Phish Concludes Hampton Coliseum 2018 Run – Recap & Setlist

By Parker Harrington Oct 22, 2018 5:23 am PDT

Just like that, the weekend three-show Phish run at Hampton Coliseum is over and the beloved general-admission venue becomes legal drinking age. Happy 21st show Hampton!

The venue has experienced a lot over the years. Plenty of ink has already been spilled waxing nostalgic about the legendary shows throughout the years. But indeed, it is difficult to close out another run in Hampton, Virginia without thinking about the prodigious history here. Starting in 1995 and weaving through the years, the venue has experienced its fair dose of memorable shows.

For the novice listener, Hampton Comes Alive from November 1998 has always been a great launching off point into the massive catalog of live releases from the band. It was also the band’s first ever concerts released in their entirety as a live album. Hampton/Winston-Salem from the previous November (1997) is also packed with an embarrassment of riches from one of the band’s best tours ever when Phish “destroyed America.” And of course, no retrospective on the quartet’s career could ever be written without mentioning the three shows from 2009 that heralded Phish’s much anticipated return. Toss in a bunch of other selected highlights including some from the most recent run at the venue from the Fall of 2013 and it is evident that there is history dripping from this spaceship shaped venue. Good, bad or indifferent, history is made at every show. With the history books already chock-full of “good” chapters here, the expectation and hope is to continue adding to those.

Tonight’s show kicked off with a rote version of “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan.” While it may have been just enough to the wet the whistle of fans settling into the groove of a Sunday show thanks to some late heroics by Trey Anastasio‘s guitar, it didn’t take long for the band to serve up something a little more special in what immediately followed. The first performance in over 100 shows of the much-loved Little Feat cover, “Skin It Back,” got the crowd fired up and immediately showcased some of guitarist Trey Anastasio’s signature fiery chops. The rarity is always a treat but the vim and vigor displayed on stage quickly jumped to a more sublime note with the ballad “Brian And Robert” from The Story Of The Ghost that followed. A straightforward take on “Timber Ho!” came next and while “Simple” seemed to be meandering down the same “straightforward path,” let’s just say that those two roads diverged in the yellow wood and Phish took the crazy, fucked-up, path to wonderful results.

In a jam that explored many themes and was as wide as it was long, this was archetypal Phish jamming at its finest. Dropping on dimes, trading ideas and full band communication, this “Simple” was anything but simple. Complex rhythms. Fascinating chord progressions. Jamlets that both seemed familiar and fresh at the same time. Galloping pace at times, beat changes, key changes and expansive sound, this “Simple” was glorious. As with many great Phish jams, it is impossible to point to the one thing that “made it.” This jam was defined by many small things that all came together perfectly: Jon Fishman‘s driving percussive groove, the euphoria, “butter” notes, the gradually and perfectly executed transition back to the melody and the song “proper,” the “Simple” was undeniably an all-timer and even reached the elusive “20-minute mark” that many fans have used as a barometer of “long jams.” And it happened in the early part of the first set. To say that “Simple” was a good omen for things to come later in the show was an understatement.

Like “Fluffhead” that was played on Saturday night, another nod to the 2009 reunion shows followed with the zany “Mexican Cousin” that only gets performed about once a year. Another relative rarity followed with “Camel Walk,” which is one of the band’s very oldest songs penned by original member Jeff Holdsworth. This “Camel Walk” was graced with some exceptionally meaty bass by Mike Gordon and a couple teases of “Skin It Back” before devolving into a space where “Camel Walk” never seems to stray. While most versions of “Camel Walk” stay “in the center of the road,” this one meandered quite a bit for some fun, spacey funk. While it didn’t reach the heights of “Simple’s” excellence, it was noteworthy nonetheless.

The band continued to add “noteworthy” versions to the show ledger with a ferocious “Back On The Train.” Phish songs don’t need to have improvisational Type II architecture like the “Simple” did to be successful and this “Back On The Train” was a prime example — pure, straight laced rock. It was hard-charging, cohesive and tight and had the entire crowd wrapped around its greasy axle.

“Saw It Again” closed that set and was simply perfect in that slot. Phish is often able to craft setlists and shows that have a great sense of time and place. The scary “Halloweeny” mayhem of the song with Fish’s exaggerated screaming and general wackiness of the song was a nice stepping stone as the band creeps closer to their ensuing Halloween run in Las Vegas. Indeed, it was a great exclamation point to a solid first set.

