, attached to 2016-07-22

Review by zarathustraz

zarathustraz Salvage Project

If you’re like me, you believe moderation is best and only make it to a couple shows a tour. If so, then you may also be like me and enjoy re-listening to the shows you happened to attend. This review is a salvage project. What from this show is possibly worth going back to? Is there enough material for an abridged playlist? Let’s see. But, first, a quick summary of all that’s wrong with this bummer of a night at The Forum.

The first set suffers from poor playing and uninspired song selection. If like me, you happened to go to the Gorge run but skipped BGCA, you had just seen all these songs, played better and arranged more effectively. If you want a feel for the set, imagine them playing Bouncing Around the Room seven times in a row and between each rendition you hoping they choose something different (Bouncing does finally make an appearance during the encore). It’s hard to believe that a set could suck this much and not even require the services of The Line.

The second set continues this problem of insufferable song selection, with the added let down of Trey consistently failing to deliver. Try as he might, and I do believe he was really trying, he just didn’t have the feel this night. His playing lacks any sense of fluidity. He’s mainly chopping out chunky single notes with no finesse. The mixture of poor song selection and subpar playing made for an incredibly depressing and low energy set. Even songs that I had been wanting to catch live, like Saw It Again and Joy, fell totally flat. Saw It Again didn’t have the momentum necessary for it to function properly as the exclamation point it is, and Joy was just sad. It wasn’t a breather. It was a bummer of an apology that we could only try to sympathize with (and Trey still couldn’t hit the solo either).

In the encore, Phish doubled-down on bumming people out with Bouncing Around the Room, and, though a valiant effort, Golgi was a total flub factory.

So, what can be salvaged?

Paul and Silas was the only bust-out of the night and, in my opinion, is one of their best bluegrass tunes. After Daniel Saw the Stone, Paul and Silas would be my second choice as the bluegrass number in any set.

Stash was both a turnaround song in the first set and a case study for how the guys were trying to pull things together. Trey has a couple egregious mishaps in the composed section. Not just missing notes, but actually skipping and substituting entire phrases. All is not lost though, as you can really hear the other band members extending Trey a lifesaver in the jam section. Everyone steps in and tries to help, and Page, especially, brings in some nice melodic textures and even steers Trey towards the peak.

Finding a little cohesion in Stash, they bring on Cavern to keep up the energy. Some nice embellishments from Mike and an overly extended rest note from Fishman, and a successful Cavern comes to a close.

Fortunately, they didn’t end the set there. After taking their sweet time to even get the crowd interested, they boys kept us enthralled with Run Like an Antelope to close the second quarter on a high (gear) note. Next to Rock n’ Roll, Antelope is Trey’s best playing of the evening. This Antelope is super peaky with some throw you on your ass tension and release. Recommended, for sure. For those of us at the show, it seemed the boys had finally hit their stride, and we could expect full compensation in the second set for the first set sluggishness.

[But then we waited for an hour…]

When Phish finally did re-emerge, they opened with Axilla I. Fun, lively, short but with an energetic promise of things to come.

[Skipping over the quick let down and the doldrums of a fizzled out Fuego jam all the way through The Wedge…]

We get to Scent of a Mule. What’s great about this Mule is it doesn’t suck. It sounds just how you would expect Mule to sound, which is a good thing. True, we’re probably all sick of Trey getting on the Marimba Lumina, but this night, it seemed he really needed the break from his guitar. He did his thing back there with Fishman and came back refreshed, able to play.

In Rock n’ Roll, we finally get to see the Trey who had been missing all night. Trey nails the solo at the end and shreds through a string of consecutive peaks with growing intensity.

From there, it’s YEM, and Trey is on point enough by now that he expertly navigates the opening composed section. Nice work, Trey! But I guess Trey never got his confidence fully back. He skips his solo and instead faces off with Mike for a duel. The result is funky and danceable. No complaints here.

Coming back out for the encore, the guys start off with Boogie on Reggae Woman and Mike keeps things interesting with some good, funky bass grooves.

As far as the salvage project goes, things wrap up there. That’s the short result of Phish’s longest show of the tour. Maybe they kept playing because they really wanted to turn things around, but someone should let them know that a second set Caspian or Wedge will never turn things around, unless they break for Type II, and there was none of that this night.

I will give it to them, though, they managed to end both sets on high notes, and I, for one, thank them for the effort and for seeing it through.


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