"The Last Show of the First Twenty Years"¯
It's easy to think of Boston's sets as two separate shows because it felt like there were two different bands playing that night. The first band could be called Trey Anastasio & Phish. We've seen a lot of this band since Hiatus: Trey sets a mood with tone and tempo, establishing a groove for the band to follow, and then he solos on top of that before rejoining the band and out. That's the first set. I want to talk about the band that played the second set.
Immediately following "DWD"¯ we saw the video. The transition to the video was so easy that the entire audience remained on its feet and watched the whole video standing. This went a long way toward my theory that tapes of old shows and the PA and light crew could tour without the band. The video revisited some of the more visually appealing highlights of the past twenty years and shared some private moments as well and these were touching and funny slices of four lives lived as one rock n' roll band. When the video ended and the lights came up, no one moved for a moment. We looked at one
another with soft eyes and kind smiles. It had all the emotional gravity of a wake but with none of the sadness or remorse and in place of the casket and corpse, a dark stage that would come to life again ""...in fifteen minutes."¯
Phish returned to the stage to perhaps one of the most receptive audiences of their first twenty years. The video had served to remind us all why we were there and the sense of genuine well being shared between the crowd and the stage was a collective connection that had become something rare. "Rock
and Roll"¯ opened the set and the theme of the video as lives devoted to rock music remained in the air, lingering like an unspoken secret among close friends and the good times shared together and never discussed. Indeed, putting words to emotions steeped in music drags them down to an unnatural
terrestrial level. The first few chords, Trey's jumping in place like he can barely contain himself and I speak for the rest of us that was the audience in saying that we knew what he meant and we felt it too.
We couldn't know it right away, at the very start of the set, but this was the Phish that I remember from the days when I couldn't say the word "Phish"¯ without smiling with the end of the "sh"¯ sound and adding a little self-conscious laugh that gave away part of the secret. It felt like that secret was rediscovered in the jam leading out of "Rock and Roll"¯ as Phish was playing as a band again. Each of them sounded so good, so prescient and clear through the PA, like layers of gauze had been disintegrated with the
sheer force of the joy they expressed on stage. Maybe it had something to do with the footage of their rehearsal sessions but whatever the reason, they were listening to one another and playing together as the four notes of the same chord ideal that we know them capable.
During the "Weekapaug"¯ > "Tweezer Reprise,"¯ I thought, "They're playing all the endings,"¯ as if to mark the end of those twenty years with a joke that only we we'd understand. The Fran-Kung-stein segue sandwich is such an easy and cool musical pun that it must have been kicking around for years.
Although, to be honest, I didn't fully get it until later that night when I had a chance to give it some thought. The extended "Kung"¯ portion was very much Kuroda's, his brilliant white strobes pulsing and revolving, the intensity growing and throbbing like the end of the world. The girl beside me was repeating, "It's just so massive."¯ I was overwhelmed too and had to sit down. I felt like I might have been feeling the first symptoms of stroke. I don't remember Kuroda doing anything like that before. Think of it
like an extended, climaxing "2001"¯ with a stutter. That doesn't do it justice either and it's too bad because I doubt it will happen again.
There was a new strength and determination to their playing, particularly Trey's, that I recognized earlier in the set and became plainly clear during "All of These Dreams."¯ I felt as though the signal from Trey's guitar through the PA and out to us was exceptionally clean and direct. There was a firm and deliberate message in the second set. What it is, the message itself, is received differently with us each and Phish was making it as easy as they could for everyone there to "get it."¯
There was an honest and genuine intention, a mystical synchronicity that guaranteed no false notes or missed cues not because they didn't matter or we wouldn't notice but because the energy was so positive that it lent the extra confidence needed to imply that promise. It remained through the set and they gave it to us to carry out to the street and into the next twenty years.