United We Stand

Originally Performed ByBrotherhood of Man
Original AlbumUnited We Stand (1970)
Music/LyricsTony Hiller, Peter Simmons
Phish Debut2015-09-06
Last Played2015-09-06
Current Gap338
HistorianParker Harrington (tmwsiy)
Last Update2020-09-07


Punctuating a spectacular summer 2015 tour, the final show of the Dick’s Labor Day weekend run came to a dramatic conclusion with “United We Stand." “Tweezer Reprise” kicked off the encore, that many thought would end the show. Then the opening “Oom Pah Pah, Oom Pah Pah” signaled what would evolve into a preposterously entertaining “Harpua.”

After spinning the yarn of Poster Nutbag (PN) through perhaps the most memorable “Harpua” ever performed – which included “After Midnight," “NO2," “Keyboard Army” (first since 12/14/95), “Your Pet Cat,” and “Once in a Lifetime” (first since its debut on Halloween 1996) – Trey offered heartfelt thanks to the fans for creating the beautiful and unique scene of “Phish” and the “great summer." Confidently, proudly, and at peace with where they were in 2015, Phish launched into Brotherhood of Man’s anthemic “United We Stand." The “U” of “United” completed the “THANK YOU” message spelled out in the encore continuing a Dick’s tradition of a “special” set.


After more than three decades of performances, Phish dropped an incredibly strong candidate for the best encore in the band’s history. The list of other legitimate candidates is indeed short: 12/30/97 likely tops many fans' lists with the extraordinary “Carini” -> “Black-Eyed Katy” -> “Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley” >”Frankenstein." The infamous 12/6/96 encore featuring Les Claypool and another monstrous “Harpua” (“Harpua” -> “Wildwood Weed” -> “Harpua” -> “I Want To Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart” -> “Harpua” -> “Suspicious Minds” -> “Harpua," “Suzy Greenberg”) also will get many votes. There’s maybe a small handful of other encores that are likely even worthy of consideration.

Written by Tony Hiller and Peter Simmons in 1970, “United We Stand” has been extraordinarily popular in the ensuing years being covered by a wide variety of artists. The then-unknown Elton John was a background singer on one of the first performances that popularized the song, on the BBC music show Top of The Pops. He went on to cover the song many times in his long and storied career. The song was also used as the closing credits for the ill-conceived Brady Bunch Hour, which was a variety show featuring the Brady Bunch actors pretending they were a real family (albeit with “Fake Jan.")

While many of the “messages” that the band communicates to fans are seemingly tongue in cheek – see the 12/31/12 Madison Square “Garden Party” when ‘you can’t please everyone, so you've got to please yourself’ – “United We Stand’s” message was genuine, specific, in-the-moment and a perfect coda for an extraordinary summer. Like “Garden Party,” “United We Stand” will likely be a one-and-done song.

Brother of Man – “United We Stand”

The lyrics and message is simple: Unity. Strength. We are in this together. No matter what happens, I’ve got your back, and I know you have mine.

“For united we stand
Divided we fall
And if our backs should ever be against the wall
We'll be together, together, you and I.”

“United We Stand” is an anthem of love and of strength and endurance. There’s no doubt why this song resonated so deeply after 9/11 with so many different groups affected by the tragedy. Likewise, it is a song that has been sung loudly and adopted by gay rights advocates, and other groups who have faced uphill battles. After 30+ years of Phish and the highs and lows that we have experienced with the band, “United We Stand” was not just a great choice to close the show – it was a perfect choice. As they have done so many times, Phish dazzled with emotion, simplicity, and being exactly in tune with themselves, the crowd and the moment. While of course the “THANK YOU” continues the fun tradition of a setlist “gimmick” at Dicks, there is no gimmick in the love and appreciation that the fans have for the band, and likewise, the genuine love that the band reciprocates.

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