Phish’s Summer Tour 2010, Continued: Great Songs, Less Jamming, But Does It Matter
There’s been a lot of jibberjabber about whether the August 17 “JB1” show is the best show of the Summer tour and one of the best of 2009-2010. The first set opens with “Fluffhead,” but otherwise is unremarkable (i.e., typically great Phish), aside from one of the better versions of “Reba” in recent memory, and an unusual “Wilson” during which Trey jammed at times using what I’ve heard (possibly incorrectly) was a miniature copy of a Languedoc guitar — one that was not made by Paul. The slow “Cities” in the set is nowhere close to as good as the Greek version earlier this month, and as fun as the set-closing “Possum” is, it is “Possum” after all, and it used to routinely rock this hard.
The second set of this first JB show opens old school with “Lengthwise -> Maze,” which hadn’t opened a set since 10/20/94. This is followed by a “Halley’s > Mike’s > Simple > BDTNL > Caspian > Rock & Roll > Weekapaug,” that is outstanding, except for a somewhat sloppy (abrupt) transition from “Halley’s” into “Mike’s” and a dreadfully sloppy opening to “Rock & Roll.” The “Simple” is much shorter than the Greek version, but similarly contains some mellifluous, intricate jamming, and several minutes of the jam in “BDTNL” are ferociously tight and reach a blissful peak. Even the short “Caspian” contains some unusually melodic soloing and use of the “digital delay” device by Trey. The jamming in “Rock & Roll” is genuinely fierce for several minutes before it heads into a somewhat dark and twisted interlude of sorts, during which the band members intermittently yell “All right” and “It’s all right now.” And the “Weekapaug”? One of the best versions of 2009-2010, even if it’s a far cry from one of the “best ever.” Then the set closed with a solid “Loving Cup,” which is always a great set closer. The “Show of Life, Golgi” encores weren’t the least bit special, but it didn’t matter. The second set rocked, and if you haven’t heard it, check it out.
The tour closed on August 18 with a bittersweet show that was marred in part by the fact that, during setbreak, a fan had purportedly run and jumped off of the upper deck into the seats below. The fan suffered serious head and other injuries and, while he has since been released from the hospital, he now faces criminal charges. Another fan, who was in the “seats below,” suffered “minor” injuries, and it is incredible that no one else was apparently (physically) injured.
The first set of the tour closer was mostly well-played, opening with “Down with Disease” and ending with “Antelope,” though “Destiny Unbound” was a bit rough in spots. Similarly, “Ocelot” contained some flubs, but Trey was very busy during it, making it a version worth hearing if you’re a fan of this song. The mid-set placement of “Chalk Dust Torture” was cool, even if this was just an average version. But the “Gin” was the musical highlight of the set, and one of the better versions of recent years, similar in strength to the versions from Deer Creek and Merriweather from earlier in the tour.
The second set opened with good versions of “Axilla” and “Timber Ho.” The transition from “Timber” into “Light” was a bit rough, though, and “Light” had a jam that was all over the map. It began with about 8 minutes of what seemed to be unfocused, aimless soloing from Trey, despite persistently superb accompaniment by Mike, Page and Fish, but in the final four or so minutes, the improv seemed to meld and mix quite well, and a minute or so was even melodically reminiscent of the “Digital Delay Loop” jams of old (around the 11 minute point of the LivePhish download). The highlight of the jam in my view occurred when Fish played the opening rhythm of “Seven Below” for numerous measures, as everyone else improvised during the conclusion of the jam segment. In any event, as much as you may not enjoy the first half of this “Light” jam, the final few minutes are intriguing. The “46 Days” that came next contained some vocal-jamming of sorts and a great jam, but Trey was a bit sloppy in the “My Friend” that followed it. The subsequent “Harry Hood” is, overall, a very strong version, especially for recent years (even though it, too, wasn’t perfect). Surprisingly, and for the first time ever, “Tweezer” followed “Harry.” It didn’t do much, however, before segueing beautifully into “Horse.” The set closed well with a good “You Enjoy Myself,” and the “Suzy > Tweeprise” encore closed both the show and the tour well — albeit without undue fanfare.
Recommended Listening (if you can’t or don’t want to listen to everything):
Greek 8/5/10: Loving Cup
Greek 8/6/10: Cities, Simple
Greek 8/7/10: Light, Harry Hood, 2001 > Suzy Greenberg > Slave
Telluride 8/9/10: Prince Caspian, Piper
Telluride 8/10/10: Carini
Deer Creek 8/12/10: Drowned, Bathtub Gin
Deer Creek 8/13/10: Segue from Meatstick -> Mango
Alpine Valley 8/14/10: Down with Disease -> What’s the Use, Scent of a Mule, Bug
Alpine Valley 8/15/10: Piper
Jones Beach 8/17/10: Wilson, Reba, Simple, BDTNL, Rock & Roll > Weekapaug
Jones Beach 8/18/10: Bathtub Gin, Light (final 5 minutes), Harry Hood
Charlie Dirksen practices antitrust law, and assists Scott Marks and Steve Paolini on the Phish.Net setlists team. He is a founding member and officer of the all-volunteer Mockingbird Foundation, which was founded by Phish fans in 1997 and which raises money for music education for children programs. He occasionally “tweets” about Phish, and hopes to do so in Atlantic City (@cdirksen).