Phish | 07.30 | Red Rocks Day 1

Words by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Dave Vann

Phish :: 07.30.09 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: Morrison, CO

Phish :: 07.30 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Colorful Colorado. So much Phishtory has happened here over the years. From the first-ever "official," non-Northeast shows for the band documented in Colorado '88 to the funk-era ragers of Denver in '97, there has been no other venue in the state that has inspired the band to play more historic shows than Red Rocks.

From '93-'96, Phish played a total of nine shows at this truly breathtaking, one-of-a-kind, natural amphitheatre, where the stage sits between two giant slabs of red earth that serve as a center for some cosmic and energetic interactions and results. I also know why everyone in Colorado is in such good shape because everything here is an uphill hike.

However, since some trouble in the little town of Morrison during the four nights in '96 with fans and police, Phish has simply not been allowed to return for a number of reasons. And, with the venue holding maybe 8 or 9 thousand people, they simply outgrew it. I, like many others, never, ever expected Phish to return here and was floored when the announcement came. That also made these tickets harder to score than any of the return shows yet. It also made it a perfect choice to open the second leg of their summer tour with a statement - a four-night stand.

Trey :: 07.30 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Opening with the very first song they ever played here in '93, "The Divided Sky," Trey Anastasio and company soared through this intricate and appropriate number and nailed it. Next up was the catchy "Ocelot," a tune slated for the upcoming, September release, Joy, which many of the newer fans seem to really like.

"The Wedge," another tune played in the first set of the '93 show, features the line "take the highway to the great divide," and boy, oh boy, is Red Rocks such a place. In fact, this was the first time in a long time that most of my night was spent admiring the scenic beauty and intricacies this venue has to offer rather than simply being fixated on the band and stage.

A funky, Fishman driven "Moma Dance" was above average and gave way to "Horn," yet another Rift-era tune that had me thinking that the band was truly excited to be back on hallowed ground. But, the surefire highlight in set one was an atypical "Stash," which saw some loose jamming and more twists and turns than the snakes outside in the surrounding park. It was led at different stages by all four and featured Fishman all over the skins. It was exploratory, yet not as dark as normal, and made for a great ride.

Set two began with some Trey banter introducing Mike Gordon before launching into "Mike's Song," and it seemed that immediately the energy of the band for set two was higher than earlier and we were poised for a sharp second effort. Again, Fishman took charge and pounded "Mike's" into oblivion before landing in the beautiful middle portion of the "Mike's Groove" trilogy, "I Am Hydrogen." The beautiful segue was closed proper by a slamming "Weekapaug Groove" that saw great interplay between Trey and Page, while Fish and Gordon held down the beat.

Phish :: 07.30 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Another of the night's highlights was "Ghost," which conjured up memories of the lauded, super funky, 11.17.97 Denver version. It bubbled up loose and funky, featuring some rock & roll licks by Anastasio, and finally landed in another funktastic number, "Wolfman's Brother." This two-song onslaught was a solid half hour of booty shaking and loose, yet inspired playing and jamming. At this point, the first set was a mere footnote in my mind.

The first "Billy Breathes" since the summer of '03 was another nod that just about anything was possible during this four-night run. A song that does not always translate well live, this version did, slowing things down for a moment for all to soak in the power of this venue. "The Squirming Coil" was spot-on and saw McConnell, who was extremely impressive throughout set two, play his baby grand piano, which made hearts swoon at the end of this number and made me think it was the show closer.

That was until Fishman hit the familiar high-hat intro signaling "David Bowie." This version was standard, yet sharp, and capped off a solid night one. Set two was super and continued with the encore of "Loving Cup." A rocker that led the masses out to the trails and natural stairs of Red Rocks, it truly was a "beautiful buzz" to close out Night One.

Phish :: 07.30.09 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: Morrison, CO
Set I: The Divided Sky, Ocelot, The Wedge, Poor Heart, The Moma Dance, Horn, Stash, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Possum
Set II: Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Ghost, Wolfman's Brother, Limb By Limb, Billy Breathes, The Squirming Coil, David Bowie
E: Loving Cup

For more pics of Phish at Red Rocks go here.

Phish perform again tonight at Red Rocks. Check back for live Tweets, setlists, pics and full reviews. Complete Phish tour dates available here.

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