The quartet came out of the gates with a pair of fitting choices for the occasion – “Buried Alive” and “Ghost.” The tour’s second first set “Ghost” featured a powerful arena rock-tinged jam that might not have strayed outside the box, but featured impressive work from all four members of the band. Bassist Mike Gordon struggled with some of the lyrics to “Scent Of A Mule,” which contained an interesting Mule Duel segment spotlighting Gordon and guitarist Trey Anastasio. Mike utilized a synth effect, which drove the crowd wild, while Trey threw in dark and droning notes of his own. The interesting section of the Mule Duel climaxed with Mike and Trey holding their instruments in the air and rubbing them against each other, which made for quite a wild scene. Drummer Jon Fishman didn’t use his Marimba Lumina during “Scent Of A Mule” for the first time in 2014 and only the second time since the instrument was added to his arsenal. “Sample In A Jar” led into “Reba.” The rhythm section of Fishman and Gordon set a solid base from which Anastasio was able to patiently build his fluid and beautiful solo with flourishes from keyboardist Page McConnell. Trey was in fine form throughout the set, particularly during an intense “46 Days.” It was then on to the evening’s first bustout -“Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars.” The heaviest song in Phish’s repertoire was last played on August 26, 2012 -a span of 87 shows. Page then showed off lounge skills that would serve him well in Las Vegas on “Lawn Boy.” McConnell handed it off to Fish for a rare drum solo towards the end of the song. From there, Phish dived into their back catalog for just the second “Saw It Again” of the year and sixth since 2003. Another quick “Tube” emerged out of another fitting Halloween song -“Saw It Again.” The set came to a close with a smoking “Wolfman’s Brother.”
When the lights went down for the second set, attendees witnessed a crazy scene on a stage set up to look like a graveyard. During the intro, a Haunted House was pushed out by stage hands as dancers dressed in ghoulish attire paraded around. It soon became clear the band was setup within the Haunted House and just like the famed Storage Jam from the group’s Super Ball Festival, the crowd couldn’t actually witness Phish performing. Phish added their own soundtrack to the sound effects and spoken word found on Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House that included a dark eerie score for “The Haunted House” and a more upbeat major-key section on “The Very Long Fuse.” A little over ten minutes into the set, the walls of the Haunted House were exposed to show the band dressed in white tuxedos with zombie makeup. Phish’s contribution to “The Dogs” was a catchy arena rock progression. Anastasio took one of his more high-octane solos of the year as the quartet vamped on their “The Dogs” progression. “Timber” was another guitar-heavy rocker, this one with wah-wah theatrics from Trey. The fourth track of the album also featured a meaty jam that contained outstanding interplay between the four members of Phish. “Your Pet Cat” was a funk workout with a “Tube”-like beat from Fish and staccato synth stabs from McConnell as the sounds of cats shrieking poured out over the PA. The song came to a climax when Anastasio unleashed a torrent of creative leads. Even Trey got into the act by adding some cat-like noises of his own to the mix.
“Shipwreck” was similar to other songs performed during the set as it started with a spoken word soundtrack from the original album as the zombiefied actors danced around stage and led into original music. This time around, the quartet unveiled a dreamy, Pink Floyd-esque progression. The voiceover then came back in and Phish followed the spoken word section with a gorgeous piece of ambient music that was reminiscent of The Siket Disc-era studio jams of the late ’90s. As with the earlier tunes, Phish absolutely nailed “Shipwreck” with a confidence and cohesiveness that seemed to be missing from most shows this fall. “The Unsafe Bridge” was Phish’s version of a Spaghetti Western soundtrack with elements of Genesis and The Beatles worked in. While the band played these songs, a team of LDs used lasers and other effects not usually seen at a Phish show to add to the insane spectacle. “The Chinese Water Torture” was scored with an upbeat groove that almost seemed like a mix of “Cars Trucks Buses” and “Axel F.” There was a familiarity to all the progessions Phish debuted in the Haunted House, but this was Phish drawing on their influences and own music to create something completely new and original. “The Chinese Water Torture” also contained a potent jam filled with bombastic leads from Trey.
The set’s penultimate song, “The Birds,” showed off what Phish meant in the Playbill when they called Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House one of the heaviest albums of all-time. The Vermonters feasted on a groove that recalled the best of Traffic, Black Sabbath and Abbey Road era Beatles. All the while, a spoken word sample of “They Attack!!” was worked into the sound. It was on “The Birds” that Mike Gordon shined most as he connected with McConnell and Fish on a dark and dirty progression that Trey shredded over. The song continued with Gordon and Anastasio facing off against each other and dueling it out for a few glorious moments as Page hit his keys for more “They Attack!!” samples. Eventually, the Vermonters hooked up on an intense progression they worked over with Anastasio unleashing a wave of riffs that would’ve made Jimi Hendrix proud. The finale, “Martian Monster,” was more of the same -a filthy, original Phish groove mixed with spoken word quotes, sound effects and vocal warbles as actors performed zombie-fied dances in the space surrounding the haunted house. McConnell’s funky clavinet leads were at the forefront of the deliciously weird “Martian Monster,” another winner in an hour-long set filled with ten of them. The set (and most of the show, for that matter) was also a moment any Phish fan who wanted to witness could do so as technical difficulties led LivePhish to offer the evening’s webcast for free over YouTube.
