[Thank you @Gr8phul for this report from the rail! -Ed.]
After what I thought was a mostly lackluster first night, outside of the stellar bustouts, I decided to take my chances and get a bracelet to see if I could get on the rail. Night one I chose to be directly in front of Kuroda. While the view of CK's lights and the mix were exceptional, there was far too much talking around me. So after getting a wrist band for the line, I was beyond excited that I was number five in line. I was able to procure a spot on the rail right in front of Mike.
The show started with "You Enjoy Myself," the first time YEM has opened a show since Shoreline 2003. Trey had a little trouble with the composed sections, and Mike tried to get on his trampoline too early which caused him, Trey, and the crowd to crack up. After the trampoline segment, Trey launched into a fantastic solo---much more confident than anything from night one. It's always exciting when Phish opens a show with what I would consider the quintessential Phish song. Next up was "Turtle in the Clouds." This has become my favorite Kasvot Vaxt tune. When Mike and Trey were doing their choreographed dances, it dawned on me that the band had come full circle at that point. A classic Phish song and a brand new song containing dance moves ("sexy" dance moves according to my girlfriend). During "Turtles," Page took a nice turn on his Nord while the band laid down a groove behind him. This was followed by another quality hot Type 1 Trey solo.
"46 Days" didn't cover any new ground, the band rocked it out hard, and had the crowd in full dance mode. Fishman in particular was slaying it. "No Men in No Man's Land" followed. Once again, Trey provided some rocking type 1. The best part was after they returned to the vocals, the band took the song to some evil territory, the first type 2 of the night.
At this point I am LOVING being on the rail. The rail rats often get a bad rap, but last night, the vibes were so positive that I didn't get where that negative idea comes from. Everyone was super kind and looking out for each other. People who stumbled up into rail territory mid-set and tried to set up camp were kindly and gently ushered away. A great scene and vibe all around.
Phish strike up the next song and to everyone's delight Mike starts the groove to "Emotional Rescue," the fourth bustout of the year! Hopes were high that this would veer into type 2 territory, a la Hampton '97. While there was no jam at all, it still was a blast to hear, and everyone around me was singing along.
"Tube" is always welcome in any set, and this version did not disappoint. Page immediately went to his synth and the band laid down such a funky groove. I should mention at this point, that Fishman is STILL slaying it. Page then moves over to the clavinet and he and Trey lock in together. Why stop at the clavinet when you could move over to the Rhodes? Any time Page plays the Rhodes I am one happy camper.
Time to cool things down with "Shade." I am not a fan of most of Trey's ballads after 1999. However, the fans seem to like it and so does Trey. For me, it was the only lowlight of the set. "I Saw it Again" is one of my favorite evil Phish songs. This version was a little longer than usual and did not disappoint in terms of said evil-ness. At this point I figured we were going to get either "Cavern" or "Run Like an Antelope," but this was the set closer.
I would assign "average awesome Phish" a 7.5 out of 10. I would give the 1st set an 8.0 based on some fantastic playing by the band. The YEM opener pushed this set over the top. I have been seeing the band since 1991, and this is my third PRM, and last night's second set was why after all these years I still come back.
Opening with "Set Your Soul Free," the band was poised for the first type 2 of the evening, and boy did they deliver. Clocking in at 26 minutes, this version went out there. The jam started with a short type 1 segment, which then launched into type 2 territory. Page played some great stuff on the B3 while Trey, Mike and Fish were setting some great grooves behind him. Trey then started toying with a theme that the whole band picked up on. This moved into a segment where Trey was rocking hard over Page's tasty Rhodes textures. At this point everyone is chiming in, tossing around ideas. Out of nowhere, Kuroda kills the lights. The crowd goes nuts while, in darkness, the band continues playing, listening intently to each other. Finally, Trey wraps up the jam segment rocking out hard.
As the jam comes to a conclusion, Trey strikes up "Mercury." What a great call this was. This was---is---one of the best versions of this song. After the "net's unbreakable" lyrics, the band falls into a classic bliss segment. Page moves back to the Rhodes while Trey begins to rock harder and harder, finally doing some classic shredding, which then proceeded into more type 2. Great stuff! After 22 minutes, Phish then segues into "Slave to the Traffic Light." Masterful. "Slave" was it's usual "best version" of all time. The first three songs took up a FULL HOUR! What year is this?????
The fourth quarter brought "juke box Phish." Some people really hate when Phish does this, to be sure, but with the right song selection, it can get as fun as it gets. "Possum" is always welcome in a set, as it brings not only familiarity but also a Page and Trey solo! How do you follow up "Possum?" With "Sanity" of course. Nothing like being on the beach with the heavens above and Trey singing about the stars sucking (even though they really didn't). "Walk Away" followed "Sanity" and as a classic Phish cover, it's rarely a let down, and this version was as good as they get (setting aside versions like 6/14/2000 where a jam follows). While I thought there would be one more song, the band gave all they could at that point, and you could see the satisfaction on their faces.
What would the encore bring? Would we get "Loving Cup" or "Character Zero"? Instead, Trey chose "More." This song has held a special place in my heart since Vegas 2016. It's become such a fun singalong and brought this great show to a conclusion. Out of 10, I would say this set was an 8.5. All I can say is listen and you won't be let down.
In summation, last night was one of those special Phish shows. The vibe on the rail was super positive and had a true sense of community. The band played great all night and there were contributions from everyone. What will night three bring? Will we get a "Tweezer," "David Bowie," "Run Like an Antelope," or "Mike's Groove"? We shall see, but if Phish plays like they did last night, the setlist won't matter.
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