Words by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Dave Vann
Phish :: 03.08.09 :: Hampton Coliseum :: Hampton, VA
For as long as I can remember, I've always felt that Phish thrived in three-night runs more so than any other two or four-nighter they could muster. Worcester, MSG, Deer Creek — you name it — three nights always led to epic results. With three shows there's enough time to let ideas and themes evolve with no need to stuff something into a single night or two, while also not allowing the inevitable jetlag and obscene exhaustion of four consecutive nights of fireball rock & roll to take hold.
Phish :: 03.08 :: Hampton, VA|
Hampton '09 proved, yet again, that this band can deliver the goods in every way possible in a short (yet "my god it can seem long") 72-hour time span. After Night Two's second set (read the review here), in which the band seemed to finally get their bearings and loosen up for REAL, Night Three — the sleeper on everyone's radar — stole the show. Sunday night at Hampton will be the most talked about show of this run.
Keeping up with the "anything goes" theme of the weekend, the band busted out the rare "Sanity," with Trey placing a huge emphasis on the line, "I lost my mind just a couple of times," adding, "Yes, I did!" in a demonic voice - clearly referencing his hiatus run-ins with the law. "Wilson" pumped the crowd up and asked for its best call and response, while "Foam" showed that the band really had practiced over the past months, nailing some very tough composed parts.
A roaring "Bathtub Gin" again showcased McConnell sprinkling his ivory and blasting out into orbit before the band debuted "Undermind," which featured such lines as, "Relocated, not retired." A very welcome "My Friend, My Friend" had people flipping and swinging from the rafters, while the band continued playing towards their third straight, two-hour first set.
Trey :: 03.08 :: Hampton, VA|
A blistering "Maze" saw a razor-sharp Trey deliver big time, and led to the first moment all weekend I felt the rust had been shaken off. With two-plus shows under their belt, they just needed a little time to warm up before hitting their full, collective stride. George Jones' "She Thinks I Still Care" scratched Gordon's bluegrass itch, while "Army of One" was beautiful and really showed McConnell is as confident as ever in his voice.
The first set closed with a huge combo of the dankalicious "Tube," "Cars Trucks Buses," the almighty, triumphant return of "Free" that saw the entire arena fist-pumping and exclaiming, "I feel the feeling I forgot!" and "Frankenstein," which found McConnell on the Keytar (half piano, half guitar), instead of his normal Moog/synths. Another monstrous first set that was well received, well played and drew from the band's entire catalog.
Set Two bubbled up with "Down With Disease" and gave us the most exploratory jam of the run - winding, snaking and moving with reckless abandon, it was impressive to say he least. A mid set "Horse > Silent in the Morning" was a nice treat that allowed us to catch our breath, while the meat of the night followed with a funky "Twist" that got bodies gyrating.
It wasn't long until the band finally played what we were waiting for - "2001." A tune that blasted me off in this very room ten years ago, this version was awesome and featured some great work by Chris Kuroda on lights — who was stellar all weekend. "Moma Dance" followed and was so funky and gooey that I felt like those people in the library when they get smothered by Slimer from Ghostbusters.
A nice treat of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was better conceived than executed, but hey, it didn't matter — this night was a CELEBRATION, much more than the funeral of Coventry (read the Coventry review here). Phish was — no, *IS* — back and over the course of three nights in The Mothership they reclaimed their rightful place as Kings in our world of jam. The playing was very, very good; there were some flubs, but the overall effort and obvious preparation the four horsemen put forth was the most positive sign of all.
Phish :: 03.08 :: Hampton, VA|
However, my musical highlight was the set closing "Slave to the Traffic Light." Admittedly, my favorite Phish tune, this version was soaring, climactic and full of raw, delicate energy that almost had me in tears due to the fact that I couldn't believe how much I've missed this band. Judging by the looks of those around me, I am sure most everyone agreed.
The encore featured some goofy Phish with Trey leading the entire crowd through "Happy Birthday" to Leonard Fishman, Jon's dad, before a funky "Contact," which gave Page one more chance to funk things out on his Clavinet, Moogs and all those other keys he's surrounded by. "Bug" was welcomed and had me feeling like it was '99 all over again. The final portion of the tension and release I mentioned in Friday's review (read it here) came full circle with a RAGING "Tweezer Reprise" that literally had the place about to explode, and capped off an insane set that put an exclamation point on the show of the weekend.
In conclusion, it is safe to say the band delivered. The shows were solid, well thought out and full of surprises. Phish looked — and more importantly, sounded — great and was genuinely happy to be back, something that I'm not sure was the case during the post-hiatus years. McConnell was the MVPage of the weekend, absolutely stealing almost every tune he touched. Gordon was as solid as ever and along with Fish, held down the low end, while Trey gained confidence with each passing night, saving some fierce playing for Sunday. I, for one, "feel the pheeling I forgot," and have the burning in my calves I have only ever felt at a Phish Show, where I have danced my butt off like there's no emails, work to do or a care in the world. Summer tour is going to be nuts, and it will give all of those who couldn't make this trek the chance to swallow the magic pill for themselves and travel to the wonderful world of Phish, where anything is possible. Huge kudos to the band for being more ready than most of the fans were and absolutely delivering the goods — in a big way. Move over everybody else, The Boys are back and Hampton was the first statement in the next chapter of one of the greatest careers in rock history.
Phish :: 03.08 :: Hampton, VA|
Maze 03.08.09 from Jesse Borrell on Vimeo.
Wilson 03.08.09 from Jesse Borrell on Vimeo.
03.08.09 :: Hampton Coliseum :: Hampton, VA
Set I: Sanity, Wilson, Foam, Bathtub Gin, Undermind, AC/DC Bag, My Friend My Friend, Scent Of A Mule, All Of These Dreams, Maze, She Thinks I Still Care*, Army Of One, Tube, Cars Trucks & Buses, Free, Frankenstein**
Set II: Down With Disease, Seven Below, Horse > Silent In The Morning, Twist, 2001, Moma Dance, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Wading In The Velvet Sea, Slave To The Traffic Light
E: Happy Birthday Leonard^, Contact, Bug, Tweezer Reprise
* First Time Played, George Jones song
** With Page on Keytar
^ $$ Crowd and band sing Happy Birthday to Leonard Fishman, Jon's father
Read coverage of Hampton Night One here and Night Two here.
You can download this show for free at LivePhish.com.
Continue reading for more pics of Phish in Hampton Night Three...