Saturday 10/29/2016 by phishnet

VEGAS1 RECAP: TRULY THE AGE OF MIRACLES

[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome back guest contributor David Goldstein for this recap. - lbc]

When individuals recap Phish concerts, or any live music experience for that matter, sometimes there’s a tendency to focus on intangibles that don’t necessarily come across on a soundboard recording. Some of these include the weather, size and make of the venue, or even “the energy in the room,” commonly invoked to somehow justify lackluster song selection or poor playing, as in “yeah, I know they played “The Line,” “Number Line,” and “Friday” all in the second set, but you had to experience the energy in the room, maaaan.”

All of which is to say that I happen to be reviewing Phish’s Friday night Las Vegas show from the cozy confines of my living room couch, so intangibles are essentially limited to the quality of the IPAs and salinity of the bottomless bowl of Chex mix I (and two friends) consumed while watching it. The sightlines are courtesy of my 42 inch Samsung in conjunction with Apple TV, I can actually hear the show from the (short!) bathroom line, and the role of Chris Kuroda is relegated to a handheld strobe light / mirror ball hybrid that my two-year old accurately refers to as her “disco party.” This recap will focus entirely on the musical performance itself, which given Las Vegas’s several distractions and detrimental effect on one’s memory, may not be such a bad thing.

Photo © Rene Huemer
Photo © Rene Huemer

I’ll begin by stating that at least to these ears, barring a Tuesday night second set from Grand Prairie, Texas that tiptoed the fine line between “confusing” and “purposely messing with us,” Phish Fall Tour 2016 has been a marked improvement over its summer counterpart; an upswing that began with the tour closer proper in Chula Vista and has seldom let up since. The consecutive two night runs in Nashville and Alpharetta, Georgia were especially strong, and that may have been the case even if the first night of Nashville hadn’t featured a nearly 50-minute guest appearance in which Phish treated Bobby Weir not with kid gloves, but like the wily psychedelic master that he properly is. Hopefully the coffee I consumed at 5 pm will allow me to be awake for the inevitable Trey ballad that should hit around 2 AM East Coast time. Let us proceed.

After a brief rash of technical difficulties that have sadly become all too common with the streaming platform that Live Phish elects to use, we began a third of the way through a standard / good version of “Martian Monster” replete with the echoplex effects that Trey often employs during the jam. This was followed by a speedier than usual “No Men in No Man’s Land,” which has recently been surfacing early in first sets as Phish’s preferred method of getting quickly funky a’la “The Moma Dance.” This version featured a patient mid-section before the expected trilling towards the end; hardly the minor key Type II monster that was the recent Dick’s version, but still a solidly played take on what’s arguably Phish’s strongest new song. This was followed by one of those teasingly long between song Trey delays where he excitedly talks to every band member for several seconds at a time, gesticulating wildly, raising audience expectations, before inevitably settling on “555,” “Ocelot” or “Halfway to the Moon.” Except this time it resulted in something legitimately cool, the first version of “Dogs Stole Things” in over four years! A fun song that my couch compatriots and I had legitimately forgot existed, it was clearly practiced beforehand, and followed up nicely by the bluegrass jam “Beauty of My Dreams,” another six-year bust out that also contained a plucked Mike Gordon solo.

Destiny Unbound” continued the run of quality first set song choices, and the beginning of “Limb x Limb” coincided with the conclusion of Game 3 of the 2016 World Series. Another screen in my living room clearly portrayed the Cleveland Indians’ Cody Allen striking out the Chicago Cubs’ Javy Baez in the bottom of the 9th inning with runners on second and third, thusly bringing the energy level at Wrigley Field to a level even lower than when Trey thought it would be a smart idea to debut “Miss You” there. The “Limb” itself was well played and standard, then giving way to the Ben Folds style piano rock of Page McConnell’s “Home,” surprisingly only played for the second time this tour despite being an obvious Big Boat highlight. The second half of this song has always seemed ripe for improvisation, and tonight featured a highly enjoyable micro-jam with peals of dissonance, Trey fanning his guitar Jerry Garcia “Morning Dew”-style, and even some well-placed Mike Gordon Taurus pedal bombs. The effect was not unlike some of the messier parts of a good “Split Open and Melt,” with much set closing potential. “When the Circus Comes” was well placed and fine, but even better was a rare first set appearance of “Steam,” stretched out to nearly 11 minutes with some ambient improvisation that found Trey making Halloween appropriate “ooooo” noises over guitar loops and Mike’s power drill. The jump into “The Wedge” seemed a tad abrupt, but this set was already a contender for the Best First Set of Fall Tour, and that’s even before concluding with “Cavern” and “Walls of the Cave,” the latter of which has a composed section that always reminds me of the Legend of Zelda soundtrack for some reason. Let’s just say that Trey and the boys clearly located the Red Ring and harnessed the power of the Triforce in this most excellent first set.

Photo © Your Cinema
Photo © Your Cinema

In our strive for Couch Tour authenticity, apartment setbreak music consisted of Steve Gunn’s Way Out Weather album, which I believe that Phish have used as setbreak music in the past. Steve Gunn is to these ears is the single most exciting six-stringer in 2016 not named Trey Anastasio, and you should seek out every one of his records immediately.

