[we'd like to thank Josh Cohron, @cohron1, for recapping last night's show - ed.]
A lot of Phish thinking these days seems to revolve around, “What’s next?”
Since the end of the final notes of the THANK YOU Encore at Dick’s in 2015, questions arose about how the band could possibly top 2015’s Summer Tour. Would, or even could, this era of Phish ever reach the heights of that almost-universally-loved tour? An up-and-down 2016, which probably relied too heavily on Big Boat material, was followed by the signature run of this era: The Baker’s Dozen.
The same, natural questions were had by fans of Phish after the Dozen ended: Where does the band go from here? The first thing they did was play a monster show Friday night at Dick’s.
2018’s Summer Tour was building steam as it headed towards the now ill-fated Curveball. Our fanbase, ever looking forward, wondered how the band would respond to the festival that wasn’t. Would there be a nod to Curveball? Not really, but the first thing they did was play a monster show Friday night at Dick’s. And then went on to have a stellar Fall Tour and New Year’s run.
2019 was another year that seemed a bit up-and-down; integrating two new albums’ worth of material seemed like a bit much at times. And then Night 3 of Alpine happened. The 38 minute “Ruby Waves” jam mixed in with bustouts and drooling and everything else let us all know that the band can turn it on, and take almost any song deep when they choose to.
Thus, going into the first night of Dick’s 2019, I couldn’t help but think, “What’s next?” Would there be another monster show played on Friday night? And, maybe most importantly, what chapter in The Book talks about the plague?
After much speculation about how the band would acknowledge the medieval disease which canceled camping and "Shakedown Alley," Phish opened Friday night’s show with the second version ever of “Can’t Always Listen” and its “Watch my dog bark at his own shadow on the ground” lyrics. A spirited version of “Free” followed, with a lyric change from Trey to “Flea” which had him laughing at himself early in the show.
"No Men In No Man’s Land" got its annual play at Dick’s, not quite reaching the heights of the last three versions played at the venue. A solid “Back on the Train” was followed by a “Rift” that recovered after a bit of a rough start. “Steam” seems to have found a nice place as a first set song allowing for exploration.
A rather bumpy for “Poor Heart” saw Page shine at the end of the tune. “Undermind” provided its usual slinky playing. “Train Song” followed and, as was a bit of a theme in the first set, started a bit haphazardly. Typical soaring play from Trey in “Wingsuit” was followed by the versatile “Blaze On” which served as the first set closer.
It was a fine first set, if not a bit of a warm-up for a band that hadn’t played a show in almost seven weeks. As is my wont, that same old question rang in my head, “What’s next?”
“Everything’s Right” opened set two and the band seemed ready to deliver the improv the first set was lacking. This song has become a favorite jam song and it delivered in a big way. After clocking in at nearly eighteen minutes, the jam dissipated into “Mercury.” “Mercury” is arguably having its finest year since being debuted back in 2015. Excellent versions have been played in Mexico, Camden and Fenway. I think it’s safe to say we can add the Dick’s version to that list as well. The multi-sectional jam went “Type II” quite quickly and featured strong playing from all four band members. If you don’t listen to full shows but are more of a “highlight seeker,” check out the forty minute combination of “Everything’s Right” > “Mercury” immediately.
“Shade” was a well-earned breather after taking the first two songs of the set deep. “Light” followed and the ensuing jam seemed to be straight out of Fall Tour 2018. Proving that old habits die hard, a seamless segue into “Party Time” followed and I believe everyone is fully on board that “Party Time” was actually played.
“Sand” came next and departed from its rocking start to slower-paced jamming and then right into “What’s the Use?” The typically spooky song was brought to near silence at times and Mike dropped multiple “bass bombs” which rattled the entire stadium. A strong version of “Harry Hood” closed the set. Featuring all kinds of improv and trilling play from Trey, “Hood” served as the perfect set closer as it usually does.
Night 1 of Dick’s didn’t quite reach the heights of the previous two opening shows at the venue, but it was a solid show nonetheless. Following a hit-or-miss first set, the second set delivered tons of improv and excellent versions of “Everything’s Right,” “Mercury” and “Harry Hood.” And maybe it’s time for another night of Dick’s to reign supreme.
With two shows left this weekend, I already can’t help but wonder, “What’s next?”
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