Phish's 2009 Summer tour began in an historic fashion at one of baseball's most legendary parks. After a rain delay, Phish - wearing Red Sox jerseys (Trey wore #18, Mike #8, Fish #9, Page #15(?)) -- took the mound and sang the "Star Spangled Banner" a capella, which they had not publicly performed (I believe) since before a New Jersey Nets basketball game on June 12, 2003.
It was a moving tour opener, befitting the stature of the park, prepared as it was for Phish and over 40,000 of their fans: even the scoreboard on the "Green Monster" (the 37-foot left field wall, dwarfed by Phish's stage) spelled-out "P H I S H."
The music over the course of the evening, accompanied as it was by Chris Kuroda's magnificent lighting, did not disappoint. There was something for every fan, from the thousands in attendance seeing Phish for the very first time to those seeing them for the 100th time or more.
* three new tunes, including the prog-rockish gem, "Time Turns Elastic," which sounded spectacular and will only improve with age;
* many sing-a-long, fan-favorites, such as "Sample in a Jar," "Chalk Dust Torture," "Bouncing Around the Room," "Character Zero," and "Cavern;"
* two rarities, "Destiny Unbound" (last played at the Nassau Coliseum on February 28, 2003, but only the second performance since 1991) and "The Ballad of Curtis Loew" (last played during a show in Ybor City, Florida, on August 2, 1993);
* numerous jamming tunes, including "Stash," "Tweezer," "Bathtub Gin" and "David Bowie" (which sounded at least as tight, if not moreso, than they did at Hampton in March), and a funked-out-of-the-park, grand slam version of "You Enjoy Myself;"
* a triple encore, featuring a blistering cover of Led Zepplin's "Good Times Bad Times."
With respect to the debut songs, "Ocelot" often sounds like a slow, even somewhat tedious, "46 Days," which is to say that if don't like "46 Days," you're probably not going to like this song, either. "Light," on the other hand, is quick and punchy, and sounds more like part of a song cycle rather than an individual work. This version segued out of a spacey "Tweezer" jam, and it will probably segue out of many other jams in the future. "Time Turns Elastic" is Phish's "Close to the Edge," with several complex movements and time changes. It has a thrilling ending, which the throngs at Fenway loved.
To be sure, despite solid versions of "Stash" and "Down with Disease," and a great version of "Destiny Unbound," the first set lacked the improvisational vigor of the second set. But all things considered, this was an excellent tour opener. If Phish was rusty, they hid it well.
One of the highlights of the evening's music for me, however, did not occur during the show at all. Although I could not hear the soundcheck too clearly (it was carried by the breeze),"Kill Devil Falls," a new tune, sounded like a great "classic rock" song -- like Dylan's "Mighty Quinn" merging with The Rolling Stones' "Lovin' Cup." It sounded awesome, and I look forward to hearing it jammed-out in the future.