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Published: 2013/09/05
by Ray Bowden

Phish, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO- 8/31

Photos by Larry Hulst

Maybe it’s the elevation, but it’s always a special night when Phish drops into the Mile High City. Saturday evening in Commerce City, just outside of Denver, was no exception, as Vermont’s favorites dug in deep into their extensive catalog and treated more nearly 22,000 fans to exactly three hours of intricate and transcendental music.

Exploding out of the out of the gate with “Buried Alive”>”AC/DC Bag”>”Wolfman’s Brother,” Phish was locked in tight from the get-go. By the time they had the audience liquored up with “Bathtub Gin” halfway through the first set, the band had achieved and maintained almost supernatural heights for the rest of the night.

After pulling the plug on “Bathtub Gin,” Phish leapt into a sprightly “Bouncing Around the Room” followed by the cacophonous “Mound,” from 1993’s “Rift,” propelled by Mike Gordon’s punch bass line and Jon Fishman’s taut drumming. Phish closed the first set with “Gumbo”>”Run Like an Antelope.”

With barely enough time for the packed house to catch their collective breath, Phish hit the stage again for a 90-minute second set with “Chalkdust Torture,” which featured a mind-blowing 12-minute jam steered by guitarist Trey Anastasio’s spiky leads. Keyboardist Page McConnell slathered a deep layer of synthesized spacefunk over “Chalkdust” before the band charged into “Light,”>“46 Days”>“Steam”>“Free.”

Phish went into interstellar overdrive after a heartfelt “Joy” the title track to from their 2009 release with “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” aka the theme song to “2001,” a springboard for the set-closer combo “Tweezer”>“Backwards Down the Number Line.”

Encoring with their first-ever live performance of Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” Phish closed a truly astounding and deeply satisfying show with a “Tweezer” reprise.

Most Phish fans have more than a passing knowledge of the challenges the band overcame in the not too distant past to reclaim their rightful place in the spotlight as one of American’s favorite jambands, so the point shouldn’t be belabored except to say music this powerful and inspirational would seem to be the ultimate cure for any ailment. Judging from the smiles and ecstatic cheers from those lucky enough to get into this sold out show, it certainly was.

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