Here at Phish.net, we try to tee up recaps from people who were at the show, but sometimes it just doesn't work out and we have to weigh in from the couch. This opens a writer up to the critique that negative opinions expressed are the result of jealousy and sour grapes. In this case, I have no defense to that charge. I’m jealous as all hell that I wasn’t at Wrigley Field this weekend to see the band I love perform in the cathedral that my beloved Cubs call home. Does this mean that any criticism I may be about to level is tainted and biased?
Yes, yes it does.
The first three shows of the tour have felt, to me, like...well, like the early part of a tour usually does. Warming up, stretching things out, not getting too crazy too fast. Saturday’s first set, to my ears, was that process in action. For example, let’s take a couple of standard first set tunes that have been paired seven times, but for the first time, let “Moma Dance” precede “AC/DC Bag.” Let’s mix in some newerFuego material. Let’s sing "Happy Birthday" to the legendary Dickie Scotland, and let’s take a moment to bask in the sunshine of the Friendly Confines on a gorgeous June evening and tell embarrassing stories that you may not have known about Fishman and his dedication to art. Let’s raise our hands to “The Divided Sky” and imagine we’re not on the North Side of Chicago, but in a green field, surrounding a black rhombus, and we’re about to summon something magical. And if Fish flubs the end of “Cavern,” let’s rip through “Good Times Bad Times” and end on that note instead.
Once the sun had set at Addison and Clark, there really was some magic to be seen. I admit to being skeptical at first about Kuroda’s new screens, but what I saw on the webcast was utterly spectacular. I’m not sure if it was, in part, inspired by last summer’s “Drive-In” set, but it definitely evokes the surreal feeling of that performance. And here’s where it really gets exciting, because the prospect of a new album, steeped in the improvisation and collaborative songwriting of 2013-2015, makes me giddy. I can’t get enough of what Phish has been doing over the last few years, and the future seems awfully bright.
photo © Kristine Condon Photography
For now, though, there’s this particular second set, and once again, it has that early tour feeling to me. “Carini” heads right for the joyful 3.0 G-spot, and stays there long enough to generate an excellent, celebratory peak, before the electrifying “Tweezer” riff appears. I’m afraid I don’t have much to say about the “Tweezer” jam, which I’ve listened to twice, but which has not really held my attention during either attempt. The segue to “Fluffhead,” on the other hand, was both well done and grin-inducing, and ended the second longest gap in “Fluff’s” history (the first, of course, coming to end the night that 3.0 was born). The subsequent “Piper” is another jam that just hasn’t resonated with me yet, but which nonetheless delivered a memorable segue; this time a slick slide into “Steam.” It seemed to me as if the band circled around on the ending of “Steam” to set up Page for “Wading in the Velvet Sea,” which was followed by a straightforward “Harry Hood” > “Tweezer Reprise” combo to close the set.
The “I Am the Walrus” encore deserves a special nod, as it is the seventh song this tour to break a 100+ show gap, the eighth to break a 50+ show gap, and could potentially mean we’re in for many more such treats as the summer progresses. Not to mention new songs, of which we’ve only heard one so far, and new covers, like the tremendously moving and beautifully Phishy rendition of “Space Oddity.”
To sum up, then, while I don’t find a whole lot to delve into in terms of improvisation, and I can’t give you the benefit of a first hand account of what I’m sure was an amazing night at Wrigley, I can tell you that I loved so much of what I heard last night, and so much of what I’ve heard so far, that I'm off to figure out a way to swing Dick’s.
photo © Kristine Condon Photography
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