Friday, October 15, 2010

Phish in Broomfield: The View from Suite 222

Phish has long considered Colorado to be their second home.  While their post-reunion tours of the past couple of years have mostly ignored the Western half of the country, we in the Mile High State have been fortunate to have multi-night stands at Red Rocks, Telluride and, just this past week, three nights at the brand new 1st Bank Center in Broomfield.  This new venue is small enough to provide an intimate atmosphere yet large enough for Phish to bring in their arena sized light show as well as the big rock sound they've developed so well over the years.  These three nights would see some awesome jams, heavy rock energy and a few surprises along the way.
The first night, 10/10/10, got underway with "Chalk Dust Torture," perhaps a predictable opener but still bringing a burst of energy into the room.  Strong versions of "The Moma Dance" and "Stash" highlighted a safe but well played first set.  Set 2 kicked off in fine form with a spectacular run of "Mike's Song," "Simple," "Ghost" and "Weekapaug Groove."  "Ghost" in particular went to a lot of interesting places and may just have been the best jam of all three shows.  Next the fun started with Trey Anastasio busting out his megaphone for the classic tune "Fee," the first song on Phish's debut album Junta.  A fun and funky rendition of "Makisupa Policeman" led to the debut performance of "My Problem Right There," a quirky little number that the crowd seemed to pick up on right away.  The ever-popular "Slave to the Traffic Light" was spot on and a rocking "Julius" closed the set.  The band returned for an encore of The Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup," an appropriate conclusion to a show dominated by strong versions of longtime favorites.
Show number two also began on a classic note with the pairing of "Runaway Jim" and "Foam," two songs that opened many a show in the early 90s.  While this set also focused on time-tested favorites, it did contain another debut song, Mike Gordon's funky "What Things Seem."  The set was highlighted by an amazing rendition of "Tweezer" that packed a ton of energy and innovation into its twelve minutes.  "Reba" built to a stunning climax and "Run Like an Antelope" ended the set with more hard rocking energy.  The run of shows was now half over and while everything played was excellent, the song selection and placement were fairly safe.
In the second set they started to throw a few curves, starting right off with a cover of the TV on the Radio song "Golden Age."  Phish played this once before, during the fall of 2009, and it's starting to become a big hit with the fans.  It's a great song to get everyone dancing and a great way to start a second set, similar to their covers of The Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll" and The Who's "Drowned."  Many fans and I hope that this enters the regular song rotation.  The jam out of "Golden Age" led to a nice version of "Piper" and the funky "Camel Walk," a song that Anastasio performed acoustically when he appeared at Twist and Shout back in 2006.  The ballad "Wading in the Velvet Sea" gave everyone a chance to catch their breath before a spacey version of "Twist" and the beloved epic "Fluffhead."  The set closed with the lead track from last year's Joy album, "Backwards Down the Number Line."  The show ended as it began, with the familiar encore pairing of "Sleeping Monkey" and "Tweezer Reprise."  Another strong, well-played show left everyone in anticipation of what was in store for the final night.
Tuesday night's show, in sharp contrast to Sunday, found Phish taking numerous chances with song selection and placement.  Not every choice they made was successful, yet the positives far outweighed any missteps.  The first unusual choice was playing "Time Turns Elastic" as the second song of the night.  To say that this complex, composed piece has not been well received by the fans would be an understatement as the song has often met with outright hostility.  But the band may actually have found a solution by playing it so early in the show.  Now we could sit back and appreciate it for what it is without the flow of the show being greatly interrupted.  Everybody perked up again with the now rare appearance of the funky "Meat" followed by the always welcome favorite "Divided Sky."  Another first set highlight was the appearance of "On Your Way Down," a bluesy number by New Orleans master tunesmith Allen Toussaint.  The set closed with an awesome hard rocking rendition of "46 Days" that just kept getting heavier and heavier.
One of Phish's most overlooked traits is their ability to rock out with the best of them.  They certainly proved their kick-ass-rock-n-roll credentials with a loud and rocking "Carini," which opened set two right where the first set left off.  This segued nicely into another long time favorite, "David Bowie."  From this point on, Phish took a number of chances by playing a good amount of new material and foregoing some of the big songs most fans assumed they'd hear on the last night.  One pleasant surprise was the second ever appearance of "Halfway to the Moon," a new song by keyboardist Page McConnell.  This is a nice mid-tempo tune that could turn into a great jam song if they decide to take it in that direction.  "Bug" has always been a personal favorite of mine and this version got very intense toward the end.  Just past 11 o'clock when most fans were probably expecting "Harry Hood" or "You Enjoy Myself" to close out the show, Phish pulled out another curveball unleashing "Split Open and Melt."  This was solid all the way, first going into some unusual jam territory before hitting the slam-bang conclusion.  For the encore, the band acknowledged a fan-made sign requesting "The Meatstick," the song that launched a nationwide dance craze in 1999.  As they left the stage, they encouraged the crowd to keep singing the chorus, which everyone did till the house lights came on.  What a way to end a show.
Phish's tour now takes them back to the east coast.  They will conclude with a three-night stand in Atlantic City on Halloween weekend.  The band is sounding great right now and as the tour goes on, they look to get even better.

--Adam R.

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