Words by: Court Scott | Images by: John Crouch
Phish :: 08.08.09 :: Gorge Amphitheatre :: George, WA
I'm not even gonna preface this with anything except to say that Saturday night's show at The Gorge was as close to flawless as I've seen mah boys in a long time. Some may argue that the Friday night setlist was superior, and that may very well be the case, but I feel that the playing, energy and intent to get the crowd off was far stronger on night number two. The instrumentation was utterly focused, organic in a way that made me at times feel they were just channeling something greater. In short, night two completely ripped.
Phish :: 08.08.09 :: The Gorge|
A full hill and floor full of phans rose to the occasion as the band launched into a "Mango" opener - a huge bust-out – and chugged right into "Chalkdust." Next up was a Mike Gordon/Leo Kottke tune, "Middle of the Road," a bit slower and none too well known but a nice breather before Trey played the opening notes of a big, fat, juicy "Tweezer." I think the word 'funk' and most of its derivatives often don't convey the authenticity of the word, but Page's solo was a tweaked-out space funk beauty.
Bringing it down a notch was "Driver," a pleasant little ditty, and the subsequent new song, "20 Years Later," had Trey and Gordon trading proggy, stuttered licks. The groove was locked down as they barreled into "Ya Mar," a recent replay from Shoreline. The last four songs from the first set hit like a ton of bricks. "It' Ice" (Bam!) flowed into a ridiculously funked out "Wolfman's Brother," which featured the first of several massive glow stick wars. A short pause and then a raging "Character Zero," which we figured was the set closer. Wrong! It was full speed ahead into "Antelope," with Gordon shape-shifting the bass ine and Trey tucking "Mango" teases here and there. The level of adventurousness is building, evident with each set's song selections. And Saturday night was the first time I actively noticed tons of teases and maybe even a touch of secret language here and there. That the band is beginning to get super playful and overtly confident puts me greatly at ease.
Set two was where I felt the guys started to sizzle. Since they've been back, a number of the shows have been cover tune heavy, which is great, because the "Rock and Roll" that they opened set two with was a freaking monster. People, it was huge. Clocking in at just around 20 minutes, Trey was in his element and going nuts; even yelling at the end. He was shattering as Gordon laid the lines down, down, down, just so we could pick them up. The next tune, "Makisupa," was also Gordon's time to shine, with what seems to be becoming a standard bass solo each show. It was Gordon's filthy, liquid bass effects that dropped the bomb on everyone from top of the hill to the front row (and quite possibly the fish in the Columbia River behind the stage). And Trey, for a short while, was running some new high pitched, almost nitrous-y effect over Gordon. Then, Gordon and Trey switched instruments and each took solos on the other's gear, harkening back to the rotating jams from years back.
"Alaska," another new tune, was next and is a pleasant song but I hope it doesn't get into heavy rotation. The lyrics seem trite and simplistic, not nearly as interesting as Tom Marshall's work with Trey. "Alaska" has a nice little edge and Trey manifested a soulful solo, but I remain unconvinced. And then out of the darkness came "Wedge," an old tune that used to be quite rare now being called up more frequently. "Y.E.M." was next on deck and featured loads of smoke and red and blue lights. Gordo had another sub-stratospheric solo as the trampolines appeared on stage. As he and Trey jumped and spun in unison, Page lead a nice solo, which morphed into a flashing strobe-light vocal jam. Right out of the darkness of a "Y.E.M." jam appeared the new, not totally bad "Backwards Down the Number Line." It's growing on me, but again, it just lacks a certain oomph I not only love but also have come to expect as a second set closes. Luckily, it wasn't the closer, instead we got a "Piper" jam; incomplete song, but a short rager with Fishman teasing the hell out of "Llama." To end the set, the fellas came out for an a capella "Grind," another way old tune back in the roster. The encores featured a huge version of Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times" naturally segueing into a "Tweezer Reprise."
|Trey :: 08.08.09 :: The Gorge|
The band seemed to be having a great time, with loads of smiles, waving at the crowd and a general ease that makes me feel like this time it really is different. I'm also deeply appreciative that all the band's instruments are generally back to a pared down, early '90s sound rather than relying on effects to cover lazy or sloppy playing. Ditto for Kuroda's light show, which is being used more like punctuation and less like a part of the message. Don't get me wrong, the lights will still spin your noodle, but there is a difference in the pace at which they change and evolve that I'm into. Looking forward to next week with a renewed fervor!!!
Phish :: 08.08.09 :: Gorge Amphitheatre :: George, WA
Set I: The Mango Song, Chalk Dust Torture, Middle Of The Road, Tweezer, Driver, Twenty Years Later, Ya Mar, It's Ice, Wolfman's Brother, Character Zero > Run Like An Antelope
Set II: Rock & Roll > Makisupa Policeman, Alaska, The Wedge, You Enjoy Myself, Backwards Down the Number Line > Piper, Grind
E: Good Times Bad Times, Tweezer Reprise
For more pics of this show go here.
Phish perform next on Tuesday, August 11 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL. Check back for live Tweets, setlists, pics and full reviews. Complete Phish tour dates available here.
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