Phish Fall Tour 2019: Nassau – Setlist, Recap & The Skinny
All signs pointed to a perfect storm, much like what many Phish fans drove through to get to the Nassau Coliseum, on the first Sunday night of Fall Tour 2019. Not only was it Sunday, which as the saying goes one should never miss, but it was also the first time in 16 years Phish played the venue. Would fans get a wild show like the two at the same room from the original Island Tour in 1998, or major bust outs ala the band’s February 28, 2003 performance or maybe The Dude Of Life would show up to reprise his sit-in from the group’s last show at the venue (November 28, 2003)? Nassau Coliseum has quite the batting average when it comes to hosting Phish shows, so as they took the stage the crowd was in a fever pitch.
While the first two nights of the tour saw some theatrics open the show, Jedi Trey (“First Tube”) and smooth Scandinavian dancing (“Turtle In The Clouds”), Phish went straight for the jams on Sunday night by kicking off the evening with “Ghost.” This “Ghost” covered a lot of ground in the 12 minutes it lasted. Very little time was wasted getting to the goods as Trey Anastasio soloed over some very funky keys by Page McConnell that was definitely the two of them pushing one another forward. This continued throughout the jam, hitting quite the peak around the 11-minute mark before returning to the song’s normal structure to wrap it up nicely. When a show begins with a jam staple, you know you’re in for a heater.
“The Wedge” spoke its gospel of taking the highway through the great divide, which felt like the band was giving the audience a little love for making it to the show despite road conditions, which if you left late enough in the day from Providence, were fairly tricky through Connecticut. Phish do so many little things like this throughout a show to give a nod and wink to the crowd to let them know how much they care that we are all there for them, soaking in every note they play.
A lot of tickets began popping up as soon as the weather report came out, but looking around Nassau you would have no idea as it seemed packed to the brim, especially on the floor. While we didn’t get a true bust out of epic proportions, we did get the ninth ever “Cool It Down,” and the way the audience reacted it might as well have been the first one since 1998. Not only did the band play the Velvet Underground cover halfway through set one, but the song from Loaded also featured a slightly extended jam. It truly is amazing how this band can still, on any given night, just dust off a song they haven’t played in years and make it sound like they perform it almost every night.
“Martian Monster” gave the crowd a reason to really get down and let off a lot of the steam. Early on in the jam, Mike Gordon utilized a particularly cool effect on his bass that went right along with the song’s theme of a spaceship taking off. The short jam really hit its stride once drummer Jon Fishman, who seemed loose all night on the kit, took control and pushed the tempo hard. Coming out of “Martian Monster,” a cover of “Timber (Jerry The Mule)” kept the action hot and saw Trey lead the way through the Type I jam with absolutely filthy fills by Fishman the whole time.
One thing Phish is wary to do is to look back to the past, but with the placement near end of the first stanza of “Roggae” with life moving fast, it felt like a nod to the whole weekend of doing a pseudo Island Tour 2.0 and how much has changed in the 21 years since the famed series of four shows in 1998 happened, because the circus is truly still the place for many of us. A quick romp through “Poor Heart” not only gave Fishman a chance for some good laughs, but saw keyboardist Page McConnell go absolutely wild on the piano. When he gets these extended quick solos it’s nearly always jaw dropping. Fans often go wild for Trey solos when his hands fly, but I’ve always felt these solos by Page are just as impressive.
“An asteroid crashed and nothing burned” … and so began “Tube” in an innocent fashion. However, what followed was a dense 10 minutes of pure joy. This jam featured impressive contributions from each member but also was completely team Phish. Page’s synth work and whatever magical tone Trey put on his guitar early in the jam is what I dream he would do for every song. On the other half of the stage, Mike was all over his bass and Fishman kept putting in funky fills. When a jam comes together so easily like this one it’s hard to really describe it, it just has to be heard immediately. The one thing you can’t hear, though, are the lights that were out of this world for the entire jam. Lighting Designer Chris Kuroda is a major component when jams like last night’s “Tube” take place as he pushes the band, especially with the way the light trusses move nowadays. Again, this one should be on your “Man, I should have listened to this 10 times already!” list.
Set two opened with some discussion on stage before the band dropped into “Everything’s Right,” which has become quite the anthem with its uplifting lyrics, but the jam the followed the composed section was what some would call “Evil Phish.” Page really let loose on his rig and turned the whole jam almost into music for a horror movie which was quickly followed by a bunch of whale calls from Trey. There were four distinct sections of this jam that really went deep before Phish dropped into a “Down with Disease” that was a particularly rocking version from front to back.
After the peak of “Disease” hit, it seemed as if the band was finding another groove that featured a slight hint of “Weekapaug Groove.” Yet, out of nowhere, we were treated to a sped-up “Cities” that was eventually slowed down to normal pace after some mid-lyric laughter by Anastasio. During the outro jam, Trey looked at both Mike and Fish, slapped his chest and mouthed “follow me” and with that Phish began “Carini.” The band wasted little time getting back into jam mode with more stunning work by Fishman as well as Page, who utilized his entire rig during the song. It felt like “Carini” could have kept going, but instead the quartet segued into “Ruby Waves.”
Last night’s “Ruby Waves” was the first outing of the song since the mammoth version played at Alpine in July and it didn’t disappoint. People try to compare jams of songs all of the time, but I like to enjoy each one on its own. The band went on the attack right away led by Page’s wild synthesizer usage while yet again Fishman pushed everyone else with absolutely ridiculous fills and combos. Much like “Everything’s Right,” there were four distinct sections in the “Ruby Waves” jam showing that Phish doesn’t needs 40 minutes to pack in a ton of exploration. A dense 10 minutes can be just as spectacular.
“Ruby Waves” continued with a mini plinko jam before Phish brought the song back around to its structure and followed with “Twenty Years Later.” I immediately thought of the Island Tour as Trey sang “Twenty years and I’m still upside down.” The shows at Nassau Coliseum from 1998 are held in such high regard, it’s almost silly and the band seemed to be feeling some of those vibes last night. The jam was more “Evil Phish” at work with searing guitar work by Trey throughout. Going from that into “Backwards Down The Number Line” somehow just felt right.
It was all Type I jamming from here on out as the band went full rock stars and brought the house down an almost roof-tearing “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” An seemingly perfect “Roses Are Free” opened the encore, the first time the Ween cover has been performed in that slot, and was followed by the gorgeous “Slave To The Traffic Light.” For me, it was pretty much the ideal encore and I couldn’t have asked for more from the band last night. Phish now heads to Philadelphia for a SiriusXM show at The Met Philly on Tuesday. A live broadcast is available via SiriusXM’s Phish Radio (Channel 29).
NYCB Live Home of The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum [See upcoming shows]
6 shows — 04/02/1998, 04/03/1998, 10/07/1999, 10/08/1999, 02/28/2003, 11/28/2003
13 songs / 8:05 pm to 9:23 pm (78 minutes)
10 songs / 10:01 pm to 11:33 pm (92 minutes)
23 songs / 18 originals / 5 covers
8.35 [Gap chart]
Cool It Down -- 44 Shows (LTP -- 10/23/2018)
Everything's Right -- 14:30
The Many Who Stepped Into Yesterday Reprise -- 1:24
A Picture of Nectar - 1, Rift - 2, Hoist - 1, Billy Breathes - 1, The Story of the Ghost - 2, Joy - 2, Misc. - 9, Covers - 5
34° and Raining at Showtime