I think I can summarize the tour opening Worcester shows this way: “patiently risky with a little something for everyone.” At any rate I had a blast and really dug these shows (#44 & #45 for me back to ‘97). Like other .net regulars have said, the most important thing my ears noticed was a clear and noticeable exercise in patience from all the boys and a willingness to take risks (some extended jams and natural segues). It didn’t always work but I’m happy to see a continuous musical thought such as the (near) hour long Carini -> Taste > Ghost > Boogie On > If I Could, hopefully that trend continues. I’d still like to see a bit more deeper improv, for example, that Boogie On really could have gone way out there. But like I said, they did a wonderful job over two nights in Worcester of giving two wonderful shows that had a little something of everything “Phish” offers for all types of it’s fans. I left wishing I could go on tour for a few weeks. Well done boys!
Carini-> Siket jam-> Norwegian Taste > Ghost > Boogie On > Guy Forget jam-> If I Could
Nothing, Ocelot, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Possum, Rocky Top
For the rest of you that TL;DR does not apply to, here you go:
Worcester – Night 1
Great opening sequence of Buried Alive > Jim > Torn and Frayed. Energy was off the hook in the Centrum. I couldn’t help be reminded of the infamous ’98 Wipeout show (in which Buried Alive opened the second set Wipeout madness) and of course the hour long ’97 Runaway Jim. Torn and Frayed was most appropriate and the crowd seemed to catch reference to the line: “on stage the band has got problems, the guitar player’s a bag of nerves on first night”. Anyways, I always like hearing songs for the first time, and this was my first: good fun. Funky Bitch kicked off the next segment in strong fashion followed by standard fare Moma Dance and Rift. By mid point of Set I, everyone has had some vocal leads … I always like to see that balance in a show. I thought the final segment was set I perfection. Nothing, Ocelot and Possum were all played with a similar feel as the Runaway Jim … just felt like they were totally on the same page and really listening to one another. They felt like they could go anywhere. I liked what another reviewer wrote: these songs were early jam highlights. I couldn’t agree more. To me, they solidified (especially after the short but sweet Jim) that special things were going to happen in the second set. Beautiful vocal work in Nothing. Ocelot has been a fav of mine since hearing the debut at Fenway. I liked the slightly slower than usual tempo, it just sounded great and had a slick laid back jam and nice playing from everyone, but Mike and Trey especially. I initially thought the Page tune Beauty of a Broken Heart was Halfway to the Moon (similar bassline at the start) but anyways they did a good job on this one. I was hoping for a debut original song over the two nights, which I didn’t get, but the relative bust out of this song (which at the time, I had thought was the first time played by Phish) was enough to satisfy me that they had spent some time learning something. I had a couple friends attending their first Phish shows in Worcester and I had hoped they would get a killer Possum and they sure did! It’s not Blues Brother MSG ’97 good but it’s got some great peaks and seemed a bit more elastic than normal which I’d attribute to the obviously patient playing they exhibited all night. I’ve always been a sucker for the bluegrass, so to go into setbreak with a Rocky Top was just golden for me!
The second set was really good. I saw the wonderful Providence ’10 Carini and have always enjoyed the song, whether it is a 5 min rocker like Rochester ’99 or a launch pad as it has often become the past few years. This Carini was great as well and it sure sounded like we were in Siket jam territory (What’s the Use/My Left Toe) for a while before they segued quite brilliantly into a great “Norwegian Taste.” As was the case the last time I saw it (Roggae -> Taste at Amherst ‘10), Taste is much stronger IMHO when used as a landing pad rather than a stand-alone tune … Fishman’s groove is just so smooth and effortless. As they wound down the jam and started what I thought was going to be Steam, I was more than pleasantly surprised by a Ghost. This one started out extra slow and quite awkward but they were taking a true risk on that segue/startup of Ghost so I’ll applaud them for that even if though they didn’t really nail it the way they were probably wanted. Regardless, I really loved the slow groove, patience and playing off one another, it really brought me back to my last show at the Centrum and that wonderful Ghost -> Low Rider (’03). Didn’t notice it at the time but on re-listen it sure seemed like Trey fixated on the chords for Don’t Fear the Reaper during the jam (or “more cowbell” for all you Bruce Dickinson/Will Ferrell fans out there). The envelope filter on the bass started towards the end of Ghost and Mike drove us into the Stevie Wonder tune in superb fashion. I had Boogie On down on my show wishlist and this might have been my favorite jam of the night. It’s not long before Trey taps the hose and then Page slips in the chords to Guy Forget and they unload a can of funky whoop-ass. I had mentioned to my buddy CW during the jam that they were pretty much jamming on Guy Forget without singing it, your mileage may vary but it’s there to my ears and regardless, it’s worth repeated listens. In hindsight it would have been nice to see them explore the ambient space they dissolved into at the end of Boogie On before Trey started up If I Could but selfishly I was thrilled to finally hear the Hoist ballad (my first in 44 shows or 15 yrs of waiting) and it was well worth the wait as it featured wonderfully delicate and inspired playing from everyone – a clear highlight even if they ended it without finishing the song proper. The last segment of the show (Quinn/Hood/Cavern/ Buried Alive Reprise) was a fun (read: safe) way to round out the set. It’s impossible to know if the Quinn was a sort of tribute to Levon Helm (Dylan first recorded the tune with The Band during The Basement Tapes sessions), but I’m it’s a nice thought, and it ‘s common knowledge Mike and Levon were friends so let’s just go with it. Hood and Cavern were typically avg/great as they usually are. I wasn’t at Worcester ’10 for the monster Hood, but surely folk that were must’ve been brought back. The Buried Alive Reprise seemed a bit off to me, but I really liked what they were trying to do, and certainly it was a very fun way of bringing the show full circle, ala recent memories of Tweetstick Meatprise Amherst ’10 and Llamanchester ’10. I was hoping for a Show of Life encore but Loving Cup took me by surprise as they had already played a Stone’s cover, but it took me back to Worcester ‘03 and nicely capped off the tour’s opening show. This show had a little something for everyone and an incredibly promising start to the tour.