Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Review: Phish @ DCU Center
Review: Christopher Dodge
The air was hot and smoky and the blue lights on the stage illuminated the four instruments that were waiting for their players: Piano, guitar, bass, drums. Take these, throw in musicians with nearly three decades of jamming together and top it off with an eager crowd that had been without its beloved band for far too long, and you’ve got the makings of a good Phish show.
The lights went down and the band came up - amid the welcoming roar we heard the faint beating of Fishman’s snare drum. Trey’s wailing guitar, sounding similar to the screams that must come from a spaceship as it enters earth’s atmosphere, drew cheers as the melody of "Buried Alive" rung loud, and soon after we were treated to light-wizard Chris Kuroda’s new LED system perched above the band. The guys then went right into a bouncy "Runaway Jim" that had the crowd singing along, smiling and throwing high fives. The band then played The Rolling Stones’ "Torn and Frayed," but unfortunately it didn’t have much of a place in the first set of a tour opener. The subsequent "Funky Bitch," however, hit the spot, and sent us all into dance mode. Then, quietly, sounds swirled around and the funk was kept alive with a sexy "Moma Dance." Though it didn’t peak quite like I’m used to, the song was as solid as they come.
By this point we had danced and sung along, and it was about time for an epic composition – one that would prompt us to marvel at Trey’s virtuosic composing abilities that create movements played by an orchestra of four. While a "Reba" or "Fluffhead" would have fit nicely, when "Rift" came on, DCU erupted. It would certainly do. The band navigated through the eerie cobwebs of ping-ponging solos and vocals, and arrived at the ending vocal howl that sent hands skyward while goose bumps abounded. When "Nothing" came on, it was time for a bathroom break.
I returned as "Ocelot" sauntered lightly around the arena. A good song, I thought, but not worthy of exploring with a jam. I was mistaken. What started out as a light guitar solo slowly devolved into an unsteady dissection of the seemingly simple. The jam, dirty and clanking, sounded like it was gasping for air, and when it caught its breath, took off. It was like a polio patient taking her first steps after leaving the iron lung. Shaky, uncertain, but so jubilus. Phish still has it, we all thought to ourselves.
We bobbed along to "Beauty of a Broken Heart," and lamented the poor marsupial who never made it across the road in a solid Possum before the set closed out with an extremely fast and oh-so-Appalachian "Rocky Top."
“How could anyone live without Phish?” I heard a young girl say during intermission, so innocently.
I just don’t know darlin’.
The second set started with a crunchy "Carini." If the first set was a systems check, then set two was go for launch. Carini took off into unknown territory, and eventually evaporated into the ether, leaving a colorful, crisp Taste in its wake. Trey soloed and dabbled with the melody from "Norwegian Wood" before the song got murky, and then, out of the clouds came "Ghost," a DCU staple that had the crowd sharing in a groove. We were ready. We knew the potential any "Ghost" had to be an historic event, and we wanted to be present for it. But the song failed to really blast off like we’d hoped. What came instead was an interjection from bass player Mike Gordon that proved to be everything we’d hoped "Ghost" to be.
Gordon, with bass effects flaring under the spinning lights, went into a rapid cover of Stevie Wonder’s "Boogie On Reggae Woman" that was hands down the best jam of the night. Every time we thought they were done, the band would draw energy from the crowd and hit a new high, leaving us all speechless, exhausted, and grateful.
“Thank you,” I heard the man behind me say.“Thank you.”
Many, including the band, used "If I Could" to catch a breath. The song was beautiful, and the couples around me paired up to sway together. "Quinn The Eskimo," as always, was a fun romp, and on the signal of Fishman’s tiniest toms, the band went right into "Harry Hood." A solid composition and simple, pleasant jamming marked the song, and all our hands were in the air as we sang aloud that you can feel good, good, good about Hood. The set closed out with a loud "Cavern" that had us all twirling and smiling, knowing the end was near, but that it had been a good ride. As the song wound down and we awaited the final note, Trey brought back "Buried Alive" for a few more measures. We’d come full circle, and what a journey it had been.
Phish came on to play "Loving Cup "as an encore, and sent us all away with an appropriate lyric. “What a beautiful buzz,” the band sang, and oh what a beautiful buzz that show truly was.
Set One: Buried Alive > Runaway Jim > Torn and Frayed > Funky Bitch > The Moma Dance > Rift > Nothing > Ocelot > Beauty of a Broken Heart > Possum > Rocky Top
Set Two: Carini > Taste > Ghost > Boogie On Reggae Woman > If I Could > Quinn the Eskimo > Harry Hood > Cavern > Buried Alive
Encore: Loving Cup