Phish Tour 2021 – Setlist, Recap & The Skinny: Alpharetta

The second set opened with an impressive 26-minute "Chalk Dust Torture."

By Billy Jack Sinkovic Aug 1, 2021 7:14 am PDT

Phish tour continued on Saturday night with the first of two shows at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta, Georgia. The band’s return to the venue for the first time since 2018 featured an impressive 26-minute “Chalk Dust Torture” (the second-longest version to date) at the start of the second set.

A wise man once said that nostalgia is one helluva drug. And after the year and a half the denizens of this planet have had to endure, we could all use a little bit of that beautiful buzz. Looking back at 38 years of venues, hotel rooms, and parking lots, poster tubes, veggie burritos, and ticket stubs in our hands, robotic executioners, turtles in the clouds, and purple humpback whale, and the moment we find our decades-old companions on this ride, the high transcends all.

Phish got the show on the road earlier this week after an unplanned 17-month “hiatus” [wait … is this 4.0?], kicking off a tour of summertime sheds [and soccer fields]. Most of the dates were rescheduled from the ill-fated summer of 2020, with one distinct addition: Alpharetta, Georgia. Since their first visit to the amphitheater in 2010, when we learned that the lyrics to “Guelah Papyrus” contain clues to our nation’s hidden past, the band has played a total of 12 shows, ranging from “well above average” to “RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE.” And as this was the first show in over a year and a half for many, it was difficult not to have high expectations.

Lights down, and the band wasted no time. The “Sand” opener, co-written by the dearly departed Tony Markellis, was full-throttle, certainly more than just a warm-up. After the feel-good exhortations of “Everything’s Right” (“just hold tight”), a patient type-one jam slid into somewhat celestial territory, punctuated by lustrous musings from Page McConnell’s baby grand. A slow build, a big sustain from Trey Anastasio’s guitar, and after a brief second jaunt, the tune circled back around to remind us that “it’s gonna be alright!” “Turtle in the Clouds,” the lone Kasvot Växt selection of the evening, dissolved into the madness of “Maze.” Anastasio teased the crowd with an initial peak, and cheers erupted when he took a few more measures to shred before peaking again and finding his way out.

Bassist Mike Gordon took over on lead vocals for a quick romp through the fan-favorite “Destiny Unbound,” and then another rush of reminiscence took fans all the way back to 1988. “Foam” was once a setlist staple, but as of late, it had become a rarity, presumably due to the elaborate nature of the composition. But the soundcheck run-through in Arkansas paid off. The performance was nearly flub-free, and more notably, every elegant note of the instrumental break was played with purpose. “Stash” found spirited meanderings through shifting modes, held together with Jon Fishman’s clockwork cadence, and the “Bathtub Gin” singalong wrapped up the tightest first set of summer tour.

Read on after The Skinny for the rest of the recap and more.

The Skinny

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The Setlist

The Venue

Ameris Bank Amphitheatre [See upcoming shows]

12000

12 shows — 07/03/2010, 07/04/2010, 06/14/2011, 06/15/2011, 07/16/2013, 07/17/2013, 08/03/2014, 10/21/2016, 10/22/2016, 08/03/2018, 08/04/2018, 08/05/2018

The Music

8 songs / 7:53 pm to 9:15 pm (82 minutes)

11 songs / 9:49 pm to 11:24 pm (95 minutes)

19 songs / 19 originals / 0 covers

1996

6.58 [Gap chart]

None

All but Weekapaug Groove

Foam - LTP 07/09/2019 (25 Show Gap)

Chalk Dust Torture - 26:38

Shade - 4:23

Junta - 2, Lawn Boy - 1, A Picture of Nectar - 3, Rift - 2, Billy Breathes - 1, Farmhouse - 1, Kasvot Växt - 1, Sigma Oasis - 3, Misc. - 5

The Rest

83° and Partly Cloudy at Showtime

Koa 4

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More Skinny

When a song has been played 480 times over a 30-year span, there’s bound to be a multitude of memories attached to it. “Chalk Dust Torture” frequently finds its home as a full-tilt show opener, and subsequently, it’s the first song that many fans heard the band play live. But when it becomes the point of departure for a second set, there is seemingly no limit to the magic that the song can manifest. So, when the blistering outro jam seemed headed towards a quick conclusion, many wondered if this version would be more like its first-set counterpart, and magic would be found elsewhere. But after one final request to live while we’re young, the song took flight.

Fishman’s thrashing stayed true to the song’s composed rhythm, while guitar and notably melodic bass lines wound around one another. New themes emerged aloft a sea of synth, with a subtle exercise in tension and release that seemed to focus less on peaks and valleys and more on melodic exploration. The sea of sound quieted a little but never lost an ounce of gas, and after a few blissful musings from Trey’s guitar, the final build slowly began. The long-awaited major-key climax, heavily layered with psychedelic synth, was reduced to rubble by intergalactic bass bombs, and “Steam” slithered its way out from beneath the shattered remnants. “Steam” quickly gave way to a unique “Prince Caspian” that maintained a full and elaborately textured cadence before dissolving in a quagmire of alien goo.

Old-school standards “Golgi Apparatus” and “AC/DC Bag” delivered a quick one-two punch to the ol’ nostalgia bone, and “Shade” seemed to fit the late second set breather slot just as comfortably as the ballads of yesteryear. The end of the evening was drawing near, but the string of classics wasn’t over. “Silent in the Morning” was bookended by a brief but concise “Mike’s Song” and a “Weekapaug Groove” built patiently to a triumphant finale. “A Life Beyond The Dream,” from Trey and Fish’s Ghosts Of The Forest project, kicked off the two-song encore, and after Fish unleashed a flurry of samples from the foggy “Cavern,” the crowd slipped off into the night. More shows to be seen, more memories to be made. Take care of those shoes, and get ready for night two.

Phish tour continues on Sunday with another show in Alpharetta, Georgia. A webcast is available via LivePhish.com. SiriusXM Phish Radio will also broadcast the concert. Watch pro-shot video of the 26-minute “Chalk Dust Torture” below:


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