The obligatory AC/DC Bag opener gets the show on the road in solid fashion, nothing extraordinary, and the same can be said for My Soul. Camel Walk is fairly slow, which is OK, but is fairly sloppy in the middle, too. Sample is Sample, and Wilson, while not razor sharp, has a little bit of a jam thrown in to spice it up. The King of Prussia segues into a surprise highlight, Party Time, which finds both Page and Trey going out for a spin in rockin' fashion. Maybe they found inspiration in the version with Gears from P'Mouth, who knows? It's an excellent jam and an almost 9 minute party time, a nice change up. Gumbo, though, seems absolutely perfunctory, as many 3.0 versions have. Now, I love Nellie Kane and I love Driver, but both tunes back to back seems to disrupt the flow a little bit, and neither are very sharp. It seems to be a trend recently, that instead of having one song filling a given slot in a set, be it opener or cool down or closer, they play two or even three, almost like if they can't quite decide on just one, they play 'em all. Sometimes it works out OK, but in this case, I think it's too much lag time. Anyway, Foam is decent, but again not razor sharp, and to this point in the set, the highlight is an unusually jammed out Party Time.
If I Could, again, may not be perfectly placed in the setlist here. It is, however, absolutely gorgeous, despite some Trey flubbage and the entire band (it seems) forgetting to sing the ending. I enjoyed it nonetheless. In the spirit of saving the best for last, however, set two ends with a hook and a right cross to send you reeling. The Split Open & Melt jam starts out as a solid but traditional Melt deconstruction exercise, which is fine. But Trey hits a lick just before the 8 minute mark that changes the game, and by 8:30 the jam becomes a real excursion, a somewhat frightening glimpse of furious insanity, chaotic and musical at once in the finest traditions of SOAMelt. That would have been a solid enough end to the set, but the La Grange bustout puts the cherry on top. When Trey returned to the traditional closing lick after only two minutes, I thought it was going to be a fairly disappointing return of the ZZ Top classic. But instead of just wrapping up in standard La Grange fashion, they jam it out for another three minutes for a truly excellent end to a somewhat shaky first set.
Set two starts strong right off the bat, with a nice Axilla > Light combo. There are certainly better versions of Light from this tour (Burgettstown) but this one is no slouch. Solid though inside the box until about 6:30, the jam gets moved by Page up into the clouds, majestic and soaring but anchored by Fish's rolling beat. 10 minutes in, Trey goes down low and starts building, and the jam really finds its voice, repeating a theme for a while before descending into looped whale calls. The segue into Twist here gives me goosebumps, with Trey leaving his looped effect on until well into the song. Twist itself doesn't stray to far from the norm, but it's OK and segues well into Kill Devil Falls, which is a kick-ass version even before the three minute outro jam which really makes it special. The blends right into a really well-played My Friend, with Swept Away/Steep in place of "Myfe" and a nice, gentle jam instead of a scream at the end of Steep.
This leads us to the centerpiece of the evening, Piper. Even though Piper remains on a racetrack leading to the jam, it is an excellent version, rocking majestically and echoing the earlier Light jam before ascending into psychedelic space accented wonderfully by Mike's vocals. As for the rest of the set, Free does what Free has been doing recently (providing a few measures for Mike to thump), Kung is a nice drop-in, Cavern is fine, and while Hood and Bowie don't go amazing places, they are solid, even above-average and perform exactly as they're supposed to. Then, after all that, a YEM encore which is exceptionally well played, moving from sly licks to straight blazing. Again, not amazing as YEM goes, but a really nice, strong way to cap a wonderful set and fantastic first leg.
One of the reasons I think this is one of the best sets of the first half of the summer is that it really feels like one long jam from start to finish, with songs flowing well and complimenting each other nicely. Between Light (and its segue to Twist), KDF, Steep and Piper, you've got some amazing jamming, plus solid versions of Hood, Bowie and YEM. Add to that the SOAMelt, La Grange, Party Time and If I Could ftom the first set, and its easy for me to give this one five stars. I may have had more fun at other shows, but on tape, this one is probably the strongest overall show of Leg one (although there are quite a few I haven't heard yet). Definitely one that will come up repeatedly in your playlist.