A “Crimes of the Mind” Set II opener? Ha! Not only is it the first time Phish has played the song since 2009, but it’s perhaps the only song from the Dude of Life album of the same name that could be considered “legitimately good,” as opposed to “so bad, it’s good” (looking at you “Lucy in the Subway”). Few songs in the Phish repertoire have choruses that are as fun to belt out after a few libations, and it was around this time in the evening that myself and the other two individuals on the couch in comparing the quality of this show to Grand Prairie began to think that maybe, just maybe, Phish really hates the state of Texas?

Until twelve hours ago, in my mind, the two best versions of Phish’s cover of TV On the Radio’s “Golden Age” both occurred within a week of each other, 10/20/13 from Hampton Coliseum and 10/27/13 from the Hartford Civic Center. Both featured extended improvisations with wah-infused funk jamming, some stop-start bits, and Page filling in the gaps nicely on “Lil Pumpkin,” his Wurlitzer-esque electric piano. They were both very good. Fine. The version of “Golden Age” from 10/28/16 has now rendered them as inconsequential as a “Show of Life” encore. Clocking in at just under 26 minutes, the jam begins with a good mix of syncopation and atonal Page weirdness before leaving its home key of C Major and making a left turn into the key of F before proceeding to peak at least four separate times and melt numerous faces in its bloody wake. My handwritten notes are a chicken scratch mess that seem to read “Peaks! Peaks! Peaks,” “this is certifiably insane” and “DO YOU LIKE MUSIC?” Unquestionably the best “Golden Age” Phish has played to date, and possibly their single best jam of 2016 as a whole, it was nothing short of glorious, and a prime example of Why We Continue To Do THIS.

The F Major theme continued with a hard segue into “Simple,” which I’m told featured something like a tease of Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” to which I say, sure? And on any other night the ensuing “Light,” which was considerably funky and stretched out to a solid degree, would be a show highlight. But at this point my neurons, and I will assume the neurons of those in attendance, were so fried from the “Golden Age,” that “Light” will need to settle for being merely “very, very good.” “Twenty Years Later” was perfectly placed, and though perhaps the 4th Quarter is an odd spot for a standard version of “Blaze On,” it was well done, and one has to marvel how Trey and Tom Marshall equated a liar with the Messiah, thus predicting the Trump campaign by a good year and a half.

Squirming Coil” was the fitting cool down that everyone, on the couch or otherwise, required, and the double B encore of “Bouncin” and “Bold As Love” was more than fine. Though we’re clearly still in the Honeymoon phase here, and basking in the light of that “Golden Age,” this was easily one of the strongest top to bottom Phish shows in 2016, as good a kick off to a four night Vegas run as anyone could hope for, and definitive proof that the second set of Grand Prairie night 2 was an aberration. Onward.

Photo © Stephen Olker
Photo © Stephen Olker

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Comments

, comment by TweezingSpaceRanger
TweezingSpaceRanger Good review. That Golden Age was probably the jam of the year in my opinion as well. I can't wait to see what the band brings tonight!
, comment by tarfu7
tarfu7 Great review! And what a show. You're right - these shows are the reason we go!
, comment by ckess22
ckess22 ahem...year turnaround really got going at Bill Graham, in my opinion.
Regardless, your antipathy for the ballads makes me chuckle a bit. Awesome show. Man golden age is a melter.
, comment by Ravinus
Ravinus You accuse Trump of being the liar. Lol...that's classic.
, comment by AndySlash
AndySlash i did not know phish has used steve gunn's 'way out weather' as setbreak music. that's cool. i'm just commenting to wholeheartedly second your recommendation for folks unfamiliar to gobble up any steve gunn that they might be able to find.
, comment by L1verK1ck
L1verK1ck Can we pleeeeaaaassse stop saying summer tour 16 wasn't up to par.
Also keep the politics out of Phish reviews. There are countless better ways to get your point across. Trump is a dick! Not sure why this is such a revelation to everyone. Hillary is a criminal not sure why this fact seems to be forgotten when discussing these TWO clowns.
Anywho... Great show!
, comment by mgouker
mgouker Solid review of one of the finest shows of the tour. I rank this one, 2nd night of Nashville, and 2nd night of Alpharetta as standouts so far. The band is on a high right now, happy and making great music.
, comment by Longhaireddan
Longhaireddan The assholey holier than thou jaded vet crap in the first three paragraphs is why I always check Jambase reviews first.
The rest of the review is shot through with the same crap. Why would anyone want to consider your opinions when they are presented in such a supercilious manner? I don't like Miss You any more than you, but I think you need to find another hobby.
, comment by Bogotafee5514
Bogotafee5514 I really think phish did get subtleley political last night. A big F you to Trump and a fist bump to Hilldawg!! Golden Age, which ive relistened to start to finish twice since hearing it go down on Mixlr is amazing-simply put. So much purpose and bliss while also staying out there painting stteet art in space with rainbow spray paint!!! And the steam and light were really a nice suite along with GA with the same or similar themes. Fall 16'!!! So great to have a band like Phish!! Peace and love but fans voting for trump i say read the phucking book and if that doesnt sway you to vote HD in 10 days maybe find a new band that doesnt feel the polar oppisite as you about who should be president. Will never bring politics into phish again after this uber/historically important election is over!!! Obama is going on Bill Maher next friday. Be grateful and enjoy these next 3 friends, never know when we wont be able to see the best touring american band on the planet and one pulling off golden ages for the ages and would make ole Bird proud of its deep improvisation prowness and beauty.
, comment by Arbs_Pheld
Arbs_Pheld Really happy the boys took Golden Age deep in big time fashion!

