This Feels So Good: Phish Opens Summer Tour In St. Paul – Recap, Setlist & The Skinny
Wednesday night’s Summer Tour opening Phish concert proved the foursome of 50-year-olds that have been hosting shows across the country for over three decades has so far avoided becoming an ever-dreaded nostalgia act. Returning to the stage for their first show of 2016 on U.S. soil since a destination event in Mexico in January, and playing for the first time at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, Phish’s night of firsts included the debut of an impressive new light display and a pair of sets highlighted by a number of bust outs of long-shelved songs.
For the first time Phish opened with guitarist Trey Anastasio’s “Pigtail” which was being played for the first time since its debut on December 28, 2010. The bust out of the track from Trey’s album Traveler was trailed by the typically slinky funk of “Wolfman’s Brother.” A shout of “Welcome!” from Anastasio who then proclaimed “this feels so good” preceded another bust out, as he howled out the start of the traditional bluegrass rarity “Daniel Saw The Stone,” last seen on June 30, 2012. The sample intro of “The Dogs” sent the audience howling in response as bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman propelled the song’s burst of intensity.
“Undermind” saw nimble work from keyboardist Page McConnell who then shined on a mega-bust out performance of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence,” played for the first time since the band’s famed White Album Halloween show in 1994 (a 796 show gap). A touch of improvisation crept into the latter portion of “Stash” which was followed by Gordon leading another bust out, the first “Round Room” since New Year’s Day 2011. Longtime first set favorite “Horn” showcased Anastasio’s signature soaring solo and more bluegrass emerged with a bust out cover of “Uncle Pen” – not played since summer of 2012. The lyric referencing nearby Duluth in the lively McConnell-led “Halfway To The Moon” drew a cheer from the Minnesota audience. Page’s piano intro to “Walls Of The Cave” brought about the final song of the rarity-layden first half.
The second set began with a classic “Mike’s Groove” composed of a compact delivery of the familiar “Mike’s Song” > “I Am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug Groove” trio. The ensuing sing-a-long “Bouncing Around The Room” served as a brief breather before “Ghost” took over, producing a forcefully concise jam embellished with a “Little Drummer Boy” tease from Trey. A quick take on “The Line” came next and the succeeding “Simple” again waded briefly into a spurt of group improvisation.
The bust outs weren’t reserved for the first set as The Velvet Underground’s “I Found A Reason” made its way back to a Phish setlist for the first time since Halloween 1998 when the band covered all of Loaded (a 493 show gap). Added to the band’s canon of originals at last year’s Summer Tour opener, “No Men In No Man’s Land” erupted in a shower of Anastasio’s ripping guitar notes while Fish pounded the song’s forceful rhythm. A mini-bust out compared to what came before, the ballad “Billy Breathes” was executed for the first time since the summer of 2014. It took little time for the trailing “Bathtub Gin” to reach soaring peaks out the uptempo jam that quickly developed out of the succinct second set closer.
Prior to the start of the encore, Anastasio talked about the guitar he was playing, noting it had been nearly as long since the last time the band played in the Twin Cities (2000) since he played the custom Paul Languedoc-built guitar. The first “Water In The Sky” encore in band history and a blistering “Character Zero” closed out one of the top Average Show Gap nights in Phish history.
Phish’s Summer Tour continues with the band’s first-ever appearance at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Friday and Saturday. A webcast is available via LivePhish.
Xcel Energy Center [See upcoming shows]
11 songs / 8:06 pm to 9:24 pm (78 minutes)
13 songs / 9:58 pm to 11:27 pm (89 minutes)
24 songs / 20 originals / 4 covers
84.44 [Gap chart]
Bathtub Gin - 13:09
I Am Hydrogen - 2:54
Junta - 0, Lawn Boy - 2, A Picture of Nectar - 1, Rift - 1, Hoist - 1, Billy Breathes - 2, The Story of the Ghost - 2, Farmhouse - 0, Round Room - 1, Undermind - 1, Joy - 0, Fuego - 2, Misc. - 7, Covers - 4
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