Phish Kicks Off Fall Tour 2018 At Times Union Center In Albany
Words & Images by: Bryan Lasky
It had been a long nine years between proper Albany Phish shows. There have been plenty of Saratoga Springs shows and even a Glens Falls show, but Phish hadn’t graced the city itself since 2009 and the crowd showed their appreciation throughout the night, showering the band with praise during their 2018 Fall Tour opener at Times Union Center. It did not take long for the quartet to shake off any first night jitters.
All four came to the stage with smiles and quickly started up “The Moma Dance.” There was some great interplay from all four members before the lyrics started. The band definitely came out swinging with “Moma” with some great work by guitarist Trey Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell near the song’s conclusion. From there they dove into “Tube” and the jam that ensued delivered. You never know what to expect from the song these days, but this was a scorcher. Page’s work through the jam was just spectacular, taking turns on leading and filling spaces here and there. It was a bearer of things to come as Page really pushed things all evening. Trey was in fine form as well, showing no rust during the jam. Everything he hit was absolute perfection during the 11-minute “Tube.” This is a must listen, not just because it’s “Tube,” but because it’s Phish at its finest, taking the song out of structure completely and bringing it back with ease.
“Theme From The Bottom” batted third and was its usual self not straying beyond its boundaries. What was impressive though was the peak that the band hit that led to the segue into “Free.” It wasn’t perfect, but it was damn close. During the song, lighting director Chris Kuroda showed off some new tricks with his rig. The entire light rig can come down close to both the band and the audience. The trusses also can move in almost wave-like patterns that eventually come to a head as a pyramid. It’s always amazing to watch what Kuroda has changed between tours and the new patterns are pretty impressive. While this was happening, there was a complete break down of the jam that led to just bassist Mike Gordon being heard for a bit before him and Trey had a little back and forth take place in front of drummer Jon Fishman before the whole band went back into the ending of “Free.”
The first cooldown of the night belonged to “Army Of One,” which was needed after the first four songs that spanned almost 40 minutes. “Halley’s Comet” seemed like it was really going to take off into some new territory near its end as the band was cooking the jam, but it wasn’t to be on this night and instead went straight into “Everything’s Right.” The jam in the song eventually saw Page take things to an almost Pink Floyd territory. It was a pure bliss jam from all four members. Mike was dropping some heavy lines under much of Trey’s soaring guitar work. When everything is firing, like it did during this jam, it’s stunning to not even notice what Fishman is doing. He fills the empty spaces so perfectly that you didn’t even realize that there could have been something missing. The segue that came out of this into “Cities” was stunning and had the crowd going wild.
The song itself didn’t see anything wild happen, but few complain when they dip into this Talking Heads cover. It was looking like the song was about to break loose, but then Page led the band into “Wall Of The Cave” to close the set. This song always is a solid set closer and this version did not disappoint. Trey was on fire to close the set down with a flurry of notes that seemed to never want to end. With the first chapter of Fall Tour 2018 in the books, many walked around the Times Union Center meeting up with friends they haven’t seen in a long time during the break.
With a few flicks from the guitar, set two was signaled for lift off with “Ghost.” The song, of course, has some history in the venue and this version, while not as long as others, had plenty happening. Right off the bat the band seemed to want to jam this one out. Gordon and Fishman hooked up to move it into Type 2 territory and helped bring it into the outer reaches. Kuroda was once again showing off what the light rig can do and the new waves he makes really need to be seen for full effect. As Trey really got going, Page began to hit some wild notes that elevated the jam to a new height. Soon after, there was a complete reset of the jam that led to Mike taking control amid ambient noise while both Trey and Page teased the “No Man In No Man’s Land” that was to come.
Page pushed a good portion of the jam that came out of “NMINML.” Trey and Page were completely locked in with one another on this one as they were complementing one another perfectly throughout. After going back to the chorus for a moment, which seemed like the end, they completely turned on a dime and went dark. Page once again took command and everyone else latched on. The darkness quickly evolved into an airy, calming pace via Trey’s guitar work that was hinting at “Piper” and ultimately launched into the song itself.
It wasn’t the smoothest of transitions, but it was pretty good and they were off to the races with the subsequent improvisation. The jam seemed to be just a continuation of part of the “No Man” jam but became more rocking before there was a breakdown as the band headed into “Twenty Years Later.” Mike led the group into almost metal territory at one point, and while all this was going on the light rig trusses were moving similar fashion to the umbrellas that were part of the New Year’s Eve gag a few years ago. This was a heavy jam and the standout moment from the opening show. It everything you want when Phish goes completely dark and evil with some wild Fishman fills, Page making noises from outer space, Trey wailing away, and Mike moving the building with some bombs from his rig. The crowd responded with spontaneous wild approval around the 11-minute mark as they were still going deeper into the jam.
Coming out of this was the yin to the jam’s yang with a beautiful bliss filled “Show Of Life,” whose ending seemed to have a little something extra to it. A somewhat unexpected “2001” came in and had the crowd boogieing down before “Character Zero” closed the set out with a blistering ending from all four members. The band came back to deliver “Harry Hood” in all of its classic glory. The song was played as patiently and beautifully as it has been played lately and was met with approval from the crowd. As the song ended the band was met with quite the roar from the audience after playing a satisfying opening show of the tour.
Jam > Piper | Captured by Gregory Marcus
Twenty Years Later | Captured by Matt Frazier
Times Union Center [See upcoming shows]
11 shows — 12/09/1995, 12/12/1997, 12/13/1997, 11/25/1998, 10/09/1999, 10/10/1999, 09/08/2000, 09/09/2000, 12/01/2003, 11/27/2009, 11/28/2009
9 songs / 7:44 pm to 9:03 pm (79 minutes)
8 songs / 9:40 pm to 11:05 pm (85 minutes)
17 songs / 15 originals / 2 covers
6.47 [Gap chart]
Army Of One - 33 Shows (LTP - 08/01/2017)
Twenty Years Later - 14:26
Army Of One - 4:57
Billy Breathes - 3, The Story of the Ghost - 2, Farmhouse - 1, Round Room - 1, Undermind - 1, Joy - 1, Big Boat - 1, Misc. - 5, Covers - 2
46° and clear at showtime
Phish From The Road Photos
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