At pretty much 10:00 p.m. straight-up, the band took the stage to kick off the second set with yet another masterpiece. The “Waves” set-opener was another jaw dropper. While the jam had to slowly build to a rolling boil, once the “second jam” got cooking — it was again top-shelf Phish. While much more compact than the “Simple” from the first set, it was nonetheless a potent elixir of Type II jam, synthy perversion from Page McConnell‘s keys, and fat bass from Mike. A nice segue into Anastasio’s anthemic “Rise/Come Together” followed but did bring an end to the “Waves” jam that was being executed perfectly. Anastasio gleefully used “Rise” to again showcase his Hendrixesque style guitar chops.

“Light,” one of Phish’s most prolific jam-vehicles that debuted in the “3.0 era,” followed and gave the band an opportunity to pick up where the “Waves” left off. And indeed they did just that. They wasted no time at all at in creating some fabulous grooves driven by Fishman and Gordon just hauling off at each other and leading the band in their own ways. It is fascinating when the band can have one member seemingly playing in their own world, and even in their own key, and all of sudden, all the ideas click into place and the quartet is in lock-step, dialed-in and delivering a heavyweight knockout blow in the title match. The jam built, intensified and peaked with such explosive power, it seemed that “Tweezer Reprise” was going to blow the front door down and annihilate everyone inside at that very moment. Alas, that didn’t happen here but the “Light” jam had that same intense power.

The band then pivoted to a pair of tracks from 2014’s album, Fuego in “The Line” and “Wingsuit” before another nod towards the impending Halloween shows. Haunted House’s “Your Pet Cat” followed the soaring “Wingsuit”.

“What’s the Use?” a song that most often emerges mid-set out of a spacey, psychedelic jam, was started without any transition out of another song nor used as vehicle to kick off another song. It stood alone, quietly yet majestically and while it is no longer a setlist rarity, it is still usually quite a welcome addition to the setlist.

A high energy “Possum” was the call to close the set after some, shall we say, reflective moments in the set that lacked energy since “Light.” The rollicking “Possum” had a handful of “Call To The Post” teases and was quite jubilant.

Big Boat’s happy go-lucky, positive messaged “More” was the choice for the encore. Sometimes less is “More” and it sure seemed that most would have preferred Phish to ditch the “More” and bust right into “Tweezer Reprise” that seemed imminent all night. But in the biggest surprise of the night, the band bowed, exited stage right without “Reprise” and put a lid on the 21st Birthday party show. Or did they? Phish strolled back on stage amid the frenetic energy and cheering and obliged the crowd with an extremely rare double encore. And again, while it seemed this would be the spot to finally drop the “Reprise,” the band had another equally compelling choice and busted out one of the biggest jam titans of all Phish songs: “You Enjoy Myself.” Not much else needs to be said with an exclamation point to the show and the three-show run like that. It was played with precision and perfectly executed cover-to-cover and adds quite nicely to the rich tapestry that Hampton has already stitched. If this was show 21 and the venue just becoming “legal,” one can only imagine what is in store as the venue “grows up” and starts hitting its 30s. Bring it on Hampton.

The Skinny

The Setlist

The Venue

Hampton Coliseum [See upcoming shows]


20 shows
11/25/1995, 10/25/1996, 11/21/1997, 11/22/1997, 11/20/1998, 11/21/1998, 12/17/1999, 12/18/1999, 01/02/2003, 01/03/2003, 01/04/2003, 08/09/2004, 03/06/2009, 03/07/2009, 03/08/2009, 10/18/2013, 10/19/2013, 10/20/2013, 10/19/2018, 10/20/2018

The Music

9 songs / 8:05 pm to 9:21 pm (76 minutes)

11 songs / 9:59 pm to 11:52 pm (113 minutes)

20 songs
18 originals / 2 covers


22.11 [Gap chart]


All except Light

Skin It Back LTP 08/11/2015 (113 Show Gap)

You Enjoy Myself 21:32

Mexican Cousin 2:52

Junta - 1, A Picture of Nectar - 1, The Story of the Ghost - 1, Farmhouse - 1, Round Room - 2, Joy - 2, Fuego - 2, Big Boat - 1, Misc. - 7, Covers - 2

The Rest

49° and clear at showtime

Koa 1

Capacity: 13,800

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