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Permalink Posted by waxbanks on , attached to 2010-10-12
waxbanksThe four shows of Fall '10 Tour proper have seen Phish's song/improv balance shift somewhat, relative to the other '3.0' shows: the second sets are still (mostly) given to longer improvisations than the more song-driven first sets, but marquee jams are emerging from unexpected places songs (Golden Age, Carini, a wild show-closing Split) while some of the best old-school 'jam tune' renditions have come in first sets. Meanwhile, the group's improvisations are going to new places faster than ever, in versions of Light, Carini, and 46 Days (10/12), Simple (10/10), and Wolfman's Bro (10/11) that run less than 9:00 in length. (I haven't heard last night's Chucktown show, but I hear it was a strong one.)

Hell, we even got a bold Hood > Light segue at the hipster festival show. That's good news - even if we like our Lights a good deal darker...

This is the best of the three Broomfield shows overall, but you might not guess it from the setlist. I didn't. A short Carini as the showpiece jam? A 12-minute Bowie, a song that hasn't surpassed itself in (arguably) a decade? Quick-stop versions of Light, Theme, Free, Bug? The not-particularly-well-liked Summer of '89 in a prime late-night slot? Perfunctory versions of Stealing Time and Timber, plus a standalone 46 Days in the first set - where the jam has nothing to connect to, no source of dark magic to draw on?

Well, yes. A resounding YES to all those, plus a fine jam in TTE(!) and a Theme > Free segue that almost (ALMOST) redeems Trey's inexplicable decision to use those rock-sonar downstrokes as the standard segue-into-Free material, instead of the song's glorious riff.

Carini morphs into an aggressive-ambient jam that's almost...anthemic, and which grows organically out of the tune, something Phish have gotten even better at over the years. Then we've got the first pre-Bowie jam in years - a passage that used to be one of Phish's spacey open-ended jam frameworks; it's only a minute but it's a very good minute. Light is short and punchy, with some detailed unison rhythm work in the closing minute and a weirdly-awkward-but-still-fine segue into Theme. This has been a standout year for Theme from the Bottom! Free flows (ahem) freely out of Trey's post-lyrics rhythms, and after the usual Cactus bass solo, we have another heartfelt Joy, and unusually well sung.

There's no way a Joy, Halfway > Bug, Summer, Split run should work as well as this one does - especially not in the meat of Set II! For one thing, you've really gotta earn a song as beerily melodramatic as Bug with some deepwater jamming, and Joy/Halfway doesn't quite cut it. And (for reasons reasonable and un-) no one seems to care for Summer of '89, a repetitive song followed by an uneasily-fitting, monochromatic jam. If ever a setlist has seemed programmed to scare away hateful little online fanboys, well...

But the run of songs makes a kind of sense here, and not just in terms of the Chilean-miners-related lyrical theme (from the bottom/in a minute I'll be free/we want you to be happy/halfway to the moon/we danced all night). The second half of this second set is all about intensity: the anthemic outpouring of Joy and Bug, the focus and hushed upwelling of Halfway and Summer, the eventual cloudbreak and psychedelic storm that is Split Open and Melt (which is a rare, spectacular version, by the way). I'd never put together a setlist like this; neither would Trey, I suspect! But it happened this way on the day, and it did so for a reason. We have the chance to listen closely at our leisure for the silver thread running through and between these songs, the light that shows nonsense to be simply an undiscovered species, new sense.
Score: 2

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