It has already been said -- and quite rightly so, I might add -- that we listeners seem to be at the mercy of our expectations for this show. Yes, this show is starting a run that will cap what has easily been the best tour of this era and, once the dust clears, what I suspect will be seen as one of the best of all time. Yes, this is the much-anticipated first show since the much-talked-about Magnaball festival and featured several songs that had just had the unfortunate luxury of receiving best-of-year readings. Yes, this is the traditional "gag" night at Dick's, which has been subject to much theorizing and brow furrowing throughout the summer and, perhaps, well into the first set of this show... until, of course, it became clear they had abandoned the premise altogether for something more quintessentially unpredictable. But, hey, when did we decide we wanted this band to be predictable?
Let's be honest about this show: it doesn't have a definitive jam that breaks the 20-minute mark, nor does it feature any of the clean segues we have heard on many occasions this summer. It doesn't have a famed five- or six-song set like several other shows this tour, though one look at the final set times will indicate that it didn't necessarily feature less jamming. And, no, it doesn't have an overarching "gag" that we can laugh and high-five about once or twice before resuming our show experience.
But what about the music that is here? What about the finished product?
Well, to my ears, this show featured no less than three excellent first set jams that ventured well into type II territory despite their truncated running times. Ghost in the #2 slot? Wow. A surprise AND and an inspired way to test the waters after a tense but much-needed two-week recovery from the 'ball. I would have preferred a little more from Bathtub Gin, but given that it was a mid-set reading, I think we received a wonderfully dense and climactic jam with a major peak and a clean return to the song's form. After the Magnaball Gin, though, I fear this one will be judged too harshly -- again, a victim of expectation. And finally, how about that 46 Days? As has already aptly been pointed out, this one provides an unusual second jam that ventures well into parts unknown, which is remarkable for ANY set, let alone a first set. Could I have asked for a better Antelope closer? Sure. By all accounts, it was an average reading, but again one that follows a tour-defining version at Magnaball, so it's easy to forget the wealth of interesting moments that preceded it. No, it wasn't a perfect first set, but it would be difficult to call it "average" or "ordinary" in context.
And what about the second set? Well, Wolfman's could have been swapped with 46 Days for a more familiar approach to 3.0 setlist construction, and the jam was nothing to write home about, but the variation here is what makes it notable. Again unexpected and, to be honest, a whole of lot fun. But let's talk for a moment about the next two songs. Unfortunately, when the 2015 dust settles, this fantastic Blaze On and this absolutely inspired Golden Age may end up victims of run-time prejudice, which is a damned shame because they both contain some of the best pound-for-pound type II work the band has turned in all year. First, Blaze On finds and establishes a tight chunky groove that Mike and Fish hold down with an authority that almost makes it sound composed. This is not your typical 3.0 "bliss" segment here, people -- this is something entirely new to my ears. And though I sense a small tug of a ripcord at the end (is it really a ripcord after 15 minutes, though?), I am completely satisfied with the life cycle of this jam. Listen and re-listen. You will see. And that Golden Age? Wow. For my money, maybe one of the best versions ever. Granted, they stumbled their way through the song proper, but that jam was something to behold. It was taught without sounding laborious. Jazz-inflected without sacrificing danceability. Mike and Fish again lay claim to a groove that, to my ears, is something entire unique in the Phish oeuvre, and the flourishes contributed by Trey and Page and absolutely stunning. There is so much packed into this 16-minute masterpiece that it warrants multiple replays. And that perfunctory Roses? Well, from the cheap seats, I didn't see a single person sitting down or half-assing their way through that one. It was an exclamation point on one of the best half-hours I have heard this summer.
So what does that leave us? A Fuego that strikes me as above average, the love-it-or-hate-it Velvet Sea cool-down, and a typically great -- if slightly extended -- Walls of the Cave. In many ways, we have a mirror image of the latter half of so many classic six-song 3.0 sets, but one that came on the heels of so many twists and turns that it was a well-earned return to form. And that's to say nothing of the MAJOR twist we got by way of a crowd-baiting Bike encore that was so utterly ridiculous we all couldn't help but laugh, sing along, and love every minute of it.
