Phish Fall Tour 2019: Charleston Night 1 – Setlist, Recap & The Skinny
Thirty-six years ago this past Monday, a band of bright-eyed and brilliant weirdos played their first show. It’s been 19 years since Phish took their first major break from touring and 15 since they called it quits. Ten years ago, the era known as 3.0 began as the band reunited for a period that continues through the present. A decade of revitalization. A renaissance ripe with new material, blissful peaks and more silliness than a sea full of fans could ever dream of. They put on festivals, covered mythical Scandanavian electro-pop bands, recorded and performed with countless side projects, wrote musicals and compositions for symphonies and played 237 tunes without a single repeat over a 13-night span. 2019 has been no slouch either: Ghosts Of The Forest, a triumphant return to Bonnaroo, Charlotte’s “Runaway Jim,” Alpine’s “Ruby Waves,” the ninth round of Dick’s, and finally, an eight-show Fall Tour before rounding it out in New York City for a four-night New Year’s Run.
Five shows into the Autumn run, and the more diligent clock-watchers and note-takers had noticed the lack of repeats throughout the Northeast leg, which consisted of a mini-Island Tour, an intimate affair in Philadelphia for SiriusXM subscribers and a rager in Pittsburgh. The circus followed the lines going south for the last trio of shows, visiting North Charleston Coliseum in North Charleston, South Carolina this weekend for the first time since 2016. Cars were parked, fans rode shuttle buses right alongside families attending The Lion King at the neighboring Charleston PAC, and large chunks of the 13,295-seat general admission venue were filled with crews rolling 10, 20, 30 or more deep.
Lights down, and nothing could be finer than to be in “Carolina” on a Friday night. The quartet headed directly front and center for the a cappella jaunt, the first in 103 shows, and only the fourth in over 20 years. The crowd was respectfully quiet for the opener, and equally as respectfully raucous for the ensuing “Party Time,” which was punctuated by a concise jam and enthusiastic peak, led by the dancing, grinning Trey Anastasio. After a brief conference, the Bakers Dozen donut gem “Strawberry Letter 23” made its fourth appearance ever. “Undermind” followed the early-1970s Shuggie Otis cover without hesitation and included the first of many Moog solos from Page McConnell, a blues-rock guitar solo from Trey, and a series of snappy little drum breaks from Jon Fishman to round it out.
“Page, where you been?”
“The Chairman Of The Boards’” early 3.0 crooner, “I’ve Been Around,” was met with more cheers, as well as the acknowledgment of A) a continued no-repeat streak, and B) some semi-scarce selections, suggesting that the streak could easily continue. “The Divided Sky” followed, a 32-year-old favorite of many that has seen an extended moment of pin-drop silence evolve into an epic roar of love and appreciation. There was but a pause after the classic, and the band stomped into another age-old favorite: “The Sloth.” Both of these relatively complex compositions were played with marked precision, indicating the band’s effort and devotion.
Another breath. Is it time for a Mike Gordon-led tune or a Kasvot Växt tune? How about both? Another semi-rare fan favorite [played only ten times since 2010’s version in the same venue], “Destiny Unbound” contained a big, Clavinet-driven jam and peak and was followed by the more oft-played K.V. song “We Are Come To Outlive Our Brains.” The “glue in your magnet” refrain and outro delicately segued into the instrumental intro to “My Friend, My Friend” and the subsequent thrashing peak faded into perhaps the most heavy-hitting new Ghosts Of The Forest tune, “About To Run.” The crowd angrily sang along with the lyric “Liar,” and then the intensity slowly faded. Yet another smooth transition gently glided into “The Horse” > “Silent In The Morning” pairing, and perhaps the set would end on a sweet and sparkly note. But no, the hi-hat intro to “David Bowie” promised one last dance before the break. Trey wasted no time with the typical Type I theme, instead finding blissful Type II improv that could’ve lasted longer, but instead gave way to the typical “Bowie” groove and ensuing frantic completion.
The crowd went berserk, the band left the stage, notes and setlists were compared and the consensus was reached among those is this writer’s surrounding area that this night was special. The first set had a distinct Baker’s Dozen feel to it, and not just because of the lack of repeats. A combination of ultra-rare covers and originals not in regular rotation were played in a concise manner, the set flow was smooth and easy, and the infrequent flubs were regarded not as mistakes, but as a reminder of the divine imperfection of humanity.
Act Two. The band came out guns a-blazin’ with a manic “Axilla,” followed by the rare intro to 2.0 era favorite “Scents & Subtle Sounds.” Trey patiently led the first jam sequence atop Mike Gordon’s bass octaves into a cosmos of Clavinet. Page’s staccato Clav gave way to bright piano, which gave way to Moog weirdness. A new theme began, driven by power chords, tight rhythm and more staccato keys. The already memorable “Scents” found new opportunity for a stop-start segment — punctuated by a bit of “Woo” — followed by a little bliss jam … a slow dissolve …
“Close the door, put out the light…”
The swirling psychedelia of “No Quarter” was the perfect cap to the 18-minute “Scents,” and from the mists of the Zeppelin masterpiece slunk someone’s feline friend. The eye-watering caterwaul of “Your Pet Cat” clawed through the rafters, driving many to the bathrooms and beer lines and then quickly back for what some fans hail as a top 3.0 tune: “Mercury.” The multi-part number gave way to another big jam before being ripped to shreds by an extra-frenzied “Saw It Again.” A singalong “Limb By Limb” came next, with yet another beautiful multi-part jam, some “Divided Sky” teases and then a hard right turn into a heavy grinding minor-key segment. Fish quietly — and almost creepily — began singing nursery rhyme, “This Old Man,” over his pounding toms before another effervescent transition gave way to the enchanted tale of “The Lizards.” The crowd surrendered to the flow, dancing with abandon to the bubbly chorus and swaying reverently to the spiritual guitar solo. A maniacal romp with “Suzy Greenberg” wrapped up the second set, complete with “Axilla” teases, a Page-led jam and a coliseum full of dancing fools.
Late-1990s ballad “Bittersweet Motel” kicked off the three-song encore. Trey altered the lyrics to “somewhere between Charleston and Pittsburgh” as a nod to their mid-week tour schedule during the band’s first “Bittersweet Motel” since July 6, 2016. Mike played an extra-tender bass solo, and one last dose of shredding hysteria followed by way of “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long.” Finally, a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup” gave the happily exhausted crowd one last singalong.
What a beautiful buzz, indeed. Thank you, gentlemen. See you on Saturday night. Webcasts are available of both Saturday and Sunday’s shows via LivePhish.com.
North Charleston Coliseum [See upcoming shows]
8 shows — 11/18/1995, 10/27/1996, 10/15/2010, 10/16/2010, 10/17/2010, 10/14/2016, 10/15/2016, 10/16/2016
14 songs / 8:07 pm to 9:39 pm (92 minutes)
12 songs / 10:14 pm to 11:56 pm (102 minutes)
26 songs / 22 originals / 4 covers
23.58 [Gap chart]
Bittersweet Motel -- 134 Shows (LTP -- 07/06/2016)
Scents And Subtle Sounds -- 18:48
The Horse -- 1:18
Junta - 2, Rift - 3, The Story of the Ghost - 1, Undermind - 2, Joy - 1, Misc. - 13, Covers - 4
58° and Clear at showtime