[Thanks very much to Dianna Hank for writing the recap of last night's show. -Ed.]
East Coast tour continued last night with yet another hot and humid show at Camden’s BB&T Pavilion. Phish opened with this year’s debut of “Crowd Control,” perhaps acknowledging all the "fools" staying on the hill who were about to get poured on by the incoming storm. Next up, synth-funk Page stepped up to bat to lead the band in a concise--albeit solid--“No Men In No Man's Land” groove, with Mike playing a heavy supporting role. In fact, this entire show saw Trey taking a bit of a back seat to this fiery Page/Mike combo, and some really incredible things were able to happen because of that. So thank you for that, Trey.
Following "NMINML" came another repeat from the Alpharetta run with “Blaze On.” Its jam got DARK pretty quickly as Page took the steering wheel once again. While it may not come through on the recording, during this jam there were several seemingly random huge crowd swells of cheering. At first, this was confusing, because they didn’t seem to coincide with anything musically special going on onstage. However, once I started to feel the spritzes of rain coming in from the back of the shed, I realized that the crowd was cheering because it was positively POURING, and the folks out on the lawn were getting DUMPED on. Better than the air being so thick you could cut it with a knife, I guess?
Page was obviously feeling it as he stepped out from behind the keys to serenade the crowd with the sultry, loungey classic, “Lawn Boy,” introducing “Mr. Michael Gordon,” who tacked-on a little supplemental drill “bit” into his usual bass solo. The Chairman’s extended vocal outro solo also proved how confident and collected he was. The new, incredibly Mike-esque song that mentions Jason Sudeikis, “Infinite,” followed. While these vocals aren’t my favorite, the spacey jam that is born out of them gets nice and weird for a bit, with Trey finding familiar jam territory in his interplay with Mike. An abrupt ending led us into “Wilson,” as huge bolts of lighting continued to light up the sky outside on the lawn and reflect into the pavilion. A quick energy change brought us into a dreamy, beautiful “Roggae,” a tune that has really been finding its legs as of late. This very well-played version does not disappoint, delivering a goosebump-inducing jam with multiple exultant peaks.
“Rift” came next in an attempt to pick the energy of the set back up again. While Page successfully pulled his weight on this song, Trey probably could’ve afforded to practice this once or twice more before giving it a go out on stage in front of everyone. C+ for effort, Big Red. Shaking it off, the band broke into “46 Days,” a tune that has produced two very solid jams already this summer and which has my vote for MVP of tour so far. They waste no time getting dark and dirty with this jam, with Trey’s gritty tone meshing well with Fish’s intense, driving beat. Page and Mike join in until the entire band is firing on all cylinders together, creating a noisy, discordant crescendo before returning to the vocals and peaking the song once more. An oddly-placed “Sparkle” then broke out of the silence that followed “46 Days,” keeping the energy of the set high before the those characteristic cymbal crashes signaled the beginning of “David Bowie.” After some minor flubs from Trey, we reached the jam, which started off soft and delicate before Fishman began pushing the pace. Page jumped in and took the lead before Mike and Trey joined him, with the full band building lots and lots of tension before bringing the jam to a head. While they seemingly had just wandered into the final peak section of the song, this is still probably the best "Bowie" in recent memory, and worth revisiting.
After a setbreak discussion where my friend asked me how happy I was that “Down With Disease” had seemingly graduated from its overly predictable, second-set opening slot to now inhabit the two-hole, Phish took the stage and immediately proceeded to break into the spacey intro of "DWD," obviously. Same as it ever was. A clear highlight of the show, clocking in at twenty-four and one-half minutes long, this jam covered all sorts of ground, ranging from spacey, ethereal synth-funk to blissful, floaty underwater sounds, melodic dance-grooves, to straight shredding. The band was so tight, clearly listening to and playing off one another throughout this whole jam, and they managed to bring the energy down and then back up again seamlessly, multiple times over. And as the jam eventually began to fizzle out, instead of plowing through the end of a jam and disrupting things like it is wont to do, “Backwards Down The Number Line” emerged out of "DWD's" quiet and trumpeted a cheerful, celebratory little diddy, one that even the crustiest of heady vets couldn’t really be mad at, as it sprang forth from a monster of a "DWD" jam. This joyful tune contained some nice peaks and saw these four guys having a great time on stage, while we sang about “ALL MY FRIENDS!” Such a bummer, huh?
The "audible glitter” or “Page EDM” tune, otherwise known as “I Always Wanted It This Way,” came next. While its vocals don’t really do it for me, the unique, futuristic robot sounds are interesting, even if the kinks still need to be ironed out a little. This version stopped abruptly, though, and an oddly placed “Miss You” followed, slowing the pace of this set even more. Fortunately, not all hope for the set was lost, as the second major highlight of the evening, “Light” was about to blow Camden’s collective mind. Similar to "BDTNL," "Light's" intro didn’t come plowing through the end of a jam as it so often does, but rather materialized from near silence, a pleasant change. Trey lit into this jam aggressively, and immediately got dark, stepping-back so that Mike and Page could lead. When he joined back in, he initially took the jam to a pretty place with softer, airy themes, before finding the idea he was looking for, and pursued it, with the rest of the band following along. Trey started ripping into an Allman’s-esque jam, as Fish kept pushing the pace in this super-dancey rocker. Some really exuberant peaks brought the jam to a close before a much-welcomed drop into “Mike’s Song.”
More flubs from Trey didn't bother Mike Gordon, who asserted dominance in this--his song--along with the fellow MVP of this show (and tour so far?), Page McConnell. Trey threw some “You Sexy Thing” teases in, and the crowd went wild before a beautiful segue into the second “I Am Hydrogen” of the summer. While more flubs abound in this elegant composition, the band made it through to the end, in one piece, when “Weekapaug Groove”--featuring an energetic little jam before its improv was finished--concluded the set on a high note, putting an exclamation point at the set's end!
The first “Show of Life” since 10/25/16 (50 show gap) was a welcome choice as the encore, at least for this attendee. This lovely and meaningful tune was given some extra love by Trey, too, before the band thanked everyone and exited the stage.
All in all, arguably a "below average" show for this tour with a few very "above average" highlights. At the end of the day, the Camden “Down With Disease” and “Light” will remain a part of the discussion when revisiting Summer 2018. Looking forward to what tonight has in store!
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