, attached to 2011-05-31

Review by funkydanceparty

funkydanceparty Phish arrived in New Jersey at the PNC Bank Arts Center on Tuesday evening with every intention to make the two-night stint a successful reunion after over a decade from the venue. The UFO styled pavilion offers interesting sound reflection for those on the lawn and provides great views for about 90% of the audience. After opening with a powerful 'Chalk Dust Torture', a tribute to Trey's trials and tribulations in the New Jersey school system, the band eased into 'Roggae', providing a calming and beautiful melody for the summer night. Once a particularly strong 'Punch You in the Eye' was unleashed, the rest of the set opened up for a very funky dance party. Page, one of the MVPs of the night, can chalk up 'The Moma Dance' on the scoreboard for a reason why. The song's pirate oriented lyrics also made some connection to the Jersey coastline. After Big Red's sloppy introduction into 'Rock and Roll', the band proved it didn't have to stash it as a second set opener as seen in summers past, nor a set closer, like the strong as the version on New Year's Eve. This ten minute powerhouse about a little girl and the music on a New York radio station brought the crowd to a roar. Out of the last four versions of 'Sand', two have been performed in New Jersey (Atlantic City and Holmdel) and two have been performed in New York (Utica and Madison Square Garden for NYE).. look out Darien Lake? The 'Sand' jam had great potential this time around, starting with some swanky stretching and pulling guitar work that never seemed to advance to a higher degree. Just as Gordon tried to take the lead on the jam and direct it into new territory, Trey cut him off. The look on the bassist's face during this moment was quite priceless, however lacking in musical awesomeness the moment had. 'Sand' was dedicated to Max and family and friends due to the passing of a young boy in his sleep during the shows in Bethel, NY. After some members in the crowd yelled the deep call for 'Tube', Trey made a joke referring to the 'Makisupa Policeman from Bethel' saying "Page's house, Page's house'. That gem that transcended into the similar styled 'Harry Hood', which left Fishman compelled to drum the intro post-'Sand'. The Page-led 'Tube' furthered the funky dance party around the PNC Arts Center, igniting the crowds passion for the performers. 'The Divided Sky' was another thing, though. After another sloppy intro from Trey, he simply plays a very off beat yet still fitting line after the funky palindrome section (after about 2:30 on the official release). For close to a full minute, Trey is either not playing or playing very badly. He says on the microphone "I meant to do that" which only made his mistake more obvious. In my opinion, he could have continued down a different path, making this 'Divided Sky' unique yet not as painstakingly flubbed. But, we're all human, right? The song finished off well, leading into the anthem-like and appropriate set closet, 'Character Zero'.
Tuesday's second set is where the band really shined and made up for their lack of exploratory music during Bethel's third night. For the fifth time in Phish's history, they covered J.J. Cale's 'After Midnight'. Instead of the short, token versions seen in the past year, a nearly 12 minute psychedelic journey ensued. Whereas New Year's Eve contained a powerful and staccato face melting guitar punch, this version ran along the same lines as 'Rock and Roll' and 'Sand' with Trey using his new effects liberally. Even songs that they have been playing relatively the same during 3.0, Phish's new sound this summer is definitely there. 'After Midnight' continued into a 'Tube'-like jam with bass heavy tones from Page on the keyboards. Again, the Chairman proves to be a contender for band MVP this tour as he plays with various scales and styles while Trey simply provides some standard noodling while Fishman and Gordon keep to Page's exploratory rhythm. While the transitioning into 'Possum' seemed harsh, it actually kept the crowd happy by bring the party back uptempo instead of drifting further into the cosmos. With an exceptionally long build up, 'Possum' again fit the tone of the Garden State Parkway as a crusin' tune for this summer and became the first repeated song of Phish's summer 2011 tour, first played during set two on May 27th. Phish then made their way into possibly the highlight of the night, a two part punch of The Who's 'Drowned' into 'Maze'. Here the band showcased their ability to switch tempos and rhythms and entered an ambient soundscape. Right before the opening drum beats of 'Maze' are heard, Trey plays some electric funk reminiscent of the one and only Riverport Gin. 'Maze' was also a particularly strong song for Page to showcase his talents once again, and after the slow 'Dirt' and 'Alaska' the band entered into the first 'You Enjoy Myself' of 2011. This very strong rendition capped the second set, but not before Gordon teased the bass line from 'It's Ice'. The encore, 'Fire' originally by Jimi Hendrix summed up the first New Jersey night well. Although many phans think of this show like politics and drastically love it or hate it, I firmly believe this show is in the running for a shot at the next DVD Phish will undoubtedly pump out of this summer and is wholeheartedly worth a listen.

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