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Permalink Posted by waxbanks on , attached to 2010-08-13
waxbanksThis one's sure to be overshadowed by the previous night's fun (not to mention the Berkeley run and the first night at Telluride), but this show is full of stellar performances, and (in our Era of Plentiful Hard Drive Space) shouldn't be overlooked.

My personal first set highlight is Ocelot - a laid-back, patient, melodic version that shows off Phish's (particularly Trey's) restrained lead playing. It's no 'He's Gone,' of course, but it's getting there. Bravo! The rest of the first set is fine, as expected, but we'll let Ocelot stand as an indicator of the quality of the playing.

As for Set Two, it's one of those 'Not As Good As _______' sets that's nonetheless exceptionally well played. The Light isn't as darkly illuminating as at the Greek, nor is Meatstick as drawn out as at Merriweather in June, and there's no soaring 'Dave's Energy Guide' jam to close out Fluffhead as in last year's Red Rocks version. Instead, each song offers some nice little turn or filip, from a screaming reprise in 46 Days to a *volcanic* Page solo over Trey's jagged rhythm guitar in Maze (which Trey then matches, thanks in no small part to some extraordinary Mike/Fish work).

The Meatstick > Mango segue is probably the most interesting transition since the return: Trey starts up Mango over a ambient-textured Meatstick jam; Mike joins him, with the other two guys holding back, bringing darkness in at the edges; Fish finally flips to a sprightly hi-hat pattern, leaving only Page in the previous key and feel. Page keeps his own synth weirdness going for more than a minute, during which Trey patiently plays that sugary-sweet Mango line over and over, the clouds slowly parting, and when Page hops over to the acoustic piano it's like a new day altogether. Awesome!

The Fluffhead outro jam, when it comes (twenty minutes later), feels like a continuation of the party energy: Page provides unexpected harmony on 'Fluffballs!' and Trey lets out a roar as he kicks into an ecstatic guitar solo. The playing matches the open sky and easy feeling of the venue, and it's a joy to hear.

The soulful Slave encore is as good as the rest of the show: vintage 2010 Phish stuff, played with an emotional weight and maturity the band could never have mustered even six years ago...

There hasn't been a bad show all summer; this one would've been an easy highlight in 2009 (and of course we'd've killed to hear this kind of focus and empathy in 2004!). I'm stunned by the quality of Phish's recent playing, and can't wait to hear what comes next. I sometimes miss the prickling pre-millennium darkness of the late 90's, but this music is too energetic and beautiful to get hung up on comparisons to the past. Enjoy this show. Christ knows the musicians did.
Score: 6

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