The third night of the run, and the penultimate show of Fall tour. It's the night before Halloween and Phish is on a hot streak. Following a pair of well received shows here in Las Vegas, the crowd turned out in high spirits, many dressed in costume, and when Phish came out to spin again, the entire table got paid.
Continuing the trend of previous nights, they opened with another song from 2014's Chilling, Thrilling Halloween set, "The Dogs." The heavy rock sound got the audience moving, and set the stage nicely for an early performance of "Ghost." Trey's newer, thicker, guitar tone met Page's funky keys for a hard, bluesy intro. The jam is patient and compact, peaking and fading out before eleven minutes pass. Play that in the second set, and folks complain about length, but in the first, it's a hot warmup.
The blues stick around as Mike sings a great rendition of "Funky Bitch." Trey kicks up "Chalk Dust Torture" immediately after for another hefty dose of rock before Page takes the reigns with a well-placed "Army Of One."
"Heavy Things" picks up the tempo a bit. Page gets in a tasty organ solo before Trey's bouncy and melodic turn to close it out. Next, Mike steps up with the driving rock of "How Many People Are You?" which here made its first appearance since Summer tour.
"Stash" slinks through the speakers, and the audience dials in. The composed section comes off well and, while mellow as compared to a Spring '94 nail-biter version, the tension is applied deliberately, in ever mounting degrees, before a tidy landing after nearly a dozen minutes. Trey appeared to be quite pleased with what they'd done and, after talking excitedly to the band, signaled the start of "Theme From The Bottom." Trey's solo begins gentle and melodic before turning into a hail of notes, creating one of the more notable versions of "Theme" in recent memory. They move to close out the set with "Suzy Greenberg" which turns into an slightly extended run at trading fours between Page and the rest of the band.
Setbreak gave us "fifteen minutes" to refuel and reconnect before set two kicked off with "Down With Disease." Trey's first solo of the jam is dirty and mired in distortion. As the last of those crunchy notes ring out, the band quiets a bit and the fans knew that the band would be taking this for a walk. A spacey groove develops with a beautiful lead from Trey floating across the top. His buttery tone is dismissed in favor of the fatter overdriven voice, and the band builds to a massive peak, drawing the audience along for a huge release. They then handily shift around and, while quoting "The Birds," transition into "Birds Of A Feather."
This is a rare bird indeed that soars into uncharted territory. This just over fifteen minute "BOAF" is the first to exceed fourteen minutes since the exceptional Bader Field version in 2012. Trey begins the jam by playing a melody that rings familiar, but falls just beyond my recognition. Overall, the jam ebbs and flows, turning from mellow spaces to percussive peaks, and back again, before returning to the customary coda of "BOAF."
Trey then launches into "Fuego." This version is fairly standard aside from some "Birds of a Feather" and "The Birds" quotes. Next we get "Miss You." Trey's touching ballad is lovingly executed with emotive vocals and a solo that moved some to tears.
Those who opted to take the breather rushed back to their spots as soon as Fish dropped us into "Harry Hood." The introductory chaotic tension and release was well executed, and delivered us into the blissful and familiar "Hood" jam. Folks could hear something new happening as the drums picked up the tempo. Soon the band began quietly singing the first "Have Mercy" since 2011's Blossom Music Center gig. A swelling cheer subsided quickly in favor of listening to the fleeting song, which faded seamlessly back into a gorgeous "Hood" jam. This peaked hard and felt like a set closer but, in classic 3.0 fashion, this was just a fake out, as they quickly kicked off a poignant performance of "A Day In The Life" to cap the emotional and jam-heavy set. The "Character Zero" encore sent us back into the casino to rock or sleep the night away.
A run like this carries such baggage from night to night. Fans are wondering about the Halloween set, and the band surely has been thinking about it, practicing for some time as well. We hear different sounds and wonder if they're clues to what's to come. This can take one out of the moment, but it's also a part of the fun. Couple this with the recurring question of, "how do they follow last night's big show?" and you've got a recipe for disappointment. Phish, however, has stayed out of the disappointment business so far on this run and, with only one show to go, is poised to take the house. -Jonathan
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