Definitely agree that this could be the jam of the year thus far. There's something very cool about this song in general, and I have always been a huge proponent of jamming this out as opposed to say C&P, which is also pretty heavy in rotation as a set 2 opener. However, C&P in my opinion just does not sound as fresh as it once did (not to mention all those "still waiting" teases are plain boring and annoys the hell out of me).

Golden Age for some reason seems fresher than ever and what a gem of a performance this one was!
, comment by Bogotafee5514
Bogotafee5514 C&P had a great year but i agree!! Needs to shelve til 18'. Bring out 7 below!! And yea love those fall 13' golden ages and the deer creek last summer golden age>light>boogie on segment is underatted. Last nights was just incredible. Light had similar jam going too. Yee Haw!!! Straight Blusher hand they played!! Vive Phish Las Bangers!!!
, comment by pabalive
pabalive Great review and trump as liar and messiah is spot on. I will never hear that line and think of it any other way again, great stuff.
, comment by MKnapik
MKnapik I agree with @CKESS22 - The Forum show wasn't as terrible as people make it out to be!
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten If you need to denegrare other Phish tours, shows or songs in order to boost up what is clearly one of the best shows of recent years then you are probably not that creative of a writer. The trick is...
, comment by JMart
JMart 1. Summer tour 2016 *did* suck. It had moments, but they were few.
2. I don't mind negative opinions about the ballads; I thought they were funny.
3. Seriously, though. Keep the politics out of the reviews and OFF of this board.
4. This is a good review and all,
But isn't the .net community big enough to find someone who was actually at the show to review it?!?!
, comment by pacolikestacos
pacolikestacos Dear BOGOTAFEE5514,

Read your comment again (and try not to cringe at the tenuous grasp you have on the English language) about a review of a phish show in Las Vegas. What the hell is the matter with you? You have less than zero right to tell any phan of this band that we love that they need to "find a new band" because they don't vote the way you want them to. Screw you jerkoff.
, comment by peacey
peacey @twicebitten summed this review up quite nicely I think.
, comment by citiescreek
citiescreek You do realize that Miss You is a follow up to Joy about Trey's sister passing...... Them debuting it at Wrigley was one of the highlights of my summer. Bob Weir tossed on Big Boat on his flight to Nashville and requested that he not only play that with them, but also to sing it. That moment meant more to me than words can say and I was actually there not sitting on my couch with my thousand mile magnifying glass and shitty attitude like you at Vegas.
, comment by Bogotafee5514
Bogotafee5514 Hey Paco,

Sorry my writing isnt inside the box and written to your standards but with a little grammatical editing and spell check perhaps Its fine and you're grasping at strings because my grasp of the english language is quite good and I've even taught is as a foreign language in my expat days. It occurred from being lazy, and I agree I like my .net discussing phish's music and its criticism, praise, insights and critiques of that music not have errors in it. So I've dually noted your criticisms and promise to not have poorly edited comments regarding show reviews in the future and will also clean it up in on the threads if necessary. Will just have to agree to disagree on the rest but will happily never include any mention of the P word on a phish message board. Its completely out of my mind here on out that at shows I'm getting down with supporters of that orange guy. Live and let live-Blaze On. Lastly i am taken so cant do the screw. But good luck with that. GO PHISH FALL '16!!!!!!!
, comment by Happyone
Happyone Right, leave Phish out of politics...Trey said as much in a recent interview.
, comment by stustau
stustau Thank you reviewer for not forgetting us poor saps in the Dallas area. Wednesday was top 10 or 20 worst days of my life.
, comment by JughedJones
JughedJones You're not good at writing.
, comment by TimPhishMit
TimPhishMit Small side note worth noting, simply because it never got mentioned. The "Cavern" from this show is really rocking and spot-on. It sounded like it was exactly what the doctor ordered at that point in the set, and I believe everybody taught their shoes a lesson during that one!
, comment by Bogotafee5514
Bogotafee5514 You Enjoy Myself
, comment by AntelopeFlashMob
AntelopeFlashMob Two things: There are a number of "Golden Age"s over the last few years that rock the whole building. (Raleigh 2015 which I was there for was absurdly good) but yes this is the new benchmark. Were there Antelope tease in there??

Also: "Light" omg too nice. Is this a jam vehicle from here on out? Just full-on blast your eyes out light?!?!
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