Devotion to a Dream” now. At first, I was not a fan, but you can really feel the band mean’s what it is singing here.

The redeemable quality of this show is consistency, which is the hallmark of this entire tour. The second set is all about flow and intensity, not necessarily big jams, but jams nevertheless. On the one hand, I mean nothing outside the 13-14 minute mark. On the other hand, the tight jamming was excellent and entertaining. Although I am not necessarily a “Golden Age” fan per se – if they jam it out like they did last night then I have no problem with it at all. The “Reba” last night was superior to the one in Atlanta, night 1 (the Atlanta shows the only other two shows this tour, besides the 4-night Miami run in January, I was fortunate enough to see). “Mike’s Song” followed, and while hoping for the “second jam,” Phish threw a curve ball going into a fiery, but brief “Ghost.” No complaints here. By this point, one can tell the key to this second set is not song length, but flow and intensity.

In the past, I would have expected a “Velvet Sea,” “Number Line” or “Joy” to suck all momentum out of this set. That was not the case, however. “Ghost” dissolved into a bust-out cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” which blew the roof off Walnut Creek. Whole band effort, Page bringing on the keys, with Trey absolutely crushing this Zeppelin classic. The flow and intensity continue into “Weekapaug” making this a pretty-ripping Mike’s sandwich. “First Tube” was the exclamation point for the evening – total face-melt spectacular (although admittedly, there were a few flubs, but they covered themselves well, I thought).

Phish seemed to have embraced “Farmhouse” more recently as a matter speaking sincerely to the flock: that Phish shows are a place of joy, openness, and happiness. While certainly derivative of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry,” “Farmhouse” is not a song I particular dislike, but nonetheless can pass. After a second set like that, I could care less about what they encore with – a double encore at that (unless something otherwise unique or awesome). “Farmhouse” was followed by a bombastic Jimi Hendrix cover of “Fire,” with accompanying Trey-Languedoc pyrotechnics. But, unfortunately, this is the one cover I never want to hear just because I think it’s throwaway (no matter how awesome it may be live or how many shows since it was played).

This was not Atlanta. This was not Blossom, nor Mann night 2. It probably won’t be MMP 1 or 2, nor whatever awesomeness Phish throw down at Magnaball. However, this was by no means a “bad” show or a “dud” show. In fact, this being my 40th Phish show, this would probably rank in the middle of those…somewhere. My only real complaint was security. Too many people were busted at this show. Security going into the venue was painfully slow. Next time Phish plays North Carolina, come back to Charlotte. PNC is a better venue with more relaxed security. Not to mention the Raleigh traffic getting to the venue…

Taboot!


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