Phish Kicks Off 2018 Visit To Merriweather Post Pavilion – Recap, Setlist & The Skinny
Phish played the first of two shows at Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, their first trip in three years to the venue, which underwent a major renovation last winter. One night after seemingly having as much fun on stage as they’ve had all summer, the band got serious about the music Saturday night. After a solid first set that showcased material from Phish’s last decade, the band played a short five-song second set that featured an excellent pair of jams in “Mercury” > “Ghost.”
The band opened with the summer’s fifth “Blaze On.” Trey Anastasio helmed a straightforward version with a clean, focused solo. The “Party Time” that followed featured some bouncy dexterity from Jon Fishman, in a slightly extended version that was pure good vibes. Next was “Breath and Burning,” which returned after a 23-show hiatus, its longest since its 2016 debut. After a relatively flub-free “Sugar Shack,” the Page McConnell-sung “Home” made its first appearance of the year. In the ballad slot, “Joy” made it six consecutive 3.0 songs to open the show.
“Stash” broke that streak. The tune was given a more old school, by-the-book treatment, reminding the audience that a simple guitar-led tension and release jam is still a great recipe for “Stash.” “46 Days” followed, and took a brief psychedelic turn before Anastasio put on his rock star hat, leading the band to a thundering peak to close the brief first set.
In the second-set-opening “Sand,” the band sounded as tight as you’d expect them to be with the tour entering its final stretch. Rather than building relentlessly to a peak, as in other recent versions, Trey’s restrained, intentional guitar lines led the band through a funky haze that set the tone well for the set to come. Mike Gordon was the engine of the driving jam that followed “Mercury,” setting the stage for some more excellent textured playing from Trey, as Page created color with his synth and piano. The jam got quieter, resulting in some of the band’s best ambient jamming since the final show at The Gorge two weekends ago.
Following perhaps the finest “Mercury” to date, the “Ghost” succeeded by taking a different tack entirely. After a few major key minutes that seemed like they could’ve led in any of a number of directions, the band took a trip to this tour’s improvisatory locale of choice: the land of the bliss jam. This was an exceptional example of the form, as the quartet rode Mike’s melodic bass lines to an explosively ebullient peak. The “Fuego” that followed was the set’s first jam that didn’t quite amount to anything, quickly fading into “Slave to the Traffic Light.” This “Slave” had a few moments of lovely delicate interplay between Trey and Mike en route to the song’s customary uplifting climax.
Five songs and just over an hour after it began, the set was over. Though it featured some excellent jamming, the set seemed to be missing a third quarter. Either way, a pair of brief sets left the band plenty of time before curfew, and they made the most of it, first playing strong versions of “20 Years Later” and “Martian Monster,” each appearing in its first encore. The show closed with two encore staples, “Rocky Top” and “Golgi Apparatus.”
The band returns to the stage at Merriweather on Sunday night. A webcast is available via LivePhish.com.
Merriweather Post Pavilion [See upcoming shows]
15 shows — 07/17/1992, 08/08/1998, 07/09/1999, 09/17/2000, 08/15/2009, 06/26/2010, 06/27/2010, 06/11/2011, 06/12/2011, 07/13/2013, 07/14/2013, 07/26/201, 07/27/2014, 08/15/2015, 08/16/2015
8 songs / 7:38 pm to 8:46 pm (68 minutes)
9 songs / 9:19 pm to 10:46 pm (87 minutes)
17 songs / 16 originals / 1 cover
12.18 [Gap chart]
Breath & Burning, Sugar Shack, Home, Rocky Top
Home - 29 Shows (LTP - 7/30/2017)
Mercury - 17:21
Rocky Top - 2:39
Junta - 1, A Picture of Nectar - 1, The Story of the Ghost - 1, Farmhouse - 1, Round Room - 1, Joy - 3, Fuego - 1, Big Boat - 3, Misc. - 4, Covers - 1
80° and mostly cloudy
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