Phish, Bader Field, Atlantic City, NJ – 6/15
Photo by Matthew Lang
Phish kicked off a three-day Atlantic City run with a driving, growling “The Sloth” at sunset. The show had a healthy dose of Farmhouse material, including “Back on the Train-Heavy Things-Twist-Piper” block in the second set and a sharp-edged “First Tube” encore to finish off the night. These were mostly polished, polite recitals of familiar tunes, but “Twist” ventured into a spacey interlude and a few drum-backed vocal jams. This song boasted Trey’s standout moment of the night – a whirling, shrieking solo that took on a Latin tinge toward the end. Listening to it, I heard a trace of “Oye Como Va” in the song that I hadn’t noticed before.
Like anyone who from down from New York in the afternoon, I had been stuck in gridlock for a five-hour drive that should have taken two. There was plenty funk in last night’s show to grease my joints when I arrived, though. The grooves were served gritty, with a “Wolfman’s Brother”-esque jam on top for “46 Days”; pleasantly rubbery for the deep, Bayou gumbo of “Sneakin’ Sally”; and a giddy and light for an superb “Tube.” Page (on clav) and Mike had a sublime duel in the middle of that song with Jon and Trey cutting out sporadically behind them. When the “pop!” from the snare drum kicked the song back into gear, it triggered the most violent dancing of the night.
Vocally, the group sounded a little out of breath on “My Sweet One” and Trey seemed to avoid reaching for the highest notes on a couple tunes. But I couldn’t find much to complain about. “Stash,” “It’s Ice,” “The Wedge,” were pleasant, if not unforgettable, additions to the set list. And Paige’s solo coda on “The Squirming Coil” provided a lush, poignant slide into the set break. These guys sounded good.
The highlight of the night came when the band returned, blasting through a a high-energy “My Soul.” Page crashed and stomped on piano while Trey sprayed ZZ Top-style flames on top of the blues shuffle. For a few minutes, Bader Field turned into the world’s biggest Texas saloon, complete with a ferris wheel, ocean breeze, and a skyline of casinos and mega-hotels glittering off in the distance.
P.S. Speaking of casinos and mega-hotels, I’m staying at one of them with a crew of friends for a bachelor party this weekend. Credit goes to the Atlantic City Police Department officer who spotted a lost member of our team – alone and conspicuous with his beard, backpack, yellow t-shirt, and shaggy hair – walking through a dark neighborhood after the show. The officer pulled up, asked if he was lost, and said “You don’t want to walk in that direction.” Then he gave him a ride to a shuttle-bus stop before zooming off to a more urgent situation. It was the best ride in the back of a cruiser he’s ever had, my friend said afterward.