The Phish Report Night 2: More Ghost Stories
By Mike Greenhaus
Phishs three night reunion run continued with another meaty, extended performance that found the Vermont Quartet focusing heavily on the funk-based material documented on 1998s Story of the Ghost. Like Friday nights reunion show, Phish favored relatively short, concise jams over the long improvisations that characterized the years immediately precededing its breakup, though the groups second set, in particular, opened up on several occasions.
Much like Friday nights performance, Phishs first set stretched well past the hour mark, peaking several times before coming to a climax with a tight, high-energy rendition of the early favorite Run Like an Antelope. The set opened with a funky Back on the Train, which nodded to the weekends overarching theme of reunion with the line it took me a long time to get back on the train (a phrase that was met with some of the evenings loudest cheers). Oddly enough, though the Farmhouse number began its life as a solo acoustic song on Trey Anastasios 1999 solo tour, the cuts current, groove-heavy incarnation is tangible proof that Phish is once again a band of equals. From there the band then moved into the jam-vehicle Runaway Jim, but kept the songs improvisational sections relatively short and focused, before coming to a halt with a slowed down, dreamy version of Brian and Robert reminiscent of the groups three-night, 2004 run in Las Vegas.
The rest of the set mixed pop-ditties like Heavy Things and Mexican Cousin with mid-period favorites like a synth-laden Gumbo and choice examples of Anastasios early-period compositional prowess like Reba and Guelah Papyrusthe latter of which had not been placed since September 18, 2000. Highlights included a tight, heavily rhythmic take on Split Open and Melt and a Page McConnell-led Its Ice that gradually opened up into a dark, eerie jam. McConnell also offered Beauty of a Broken Heart, a number from his self-titled 2007 solo album, leading many to believe that the four musicians will continue to dig into their respective solo canons at future shows
In addition, Phish pulled over a few novelties at various points in the night: Anastasio and Gordon danced during the Landlady section of Punch You in the Eye, remembered the shuffle to Guelah Papyrus and McConnell moved to the front of the stage for the mock lounge singer favorite Lawn Boy (which is now lit by the bands new mini-disco ball).
As many expected, Phishs second set was looser and more focused on freeform improvisation, though the bands new jamming style on the whole feels shorter, punchier and more rehearsed. The bands truncated jams felt like blessings in disguise, however, as the four musicians slowly become reacquainted onstage and continue to sharp their songs structural nuts and bolts. The best example of this may have been Birds of a Feather, a song that began its life as a short, radio-friendly rocker and gradually uncoiled into a valued jam-vehicle, only to be shortened into a ‘Chalkdust Torture’-like rocker.
Unfortunately, Anastasio stumbled several times throughout the set, beginning with an aborted version of Piper. He also seemed tepid at the start of both Wolfmans Brother and Price Caspian,’ but rapidly improved as the band gained confidence as the set progressed. Likewise, Rock and Roll and ‘Ghost contained some focused jams by all four musicians, especially McConnell, who has made an early case as Phish 3.0s MVP. Phish then brought its second set to a close with a classic ‘Mikes Groove that found Gordon taking a strong bass solo during the introduction to Weekapaug Groove, as well as the anathematic Character Zero.
For the second night in a row, Phish used its encore to play a rarer number, dusting off their once trademark cover of the Beatles A Day in the Life for the first time since September 30, 2000.
SETLIST: *March 7, Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA *
Set I: Back On The Train, Runaway Jim, Brian and Robert, Split Open and Melt, Heavy Things, Punch You in the Eye, Gumbo, Reba, Mexican Cousin, It’s Ice, Halley’s Comet, Beauty of a Broken Heart#, Guelah Papyrus*, Lawn Boy, Run Like An Antelope
Set II: Rock and Roll, Limb By Limb, Ghost, Piper, Birds of a Feather, Wolfman’s Brother, Prince Caspian, Mikes Song>I Am Hydrogen>Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero
E: A Day in the Life**
_#First time played, Page solo song _
_*Last Played 9/18/00 _
_**Last played 9/30/00 _