, attached to 2021-08-11

Review by Laudanum

Laudanum You Sexy Thing is one weird opener. Perfect tonight, with the chocolate reference. But weird.

When Wombat downshifts into further strangeness, then, and jams from the second slot, it should come as no surprise to anyone who's been following along with this tour, but it's still shocking somehow in its own right. Even more so when You Sexy Thing comes back and everything melts together into a sticky, gooey mess, but, hell, we should have expected that too.

Free serves as an anthem of sorts for this tour and we get a version here that's been brewing since Arkansas, unhurried and slithery smooth. ASIHTOS takes a turn mere moments into the jam, revealing the fluid heart of this set, and You Sexy Thing manages to flow in yet again before the song's traditional ending.

Things are getting downright peculiar now, and Halley's fits perfectly with the mood. Sometimes a handful of Phish songs don't work together on a given night, but the assembly here mesh and reinforce, becoming something larger. When Halley's lifts off at the conclusion of the song proper (here featuring extra vocals), a certain sort of fan (me) holds their breath, then laughs with abandon when the band finally bursts through the membrane that's been holding the song back for much of the past decade.

So that's what pure joy feels like again. Missed you, old friend.

This is, for my tastes, the best first set of tour so far, expansive and explosive, with an internal cohesion that not many first sets have, this year or any other. Trey's new song, Lonely Trip, finds a comfortable spot it might not have otherwise enjoyed without the sparkling Halley's as an intro, and pretty much everything flat-out works tonight.

A sultry Jibboo and funky-as-all-get-out Meat do nothing to break the spell, and a rocket-fueled Maze punches a hole in the stratosphere to close the set.

Whew. You absolutely need more than 15 minutes after all that.

Second set's opening Theme feels of a piece with the first set, and Trey holds and bends a celebratory, cathartic note during the jam, proving a clarion call for the set to come.

Birds takes off and soars, lighter and airier than many of the jams the past week or so, though touched with some of the same strangeness. Bug seems a cooldown to a set that didn't need one, but soon heats up before giving way to a bouncy Light, whose jam's unhinged ragtime ratchets into a live-on-the-fly Party Time remix. And of course, it's Sexy Time too, and first set and second set are now inextricably linked.

Ruby Waves fragments and fractalizes, offering a vision of your cybernetic future and the inscrutable AI you'll come to worship. Even at its weirdest, however, (and it does get plenty weird) there's an underlying happy buzz, that note from Theme ringing throughout the set.

The closing Chalk Dust skews a bit sloppy, but makes it up for it with a hell of a peak, and Trey compliments the audience's sexiness before walking off.

This set makes an excellent companion piece to either 8/4 or 8/6 II, yin to those sets' impressive yang. You can make the argument, perhaps, that this show as a whole is a bit top-heavy, second set a tad too relaxed. But set two is best viewed as a slow burn, and the non-local quantum jam in Ruby Waves will likely be recycled and repurposed into larger jams later down the road, as this tour continues to rip through the apocalypse already upon us.


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