Words by: Jennifer Fei
Images by: Paul Citone
Phish :: 10.31.16 :: MGM Grand Garden Arena :: Las Vegas
I have to admit I cried like a baby and barely danced during Phish‘s musical costume set on Halloween night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. I would not consider myself to be the biggest David Bowie fan, but when he passed away earlier this year, my children endured a week long musical lesson on Bowie and his music in between my crying fits. Phish covering The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars was one of the most heartfelt costume sets this band has performed to date.
The first two songs of set, “Five Years” and “Soul Love,” eased the crowd into this album, but it was “Moonage Daydream” that would get MGM Grand Arena moving. Trey’s guitar solo at the end of the song was restrained yet beautifully done. I am sure David Bowie’s electric eyes were on us that night. Each of the four members were able to honor Bowie in their own way. Trey and Page took on most of the singing, but Mike took the lead on “Starman” and Fishman had his turn on “Star.” If you want to criticize the strained singing of Fishman, then you’re missing the point. This costume set was intended to pay respect, not to create perfection. Even the off-key singing wouldn’t take away from my enjoyment of this set.
“Ziggy Stardust” was the one song I longed to hear Phish play. Page took the lead on vocals and one of the most playful moments of the set was when Trey and Page both sang into the same microphone. The famous guitar riffs flowed from Trey’s guitar and tears continued to flow down my face. Watching my favorite guitarist play those notes that I know so well was so overwhelming. It wasn’t because the jam was particularly long or loud. In fact, I noticed Trey’s guitar was lower on the mix this set, possibly on purpose. This was a moving group effort.
The album finishes with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” and once again Trey stepped out front to sing without a guitar as he did earlier in the set during “It Ain’t Easy.” Leaving the restraints of the guitar behind him, Trey was able to sing this song with increased emotion. This was the most poignant song and many tears were shed as Trey sang “I’ve had my share. I will help you with the pain. You’re not alone.” The band played beautifully and ended the costume set with a song about hope.
David Bowie made so many people feel less alone through his persona and songs. His legacy includes so much more than the music. His legacy is one of community and acceptance: the same things that make Phish and their fans so unique. We are allowed to be as weird as we want to be. David Bowie was a pioneer for weirdness and Phish’s tribute to him on Monday night was a remarkable way to say thanks.
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