[Thank you Dianna Hank user @Dianna_2Ns for recapping last night's show in Camden, NJ. -Ed.]
Several times over the course of my Phish-seeing career, the band has played a show that the vast majority of the fanbase has lost their collective (pebbles and) marbles over that I thought was just ok/good. Last night was one of those shows.
Now, before you tar and feather me and revoke my #RealFans card, hear me out. I liked the show! I had a great time, and I thought that “Mr. Completely,” “Twenty Years Later,” and “Tweezer” had some of the best jams of the run, if not tour. That being said, I felt that the rest of the show was up and down in terms of energy, song selection, setlist construction, and technical playing. Would I see it again if given the opportunity? Absolutely! Do I think it’s in the running for best show of tour? Not for me, no.
The show started off in a classically beautiful fashion with the first “The Curtain” of summer tour, building up momentum before dropping into the gorgeous “With” section, destroying any geeks’ excitement that they may finally be able to cross “The Curtain” off their “Most Common Not Seen” list. Mike dropped some core-shaking brown notes as Trey made it through the more difficult segments relatively unscathed. Things continued in a slower manner as the band dusted off the fan-favorite Rift ballad, “Fast Enough For You,” for the first time since Mexico ‘17, closing the longest gap in the song’s history (82 shows). As if they could sense that perhaps the start to the show was, in fact, not quite fast enough for some, the band lit into the ripping “Buried Alive.” Unfortunately, Trey may have gotten a little ahead of himself with this one, as the intro was fumbled quite significantly, which seemed hard to recover from.
The fast-paced energy that was built up by that heater was quickly extinguished in exchange for some slower, dirtier funk with the first “Camel Walk” of 2019. The boys “got funk” for sure, causing hips to swing and booties to shake all over Camden with this very solid take on this tune.
This summer’s second attempt at “Reba” followed which, similar to the first try, included both some flubbed composition as well as a very beautiful jam. Give and take here. The whistling ending led us into the interesting choice of “Sample In a Jar,” which got the crowd singing along and cheering, despite how so many complain about it. "Sample" does, in fact, often rip. However, once again, the energy built up from these peaks seemed to dissipate as Trey switched guitars ahead of the highly sought after Round Room tune, “Pebbles and Marbles.” While the beginning was a bit messy, the jam was quite nice and a perfect tune for dusk. Another rarity, the lovely “Tela,” made an appearance next, as the final bits of sunlight burned through the sky and brought us into the darkness. This year’s first “The Mango Song” got folks dancing again before this year’s first “Driver” had us docilely swaying back and forth yet again during this first set. Finally, those classic high-hat taps started off, and a raging “David Bowie” closed-out the set, breathing some serious fire onto the crowd, albeit a little too late.
After a regulation length setbreak, the boys returned to the stage with a seemingly renewed sense of energy, and treated the crowd to almost an hour’s worth of some serious, high-intensity jamming. Opening the set with the much-sought-after “Mr. Completely,” the band immediately had the audience captivated and hanging onto every note. Clocking in at over 17 minutes, Mr. Completely seemed as if it may be the obvious star of the show; then “Twenty Years Later” showed up. Despite its slower start, "20YL" began to get dark and dirty a mere five minutes in and continued this delightful weirdness for another 16 minutes after that. The jam was multidimensional with a lot of themes broken up into interesting, unique segments, which kept the audience engaged and the jam moving along nicely. It oscillated between beautiful, airy bliss, and dancey, booty-shakin’ grooves. Trey found a little riff that he latched on to, and also revisited often throughout the rest of the show, and the audience lapped-up every bit of it. Even before it was over, I was certain that this was a jam I would be revisiting for many years to come.
After an incredibly satisfying 20+ minutes, the band settled into a quiet, softer space before segueing nicely into… “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars.” Obviously. This jarring transition in addition to Fish’s “Ass Handed” quotes and Page’s “Your Pet Cat” samples had me laughing quite a bit before that drop into darkness that everyone was waiting for: “Tweezer.”
Here was the energy I’d been longing for all first set! "Tweezer" packed a serious punch in its 13 minutes on this earth with us, featuring some heavy Trey and Mike interplay, as well as a driving beat from Fishman. Trey revisited that catchy riff from "20YL" he was having so much fun playing before Page and Fish settled into a groove which eventually fizzled into a mid-second set “Shade.” White a bit of a divisive tune, this well-deserved breather after those 54 minutes of intensity sat fine with your author. The Page-led “Most Events Aren’t Planned” that followed, however, was less appreciated. Something about the seemingly strained vocals during the 4 minutes of intro put me off my appetite. The jam, on the other hand, fit right in to the rocking, funk-heavy nature of the set. “Makisupa Policeman,” which came next, though, felt like an odd choice, while the subsequent “Chalk Dust Torture” felt reminiscent of the Bangor 2 Set 2 closer, showing up with a bunch of energy a little too late. “Suzy Greenberg” took her regular spot as set closer, as the crowd sang along and glowsticks sailed through the air.
After a short break, the band returned to the stage to treat the crowd to the first “Punch You In The Eye” opener-of-the-encore since 7/31/98, followed by a spectacularly beautiful rendition of “What’s The Use?” appearing in the encore for its first time ever. And then, instead of the “Tweezer Reprise” everyone was expecting and waiting for, the band broke into a standard version of “Julius” to end the show. The quartet left the stage as many sat there in disbelief, certain that if they cheered harder, the band would return to give us the "Tweeprise" we all thought we’d deserved. But, alas… That was unfortunately not the case. Oh well. You can’t always get what you want. Enjoy our Tweeprise, SPAC!
All in all, Camden3 felt like an above-average show that featured several rarities and a few very solid jams that will stand the test of time. Perhaps it comes down to song selection that leads me to favor Charlotte over it as the “show of tour” so far, but that’s what’s so great about Phish. Every show has something for everybody. Glad you all enjoyed it. I’ll see you at Fenway!
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