Phish, Fenway Park, Boston, MA – 5/31
Phishs 2009 Summer tour began in an historic fashion at one of baseballs most legendary parks. After a rain delay, Phish wearing Red Sox jerseys (Trey wore #18, Mike #8, Fish #9, Page #15) — took the mound and sang the Star Spangled Banner a cappella, which they had not publicly performed since a show at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Charlotte on July 25, 2003.
It was a moving tour opener, befitting the stature of the park, prepared as it was for Phish and over 40,000 of their fans: even the scoreboard on the Green Monster (the 37-foot left field wall, dwarfed by Phishs stage) spelled-out P H I S H.
The music over the course of the evening, accompanied as it was by Chris Kurodas magnificent lighting, did not disappoint. There was something for every fan, from the thousands in attendance seeing Phish for the very first time to those seeing them for the 100th time or more.
Three new tunes, including the prog-rockish gem, Time Turns Elastic, which sounded spectacular and will only improve with age;
Many sing-a-long, fan-favorites, such as Sample in a Jar, Chalk Dust Torture, Bouncing Around the Room, Character Zero, and Cavern;
Two rarities, Destiny Unbound (last played at the Nassau Coliseum on February 28, 2003, but only the second performance since 1991) and The Ballad of Curtis Loew (last played during a show in Ybor City, Florida, on August 2, 1993);
Numerous jamming tunes, including Stash, Tweezer, Bathtub Gin and David Bowie (which sounded at least as tight, if not moreso, than they did at Hampton in March), and a funked-out-of-the-park, grand slam version of You Enjoy Myself;
A triple encore, featuring a blistering cover of Led Zepplins Good Times Bad Times.
With respect to the debut songs, Ocelot often sounds like a slow, even somewhat tedious, 46 Days, which is to say that if dont like 46 Days, youre probably not going to like this song, either. Light, on the other hand, is quick and punchy, and sounds more like part of a song cycle rather than an individual work. This version segued out of a spacey Tweezer jam, and it will probably segue out of many other jams in the future. Time Turns Elastic is Phishs Close to the Edge, with several complex movements and time changes. It has a thrilling ending, which the throngs at Fenway loved.
To be sure, despite solid versions of Stash and Down with Disease, and a great version of Destiny Unbound, the first set lacked the improvisational vigor of the second set. But all things considered, this was an excellent tour opener. If Phish was rusty, they hid it well.
One of the highlights of the evenings music for me, however, did not occur during the show at all. Although I could not hear the soundcheck too clearly (it was carried by the breeze),Kill Devil Falls, a new tune, sounded like a great classic rock song — like Dylans Mighty Quinn merging with The Rolling Stones Lovin Cup. It sounded awesome, and I look forward to hearing it jammed-out in the future.
Bottom line? Dont miss Phish this Summer…
Charlie Dirksen is an antitrust lawyer in San Francisco and an officer and board member of The Mockingbird Foundation, an all-volunteer, Phish-fan-founded non-profit that raises funds for music education programs nationwide. He first saw Phish in Boston at the Paradise on October 6, 1989. *****
I: Star Spangled Banner*, Sample in a Jar, Moma Dance, Chalk Dust Torture, Ocelot**, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Poor Heart, Limb by Limb, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Down with Disease, Destiny Unbound, Character Zero
II: Tweezer > Light**, Bathtub Gin, David Bowie, Time Turns Elastic**, Free, (The Ballad of) Curtis Loew, You Enjoy Myself
Enc: Cavern, Good Times Bad Times, Tweezer Reprise
Notes: * a capella on the pitcher’s mound, ** debut performance
Soundcheck: Funky Bitch, Kill Devil Falls (excellent new tune), Undermind