The crowd was geared up as “Punch You In The Eye” made its tour debut to kick off the third and final set, appearing for only the second time in 2014. “Golden Age” was up next, the evening’s first cover if you don’t count the second set. Phish took “Golden Age” out for a spin with McConnell quickly jumping over to his Wurlitzer electric piano as Fishman altered his beat ever so slightly over the course of the exploration. There were a few times when it seemed the jam had petered out, but Trey didn’t make a move towards “Tweezer” until “Golden Age” had shot its proverbial load. “Tweezer” was dripping in intensity. At first, the band patiently worked over the typical “Tweezer” chord progression with impressive results until all of the sudden they made a turn towards a bright, dreamy chord progression and eventually landed on “Heavy Things.” The expertly-executed segue between the two is well worth the re-listen, even if the pre-solo portion of “Heavy Things” was one of the evening’s few trainwrecks. After “Guyute” kept the energy high with its multiple peaks, “Sand” featured a soaring, well-built Anastasio solo that contained more impressive work from the guitarist. Just when “Sand” had hit its peak, the band pulled back and embarked on a second jam. McConnell took the lead on “Sand”s second jam as it seemed the band never wanted to stop playing the song. As Page milked the clavinet, Anastasio delivered thick, dirty riffs while Fishman pounded away and Gordon anchored the jam. When Phish fit a few funk breaks into the action, the crowd filled the space with “Woo”s. The quartet kept the instant classic “Sand” coming by engaging upon a heavy-hitting chord structure reminiscent of Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out.” At the climax of the insane “Sand” second jam, Phish transitioned into “Tweezer Reprise.” The roof nearly came off the MGM Grand Arena by the time “Tweezer Reprise” came to a close as the clock approached 1 a.m. local time. Anastasio was still full of energy, strutting around the stage with knees up high. As if the show wasn’t strong enough, Phish came back by encoring with the cover debut of Leonard Cohen’s “Is This What You Wanted,” sung by Mike Gordon. The song contains the lines “And is this what you wanted, To live in a house that is haunted, By the ghost of you and me?” which fits the haunted house theme perfectly. Also, in answer to the question, yes, a show like Phish delivered in Las Vegas is exactly what we wanted. But wait…that’s not all! Phish wasn’t finished with us yet. Out came Page McConnell’s Keytar, which once was owned by James Brown, for the return of “Frankenstein.” The Edgar Winter Group cover, which famously opened the band’s first musical costume show 20 years prior, returned after an absence of more than two years.
Phish returns to the MGM Grand Arena tomorrow night. A webcast is available via LivePhish.
- Venue Type: Indoor Arena / 16,800
- Previous Shows at Venue: Phish had never performed at the venue before tonight
- Number Of Songs / Length – First Set: 11 / 8:09 p.m.-9:23 (74 Minutes)
- Number Of Songs / Length – Second Set: 10 / 10:01 -11:09 (68 Mintutes)
- Number Of Songs / Length – Third Set & Encore: 9 / 11:47 -1:11 (84 Minutes)
- Total Number of Songs / Covers / Originals / Chilling, Thrilling: 30 / 3 / 17 / 10
- Biggest Bustout: Frankenstein -101 Shows (LTP -7/1/2012)
- Average Song Vintage: 2001
- Debuts: The Haunted House, The Very Long Fuse, The Dogs, Timber, Your Pet Cat, Shipwreck, The Unsafe Bridge, The Chinese Water Torture, The Birds, Martian Monster, Is This What You Wanted (Leonard Cohen)
- 2014 Debuts: Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars, The Haunted House, The Very Long Fuse, The Dogs, Timber, Your Pet Cat, Shipwreck, The Unsafe Bridge, The Chinese Water Torture, The Birds, Martian Monster, Is This What You Wanted, Frankenstein
- Tour Debuts: Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars, I Saw It Again, The Haunted House, The Very Long Fuse, The Dogs, Timber, Your Pet Cat, Shipwreck, The Unsafe Bridge, The Chinese Water Torture, The Birds, Martian Monster, Punch You In The Eye, Guyute, Is This What You Wanted, Frankenstein
- Weather: 75°F and Partly Cloudy
- Average Song Gap: Forthcoming
- The Spread: Lawn Boy -2, Picture Of Nectar -2, Hoist -3, Story Of The Ghost -2, Farmhouse -2, Round Room -1, Chilling -10, Misc. -5, Covers -3
- Longest LivePhish Track / Shortest LivePhish Track: Sand 18:02 / Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars 3:32
- Audio: Live Phish
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