Phish | 06.02.09 | Jones Beach

Words by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Dave Vann

Phish :: 06.02.09 :: Jones Beach Theater :: Long Island, NY

Phish :: 06.02.09 :: Jones Beach
Kicking off a three-night stand on Long Island, NY at the Jones Beach Theater, Phish again offered a special treat on their first summer tour in five years. Their first return trip to this venue since the summer of ’95, the band was clearly excited to be back, as evidenced by their playing at this show. Things sure have changed in the last 14 years, notably a newer, top-tier added to the stadium, but many other things remained the same. Namely, an old-school setlist that found Anastasio, Gordon, McConnell and Fishman in fine form.

The weather was delicious, hovering in the 70s all-night, with hardly a breeze (uncommon for this venue). Because of those factors, the sound was impeccable and ten times better than Fenway (read the Fenway review here). The first set screamed 1992, opening with the one-two combo that began so many shows that year, “Runaway Jim” and “Foam.” Another new song debut, “Stealing Time From a Faulty Plan,” was a poppy, guitar rocker featuring Anastasio, who truly shined throughout this particular show. He smiled often, joked throughout with the audience, and even quipped before the encore that he wondered why the band couldn’t play there Wednesday night as well (the band is off Wednesday before wrapping up at Jones Beach on Thursday and Friday).

The first set offered some laidback, almost lazy jamming – not in effort, but rather style. A very patient “Reba” and set-closing “If I Could” – the first one played since the PNC Bank Arts Center in June of 2000 – saw Phish demonstrate that they have matured, are patient and can still deliver spine-tingling chills with machine-gun rock-n-roll. As it was at PNC, “If I Could” was a heartfelt piece of music that is truly beautiful. This version was slightly reworked and emphasized the most emotive, clean vocals Anastasio has delivered in years, thanks in part to his recent sobriety. Toss in “Timber (Jerry the Mule)” (aka “Timber Ho!”) and a slowed down, funky “Cities” that spotlighted McConnell on the keys, and Set One was a solid start to Tuesday.

McConnell :: 06.02.09 :: Jones Beach
Set Two saw the band take things up a notch by continuing to lay down old favorites, starting with “Mike’s Song” into “Simple,” which was one of the few time the band hasn’t played the proper trio of “Mike’s” > “I Am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug Groove” since 2000. “Simple” saw some flubbed lyrics, but garnered a mock-cheer from the crowd.

Out of “Simple,” the band launched into the danceable, funk-filled “Wolfman’s Brother,” which featured great playing by all four members, especially McConnell. The jam seemed to really be taking off, and was superb up until the point when Fishman seemed to cut things short and almost force the band into “Weekapaug Groove.” One of my favorite things about Phish is how they’re a four-headed monster, and I particularly love when someone other than Anastasio leads the band in a new direction (for a perfect example of Fishman taking the reigns, listen to the 12.18.99 “Weekapaug” > “Buffalo Bill” transition).

In short, the first four songs of Set Two felt just like a late ’90s show and finally saw the band stretch out some of their collective, jamming legs. Much like “If I Could,” Los Lobos‘ “When the Circus Comes to Town” was genuine and warm, while the first-ever “Kill Devil Falls” – played “by request” according to Anastasio – proved another tongue-in-cheek jab of Phish humor considering no one had ever heard it prior to this show (although I was told it was sound checked before one of the tour’s first two gigs). This song will be one of Trey’s favorites simply because it sounded like the bastard child of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock And Roll,” with the up-beat bounciness of Trey’s solo “Moesha.” That is, until the soaring, rip-roaring jam kicks in, which is an absolute, dead ringer for “Chalkdust Torture.” That said, it felt as if it was not a new tune at all, and kept the flow of the set moving right along into old-school territory.

Phish :: 06.02.09 :: Jones Beach
To really hammer home their point, the band concluded with a super-sonic, spacey jam in “Harry Hood,” which was different but still sublime, with two or three peaks surrounded by some darker moments. Toss in a high-flying cover of The Rolling Stones‘ “Loving Cup” and the entire crowd was fist-pumping until the last note. The encore of “Suzy Greenberg” only solidified this show as quite possibly the best gig of this short 2009 season, at least in terms of feeling and sounding fully comfortable. Sure, there were some mistakes, but with the older song selection and laidback attitude on a perfectly calm Tuesday evening, it was the first time I have genuinely felt Phish was back since their return in Hampton this past March.

Next up, Jones Beach Round 2 on Thursday…

Phish :: 06.02.09 :: Jones Beach Theater :: Long Island, NY
Set I: Runaway Jim, Foam, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan (1), Timber (Jerry the Mule), Cities, Driver, Reba, Possum, Farmhouse, If I Could(2)
Set II: Mike’s Song > Simple > Wolfman’s Brother > Weekapaug Groove, When the Circus Comes to Town, Kill Devil Falls(1), Harry Hood, Loving Cup
Encore: Suzy Greenberg
Notes: 1 – First Time Played
2 – Last Played 6/28/2000 (101 Shows)

Brian Bavosa and Dave Vann are JamBase’s team on tour. Keep an eye on our Phish Summer Tour Page for lots more from tour…

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