Taken as a whole, this show was a wildly unpredictable night with unexpected riches to be mined from unexplored caves. Look past what you know of Phish 3.0, of Summer 2015, and of the four previous Dick's runs. This show kept all of us, whether we are willing to admit it or not, on our toes in a way that Phish hasn't done much in this era. It's not a classic show by any means -- certainly not in the top five of 2015 and perhaps not even in the top 10, but that's more a reflection of the impossibly high bar set and reset so many times already. Give this one another listen, though, and I think you'll see that it is truly another exceptional show in an exceptional year.
Expectations are a reality of the human experience. They affect our evaluations immensely whether we like them to or not.
Friday's Phish show at Dick's came on the heels of an unbelievably high peak at Watkins Glen, the best summer tour in ages and the Dick's tradition of starting every Labor Day weekend with huge setlist surprises. In any other context, last night would be seen very differently than what I see in the net ratings right now. This was a very solid 4+ star show with plenty to offer, even a swinging vacuum phallic!
First set highlights include the firey Bathtub Gin which whipped the crowd into a frenzy. There's a lot packed into its 11 minutes. 46 Days is the latest in a welcome trend of songs that finish properly and then move on to a second jam that was more exploratory than the first.
The Blaze On and Golden Age combo will get the most replay for me and showed that the type II machine from the second half of tour is functioning just fine. A little bit if nasty, funky and serene kept my mind on the fact that all is still creative, fresh and inspiring in Phishlandia.
I was hoping there'd be no "gag" this year, just a straight up fuck your face show. And I feel I got what I was looking for. Another Birthday/Belated Birthday show in the books and it was a beautiful experience. With best friends in da house and a 2nd song Ghost, nothing but good, especially after the extra funky Tube opener. It sounded like everybody was singing along to the Halley's and into an Undermind that was great on its own but merely hinted of the '12 version. It was a very solid 1st set throughout but Horn was especially well played, the sweet/bittersweet counterpoint was pretty staggering. Antelope sounded a bit like it staggered out of the starting gate but Fish brought everybody back around eventually and it roared out like a set ender should.
The buzz in the air during intermission was very palpable.
The 2nd set felt like one lonnnnnnnggggggg song. I was fried by the 2nd song into the set. That it was a 1/2 hour into the set might have figured in the translation. We were asking ourselves if they had/we missed "the next song". Nope it was still Blaze On, continuing to blaze new musical horizons.
We of the NYC contingent really were wanting and enjoyed Golden Age. Then another shoutout from the musical heavens to the Ween brothers and a Fuego that followed that I danced my ass off too.
Damm if I didn't totally choke up during Wading Sea. Didn't quite see that coming but it totally felt like the right song at the right time. Pretty good version, too. Walls felt like their Led Zeppelin moment to me, the rock gods giving it one more good pelvic thrust, a fuck you face if you will, and without downloading it yet I'm guessing it will be one of the longer versions of recent history, though who's really looking at their watch for it. WTH, it is Walls Of The Caves.
What to say about the vacuum cleaner encore?. Someone apparently asked for it according to Fish and we got it, with Jon swinging his vacuum hose around just like Robert Plant did with his, um, microphone. The Loving Cup, one of my favorite encores, left me with a beautiful buzz.
All I saw afterwards were smiles. Ultimately, Phish won. Again. These moments are to be savored and treasured. The circus is in town. I love Dick's. To be continued. Happy Happy! Thanks to my peeps surrounding me last night for another great bash.
Phish punched through and then embraced glorious effort after glorious effort of daring improvisation at this Dicks 2015 opener. Patience; dissonance; and a flow of ideas, some of which worked to introduce, yet again, music like nothing previosly heard. I was captivated and drilled. See especially 46 Days in the first set and--in the second--Blaze through a deep and crunchy take on Fuego, including a standout, fearless Golden Age.
And we had so much damn fun! Great venue and crowd!
