More than three quarters of the way through their first leg of their summer tour, the Phish from Vermont came to the Nikon Theater at Jones Beach on Long Island for a two-night run of shows. This leg of the tour has been marked by vastly improved playing as well as bustouts that had not been seen in years.
To open up the first show, the band opened up with a groove that sounded like Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon,” but instead, they went with another Little Feat classic, “Skin It Back” for the first time since July 1988, some 1,417 shows ago. After a nearly 10 minute romp through the biggest bustout in band history, they moved into the set list staple, “Possum.”. After teasing “Skin It Back” in “Possum” the band ripped through a short “Tube” before digging back into their catalog to play The White Album classic “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” for the first time since Halloween 1994 where they played the entire White Album.
After the early bustouts, the band moved into a classic Mike’s Groove which featured a standout and to-the-point “Weekapaug Groove“. The rest of the set featured a variety of set list staples including one of the best”Ya Mar”s since their return as well as another bustout in ZZ Top‘s “Jesus Just Left Chicago“
After a quick set break, the band opened up with their version of an arena rock song, “Chalk Dust Torture” before they began the best sequence of the evening. Smoothly segueing out of Chalk Dust was a swampy “Sand” that got dark quickly and refused to let off the gas pedal, before the band led into the highlight of the run, TV on the Radio’s “Golden Age“. This nearly 14-minute jam featured a delay loop reminiscent of Digital Delay Loop Jams that peppered the band’s sets throughout the late 90s. “Wolfman’s Brother” came next and after an apparent mistake by Fishman, the band quickly took the song in a dark, Coventry-esque direction, before Anastasio quickly changed directions, forcing a segue into Joe Walsh‘s “Walk Away“.
“Bug” gave the audience a breather as the soulful song off Farmhouse was punctuated with a fantastic solo from Anastasio before making the transition into the always welcome “Fluffhead“. On this evening at Jones Beach, it seemed as if Trey could not miss a note, nailing all of the song’s difficult passages. They then wrapped up the set with a well played and timed “The Wedge” before a raucous set-closing “Run Like An Antelope” which featured a quick round of Marco Polo between the band and the crowd. For the encore, the band brought out “Character Zero” and that was all she wrote for night one.
After all the promise of night one, night two looked to build on the momentum of the first night and take it to new levels. With the date being the Fourth of July, phrases like Harpua and covers from the deepest depths of their catalog were being tossed around. When the band took the stage, Trey began playing a riff that my seat mate pegged as Yes’ “Roundabout” but instead was a quick snippet of “Dave’s Energy Guide” before moving into “Alumni Blues” a once shelved song which has found its way into semi-rotation. The interlude of “A Letter to Jimmy Page” came before completing “Alumni Blues.”
The rarities kept coming from that point on, as The Velvet Underground‘s “Head Held High” followed for the first time since Halloween 1998 when all of Loaded was performed. Up next was the hauntingly beautiful “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday” which seamlessly segued into the Hebrew traditional “Avenu Malkanu” before heading back into TMWSIY. Rotation staple “Kill Devil Falls” came next before for the first time since Red Rocks in 2009 the band brought out “Bittersweet Motel” to slow things down a bit.
A straightforward “Gumbo” came before a first set “David Bowie” that brought the energy up to a fever pitch. “Alaska” came next before the band brought a variety of tunes off the shelf. GRAB’s “Susskind Hotel” featured a phenomenal solo from Trey before he moved over to the drums while Fishman brought out his vacuum and took center stage for a rendition of Syd Barrett‘s “Hold Your Head Up” into “Purple Rain” for the first time since 1999. Within the song were a myriad of “tucking” references in reference to the band’s show in Portsmouth. An a capella rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” brought the fantastic first set to a close which featured five songs that had not been played in over 100 shows.
The second set started out with so much potential, with Stevie Wonder‘s “Boogie On a Reggae Woman” coming before a Tweezer that had the potential to go into a variety of directions but stayed fairly true to form. A spacey “Twist” came next before a well-played “Taste“. At this point, the set was shaping up to build off the momentum of the first; however, the band seemed to run out of steam.
“Quinn the Eskimo” followed by the overplayed but fun “Julius” followed. Another Velvet Underground classic in “Rock and Roll” followed but before really getting into the jam, the opening chord of “The Horse” rang out. “Silent in the Morning” came next before the always welcome “Harry Hood“. Hood slowly built itself up, peaking and holding it there for a while before finishing out the tune. Whatever momentum was built there disappeared after the Rolling Stones‘”Shine a Light” followed by the band’s own “Show of Life“. The show did close on a high-note as the full harvest moon poked through the clouds right at the peak of the last song of the set, “Slave to the Traffic Light” where the band kept the peak of the jam going as the crowd burst into a frenzy. For the encore, the band played the familiar pairing of “Slave to the Traffic Light” into “Tweezer Reprise” to end the set and the two-night run.
While the second set on the 4th fell a bit short of the expectations created by the band over the prior three sets, these two days did anything but disappoint, bringing a large number of songs from the deepest depths of their catalog and performing up to par with the rest of the tour which has widely been considered one of the best since their return in 2009.