Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Marshall
Vocals: Trey (lead) Mike, Page (backing)
Original Artist: Trey Anastasio
Last Update: 2014-10-04
During one of their first writing sessions after the 2004 "breakup," Trey gave lyricist Tom Marshall some books he had recently read, including The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. In Tolle's book the protagonist comes to the life-altering realization that he and his mind are separate entities, an epiphany that brought him great happiness. Though Tom was was not overly impressed by the book (saying "It didn't really make sense"), he was sufficiently intrigued by the concept that he used it as the basis for a song: "Light."
Lyrically “Light” seems to mesh Tolle's concept of the separateness of mind and being with references to someone emerging from a dark period in their life they would like to leave behind. Possibly a reference to Trey’s struggles with substance abuse, the lyrics poignantly balance the optimism of recovery with the uncertainty of a new lifestyle as Trey sings, “I think I’m still me / But how would you know?”
"Light" 8/9/11 Stateline, NV
Musically, the debut of “Light” by Trey’s solo band on 8/7/08 was quite tentative, as both Trey and his band mates seemed unfamiliar with the song. “Light” made its Phish debut on 5/31/09 at Fenway Park rising out of “Tweezer.” While the Fenway version was well played, Phish seemed similarly unsure of what to do with the song, resulting in a concise reading. The next version on 6/14/09 at Bonnaroo was a more stretched out affair, but was ultimately outshone by the 500-watt performance on 8/7/09 at the Gorge. Providing one of the highlights of what many consider to be the best show of 2009, the jam out of “Light” developed into an airy, bouncy, almost “Hood”-like jam, compelling the band to add additional vocal accompaniment in the form of several "Ooohs" before segueing into “Taste.” Three months later, "Light" would receive its most prominent set placement to date, appearing in the middle of a "Mike's" > "2001" > "Light" > "Slave" sandwich that closed out the final set of Festival 8.
After being played sporadically during the summer, "Light" made five appearances on the thirteen show 2009 Fall Tour (including four appearances in the coveted early, second set position), and quickly became one of Phish's most reliable improvisational vehicles. While 11/29/09, 12/2/09 and 12/5/09 all feature strong renditions, the 12/2/09 version from Madison Square Garden shines the brightest.
"Light" continued to shine brightly in 2010. Summer tour delivered the 8/7/10 "Light" which included a jam that would have been completely at home in a mid-'90s version of "Bowie." Fall 2010 versions tended towards sparser, more percussive journeys (see 10/19/10 and 10/26/10). The 10/26/10 version, in particular (from a show that contains an embarrassment of riches), stands out as the most interesting of the bunch. Though 2011 was, oddly, a comparatively unadventurous year for "Light," the 8/9/11 version that emerged from the depths of nearby Lake Tahoe is a true monster and should not be missed. Both 7/3/11 and 8/15/11 also contain a few twists and turns and are worth seeking out.
”Light” 9/1/12 Commerce City, CO
After a relatively dim 2011, “Light” shone much brighter in 2012. The renditions from 6/16/12 and 6/23/12 represent strong versions from the Summer 2012 tour many cite as an inflection point in the band’s current trajectory. The 6/16/12 version from Bader Field weaves in and out of “Manteca” and is infused with “Crosseyed and Painless” quotes before building to a glorious peak. The 6/23/12 Star Lake version featured a jam that ran the gamut from themes that recalled the SBIX “Storage Jam” to bouncy, melodic playing. The 7/1/12 version was almost Dead-like in places, reminding some fans of “Crazy Fingers” or “Mind Left Body” jams. The second leg of the tour featured 1.21 gigawatt versions on 8/19/12 (positively brilliant, building to a furious peak into “Sally”) and 9/1/12 (culminating in what can only be described as among the most magnificent jams Phish has ever performed).
While some have argued that 2013 marked a significant step forward for the band, it would be hard to say the same with respect to “Light.” Happily, that is more of a testament to the power of the 2012 renditions than an indictment of those from 2013. Strong 2013 versions include 7/5/13 SPAC (takes a while to lift off, but when it does… BLISS), 7/14/13 Merriweather (with a start/stop proto-”Woo!” jam) and 8/4/13 BGCA (sticks to the “Light” theme, but does so with authority). Phish saved the best “Light” of 2013 for last, the post-”Auld Lang Syne” > “Fuego” calypso-infused version from the third set of 12/31/13.
”Light” 12/31/13 New York, NY
The percussive soundscapes of “Light” dotted the fourth quarter of many summer 2014 second sets (all are very good, but don’t miss 7/19/14). One exception is Randall’s Island 7/13/14 where it formed part of a set opening “Chalk Dust” > “Light” > “Tweezer” suite some have labelled as the best hour of the 3.0 era. The jam hints at “Foam,” “Divided Sky” and “Mind Left Body Jam” without outright teasing any of them.
Finally, any discussion of “Light” would be incomplete without mentioning the studio version that many consider to be the highlight of Joy, featuring Mike channeling John Entwistle, in providing some meaty, beaty, big and bouncy bass runs.
”Light” 7/13/14 New York, NY