Summer is here and that means Phish is back on tour throughout the country. With shows in the mid-west behind them, Trey, Mike, Page, and Jon brought the tour to Upstate New York for a 4th of July weekend celebration. Saratoga Performing Arts Center is basically home turf for the foursome, as it’s right near the Vermont border, and the shows they have played at the venue throughout their career have always had an extra kick to them. Night one of this run did not break that streak.
Starting with a scorching “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan,” the band were able to set the tone for the evening. Following the brief rocker the band dipped into the first rendition of “The Birds” since Halloween 2014, much to the crowd’s delight. Any songs from that Halloween run are always welcomed by the crowd with wild enthusiasm and the band fed off the energy. A by the book “NICU” gave way to the first cover of the evening “Cities” by The Talking Heads. The song had its usual groove, but the band stretched out the jam slightly longer than they usually do. A beautiful “David Bowie” began off next with the crowd going wild as soon as they heard Fishman’s normal drum kick off. The song showed how in synch the band is with one another already on this short tour.
“Free” had a short Mike led jam in the middle section of the song that led into the bluegrass crowd favorite “Uncle Pen.” A great thing about this tour is the new lighting the band has behind them. The LED lights are a welcomed change to the usual lighting the band has had behind them. Page took over next with “Halfway to the Moon,” which debuted at SPAC in 2010, but is still considered a fairly new tune. The band has been debuting new songs this summer and they continued the trend with “Let’s Go,” a high tempo song that had a great middle section. Once the band is comfortable with the new song this section could really open up. A gorgeous “Waiting All Night” and a rocking “Bathtub Gin” followed and then it seemed as if the set was going to end with “Golgi Apparatus,” but after the big rock and roll finish Trey said “Ok, we’ll play one more” and the band went into the fan favorite “The Squirming Coil.” As Page was left alone on stage to end the song with a solo, the crowd went wild.
After the customary set break, the band launched into “Sand” and while it didn’t leave the confines of the regular song, there was a great jam that led into a wild “Carini” that kept turning at every corner. The jam kept the song’s dark tones throughout and had the crowd head banging and dancing in the aisles. “Chalk Dust Torture” arrived with a bang and was the highlight of the evening. Each member had took control of the jam and led the other three for the over 20 minute version. As the jam continued, Mike pushed it towards a very Pink Floyd like texture and as Trey leaned in on that, Page and Jon jumped right into the thick of it. Soon Trey put his guitar down and joined Jon on the drums, taking over the Marimba Lumina and then Mike went to join Page on the keys. The crowd went absolutely wild as the jam continued on and slowly dissipated into a by the books take on “Prince Caspian.”
A scorching “Bug” followed by yet another classic rock cover of “Shine a Light” was the celebration of the jam that just happened, but it never slowed down from there. “My Sweet One” was played for a sign from the balcony and bled into “Sleeping Monkey” that included lyrics from “My Sweet One” as well as “Say My Name.” A fun take on monkey led into an extremely funky “2001.” The crowd went wild as that song went right into “Fire” and the lyrics were changed to “Let Cactus take over” and led to a brief Mike solo. Coming back for the encore of “Character Zero” let the band leave the crowd with a rocker. With an opening night like this, all anyone could talk about while leaving was what the next two nights could bring.
Article: Bryan Lasky