[Recap of last night’s show courtesy of longtime Mockingbird Foundation contributor, jaded vet, and serial ranker @chopaganda.]
Before we begin, I want to thank Steve Paolini for offering me his traditional Sunday Dick’s recap. Steve was one of many fans who thought Curveball would actually happen and missed this year’s Dick’s run in lieu of it. Sucker.
There are two ways we can look at last night’s show. On the one hand, it was incredibly fun, high-energy, and packed with moments that remind us why we love Phish. On the other hand, it was a big step back from Friday night and a somewhat tepid way to end a Summer tour following the cancelation of Curveball.
If we were to break down the Summer 2018 shows into tiers*****, it would look something like this:
Tier 1: Dicks1
Tier 2: Alpharetta1
Tier 3: Gorge3, Alpharetta2, Camden1, Merriweather2, Dicks3
Tier 4: San Francisco1, Alpharetta3, Forum1, Camden2, Dicks2
Tier 5: Gorge1, San Francisco2, Austin, Raleigh, Merriweather1
Tier 6: Tahoe1, Tahoe2, Gorge2, Forum2
*****This is specifically looking at the music that ends up on the recordings. It is not a ranking of good times and crowds going wild (e.g. even though Alpharetta night three was obviously one of the most fun shows of Summer, it’s also one of the weaker shows of Summer in terms of improv and flubs).
So which parts of last night's show (Sunday Dick's) elevated it to Tier 3?
The "Soul Planet" opener featured a fun, high-energy jam, and provided relief to jaded vets who rightfully feared the repetitive and lyrically challenged tune was destined to be last night’s second set centerpiece. "Mellow Mood" gave song chasers their bustout. The rest of the first set featured solid, if far from spectacular, versions of regularly played Phish songs.
"46 Days" continued its 2018 trend as reliable vehicle for improv. The segue from "46 Days" into "Tweezer" is pure butter and an absolute must-hear. "Tweezer" did not disappoint and potentially edged out the 9/3/2011 version to become the official “Dick’s Tweezer.” The jam out of "Golden Age" provided another stretch of fantastic improv. The rest of the show closed with solid, if far from spectacular, versions of regularly played Phish songs.
So which parts of last night kept this show from being ranked higher?
The first set was clearly the weakest set of the 2018 Dick’s run. It was devoid of the sort of Type II improv that comes even remotely close to Saturday’s "Down With Disease" or Friday’s "Blaze On" and "Ghost -> Crosseyed & Painless." Given all the sloppiness and tentative play we’ve heard in Summer 2018, it was great to hear songs like "Maze" and "Antelope" played with confidence. But the bar for Phish has always been higher than playing their own songs like the band who wrote them.
The second set "Golden Age" was a disaster pre-jam----slow tempo, missed changes, missed lyrics. And once the "Golden Age" jam was over, the band stopped playing anything unexpected or non-standard.
In the end, Sunday Dick’s was a standard great Phish show. It provided us with the joyful release that we all seek through live music. At the same time, if you found yourself yearning for more, no one would blame you. Following the cancelation of Curveball, there were high expectations for this run. After Phish played one of their best two complete shows (along with 7/25/17 Jam-Filled) of the last two years on Friday, it would be hard for any fan not to have wanted more out of last night. But as Mick says, you can’t always get what you want. However, judging from the 26,000 smiles walking out of Dick's last night, we still got what we needed.
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