Remembering The Night Phish Returned From Breakup In Hampton
Today marks 11 years since Phish returned to the stage for the first of three shows at Hampton Coliseum that ended a near five-year breakup. The band has been going strong since that fateful tension-and-joy filled evening and will embark on a lengthy summer tour later this year.
Let’s look back at the coverage we ran the day after Phish’s long-awaited return. But, we can’t kick this post off properly without sharing video of one of the most glorious moments in the Vermonters’ history – when they came out and nailed “Fluffhead” captured by MKDevo:
Now here are a pair of reviews JamBase ran about “The Return”:
Words by: Brian Bavosa
Phish :: 03.06.09 :: Hampton Coliseum :: Hampton, VA
For the last fifteen years of my life, THEY taught me the meaning of tension and release. Since October 1, the tension has been mounting. Before sex, before the pure golf shot, before witnessing a no-hitter, there was THEM: TreyMikePageFish. Tonight, THEY came back: like an old flame that you knew was meant to be in your life, the one you were destined to end up with ’til death do you part.
Oftentimes in big sports match-ups, you hear an announcer say, “This is a statement game.” Well, for the almighty band of our jam band generation – Phish – tonight, their first show in four-and-a-half years, was a chance to redeem one of the most embarrassing bow-outs in rock history (cough cough, Coventry). And, with one simple chord, the statement reigned true…
The first time played since 2000, (and first show opener since ’91), The Boys made sure the phaithful and new alike were aware who was in charge – today and always. The place flipped-out.
Over the next hour and fifty minutes — yes, almost two hours — the band played a seventeen song first set, basically double the normal length. With such old-school chestnuts as “Divided Sky,” “Chalkdust Torture” and a set closing “David Bowie,” there was no mistaking the fact that Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell and Jon Fishman were very consciously making their statement. And they delivered, erasing the painful memories and bitter taste many fans have had in their mouth since the debacle that was Coventry.
When the lights dropped this time, as opposed to MSG ’02, I couldn’t help but think the roles were reversed. In ’02, the fans were ready for Phish. I honestly felt after last night’s show, the band was more ready than we were. And goddamn, they sounded good. To my ears, last night’s MVP was without a doubt McConnell. He was louder in the mix and contributed MUCH more than in the later, post-hiatus years, filling gaps effortlessly and adding some much welcomed funk in songs like a stellar “Suzy Greenberg.”
The second set opened with “Backwards Down the Number Line,” and it was a very strong first effort. This will certainly be a tune the band and fans alike will grow to love, as its potential is limitless. A funky “Tweezer” gave way to a soaring “Theme From the Bottom.” In my opinion, these are the best jams Phish plays – the triumphant, yet delicate peaking thunder much in the vein of a “Slave,” “Reba,” or “Harry Hood” — which coincidentally came a few short songs later and witnessed a new lighting rig placed over the middle of the crowd as the band led us through a glorious version.
“You Enjoy Myself” saw the band start in the wrong key and have Trey restart it, but with a good laugh. It was the only blemish on the evening’s monstrous performance. Toss in a triple encore of “Grind,” in which each member sang the exact number of how many days they have been alive, “Bouncing Around the Room,” and a smoking “Loving Cup” (one of their best encores), the show clocked in at exactly FOUR hours and twenty minutes.
It’s safe to say that PHISH is back, in a big way, reminding fans that after 4.5 years away, they are rededicated, refreshed and ready to rock. Welcome back boys, we’ve missed you.
Words by: Jesse Borrell
Phish :: 03.06.09 :: Hampton Coliseum :: Hampton, VA
It was almost as if I didn’t know what I was missing until I heard their familiar sound once again. The last couple years have been a wild ride on this Earth, and the possibility for great personal growth and redefinition since we last met in 2004 created an air of heightened camaraderie throughout the grounds of the Hampton Coliseum. Cruising around the lot before the show, it was great to be a part of the spectacle. With anticipation high, many colorful fans outside hoped to experience their own miracles wandering around with a finger in the air trying to get into the sold out arena. As the lucky few ventured inside, it didn’t take long to realize we were truly involved in something special.
From the opening notes of “Fluffhead,” the Hampton Coliseum went wild before a well- rehearsed Phish now in full control. Positioned on stage in an evenly spread formation that rendered all performers equal, the intricate compositions were almost inaudible beneath the crowd’s noise. Diving in and out of the multi-textured stanzas, it was not far into “Divided Sky” that I realized just how much I had missed these quirky self-expressions. There are countless phans who live by these truths in their everyday lives, but the verification of seeing it first-hand reminded me of the ease and capacity with which this band creates soaring poetic dialogues.
And just like that, classics from the Phish catalogue were flying by; manifesting an epic setlist that can be described as anything but predictable. The fleeting reflective moments within “Horn” and “Water In The Sky” gave the audience a necessary chance to readjust their bearings and take it all in. At just under two hours, a generous amount of music ended the first set with ambitious staples “Squirming Coil” and “David Bowie.” Give and take between the band and the lighting rig formed numerous menacing exchanges above and around us. At times no one could tell who was taking the lead, and it is during these attempts at deciphering the apparitions that we have come to expect somewhere near the apex of Phish. There is just nothing like it.
Almost as if fresh off the pages of The New York Times (read it here), “Backwards Down The Number Line” opened the second set and created a retrospective mood as Tom Marshall‘s lyrics described the capacities of life-long friendships in its official debut. During “Tweezer,” any anticipatory hype revolving around Phish playing with similar manic energy as if “it was 1995” should have been completely forgotten – it is here and it is now.
The familiar thumps of “First Tube” built some serious pressure within the confines of The Mothership, creating an almost effortless, therapeutic atmosphere of tension and release throughout its journey. The jam rocketing out of “Harry Hood” exhibited the confident, pure, immense influx of cutting edge hard rock that has existed periodically during Phish’s illustrious career.
Trey’s miscue at the start of “You Enjoy Myself” was a possible reference to a past Hampton show mistake, and created a lighthearted mood for the heavy hitter that continued straight on through to the classic trampoline jam we all knew was coming. Throughout “Y.E.M.,” all four band members stepped up and put everything on the line beneath a complex light show and before a crowd that’s very state of being seemed to hang in the balance.
As the large amorphous spheres fell from the ceiling during the “Bouncing Around The Room” encore, I was reminded once again just how much the fan/artist relationship is intrinsically intertwined. What the band does and how they perform will influence us, but we will also influence the band – and more importantly we influence each other. Clearly, after this huge comeback show, we’ve got another chance at this. Maybe we can all do things a little different and remember to take stock in the big picture. Enjoy the moment, for it is here.
[Originally published March 6, 2018]