This show is underrated, in my opinion. I think it really rubbed some folks the wrong way, when the boys didn't "spell something." In hindsight, of course, that doesn't really matter - T.H.A.N.K.Y.O.U. Anyway, well above average first set here. Tube is a high energy opener, and the Ghost follow up is nothing to sneeze at. Solid Undermind, and awesome versions of Gin, and 46 Days! The former builds quickly to a raging peak, and the latter has a more pulsing jam that slides into Antelope, which closes the first frame nicely.
Set 2 is the business! The Wolfman's opener goes deep, if not incredibly long. Great stuff in here from Trey in particular. It doesn't build to a screaming rock and roll climax, but rather something more contemplative, and reaching. Extra mustard improv for sure. The Blaze On>Golden Age is the highlight of the set. Top drawer improvisation, and possibly the best 1-2 punch from the Dick's shows. This Fuego is also really nice. If you're a fan of the tune, check this one out! Not quite one of the Mega Fuegos (7/4/14, 7/8/14, 7/30/14, 8/11/15), but certainly incredibly well played. Always love Walls in the closer spot, and the Bike encore is PERFECT, if that's your thing.
I'm a huge fan of this run. These 3 shows get a lot of play from me. If these shows took place any other year, at any other venue, they would be praised. Magnaball left some pretty big shoes to fill
I think of all the Henrietta songs Bike might be my favorite. The song itself is cool. Plus the 'act' has offered some pretty cool moments on stage (I wonder what some of those fans in Japan thought). It's okay for Fish's 'range,' too. I kind of like the 6/12 version for some reason. Maybe because Page seems way into it.
Don't know what else to offer you @s1177375. The SNL Neil Diamond _Behind the Music_ skit is pretty freaking funny?
Review of the first set: forced, jams were cut short and not very good song selection in terms of flow. Seems like there's some compromises being made by the band here. Maybe everybody in the band picking songs they want to play and then shuffling the jumbled choices up at random. Maybe this is part of an elaborate song title gimmick puzzle. I don't know what it is but the band sounds like they're on an agenda. This isn't good for their music.
Second set I will listen to again. Twist > Mercury > Light > SPACE was pretty cool. Wingsuit fit in really well after the space dwindled to the briefest moment of silence. However, compared to the rest of the set, Wingsuit is weak, so it kinda wrecked the buzz. Rock and Roll reminded me that the buzz was beautiful, while it lasted.
Encore. Deserves its own review. It was an epic song choice, even if I couldn't stay awake til the very last notes. I had heard this before, many long years ago. It was an Alpine Valley 96, my second show. Hood > ADITL. Very nice. Thank you for a great finish!
I'm really looking forward to tonight - the potential for an epic show is high!
I love Phish because they're unpredictable and they consistently kick ass!!!! Everything else about them (the event that is a Phish show, times played, breakouts etc) is fun but will never matter as much as hitting their changes and that "Undefinable" Energy they create. Good Job Fellas.
PLAY MEMPHIS AGAIN !
We've heard the fiery, condensed, Gins, and 46 in the first is nice. Again, this is nothing against the PLAYING.... I'm sure others will break this down later....
....This said, in this spot, there is a bit of a counter-argument to be made.
To be totally fair, to say 'starting every Labor Day weekend with huge setlist surprises,' is an understatement....
....if not a wild understatement.
In this context only, it seems fair to judge THIS show through the lens of context. I am not discussing the supreme summer tour; nor am I considering the notable MB experience. 'Cooler' heads (intended) will undoubtedly prevail, and the rankings will adjust to reflect, for the most part, the music.
However, the absence of overt surprise (aside: if ANY modern show boasts Henrietta as a notable feature, featuring potty humor no less, ratings will certainly vary), in this spot, is kind of a kick to the gut. But it's a classic Phish - and I'm not attempting a lame pun here - bait and switch.
10/31/14 was a 'risk,' and created a firestorm. Whatever your opinion at the time, we waited a year, and were rewarded in what may go down as the finest, or final (or both!) costume.
*My suspicion is there will be a quicker turnaround here.
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