After dazzling fans with their first show back and serving up a smokin’ Saturday night set for their second, Phish raised the level of the game for the closing show by combining their resurgent chops with their inherent improvisational ability.
Until tonight, the open-ended jams of the heavy hitter songs in the band’s catalog had been concise and mostly risk-free for the weekend. That all changed on Sunday as the band guided a sold-out crowd through a series of indulgent explorations.
This show had it all, including another couple of theatrical tricks. For the opener, “Sanity,” lighting director Chris Kuroda turned the coliseum into a sea of stars, over which one glowing orb was lit in blue. The stars…the world…they suck and we don’t care if the world explodes! As Trey delivered the “world explodes” line, the blue orb deflated and plummeted to the floor.
The auspicious opener was followed by a barrage of unique song selections, such as “My Friend My Friend,” “Scent of a Mule,” and “Tube.” The first set also featured thoroughly energized renditions of “AC/DC Bag” and a phenomenal, lengthy “Bathtub Gin.”
In set two, the band took us off the deep end with a long, exploratory “Down With Disease” set starter that wound through a cavalcade of moods and tempos before blending into “Seven Below.” My personal favorite segment of the weekend as it stands at this moment was the subsequent journey through “Twist,” “2001” and “Moma Dance.” The gorgeous, wistful “Slave to the Traffic Light” set closer made for a poignant moment of reflection on the weekend before a fun encore of “Contact,” “Bug” and a nifty wrap-up of “Tweezer Reprise” that featured all of the glowing light orbs falling into the crowd.
This exhausting show included almost no throwaway material, though the band did give the crowd some respite a few times. It was necessary. Tonight, all of the rust of their “breakup” was firmly shaken off, and the possibilities seem endless for Phish again.
Phish – Hampton Coliseum – March 8, 2009
Set 1: Sanity, Wilson, Foam, Bathtub Gin, Undermind, AC/DC Bag, My Friend My Friend, Scent of A Mule, All of These Dreams, Maze, She Thinks I Still Care (George Jones cover), Army of One, Tube, Cars Trucks Buses, Free, Frankenstein (Page on Keytar)
Set 2: Down With Disease > Seven Below, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Twist > 2001 > The Moma Dance, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: (crowd sings Happy Birthday to Fishman’s dad) Contact, Bug, Tweezer Reprise