Phish returned to the Ascend Amphitheater last night for their second and final night at the relatively-tiny 6,800 person venue. While last night’s show was clearly the runner-up in Nashville compared to the fireworks of night one, Phish certainly delivered the goods, as they yet-again turned in a strong showing that saw a second set filled with classics, and a unique version of “Scents & Subtle Sounds” that featured several teases.
Phish started things off with the controversial “Soul Planet”. Certainly not everyone’s favorite new song, the band offered up an impressive version of it nonetheless. As the band finished the song’s main form, drummer Jon Fishman dropped the beat into half-time, and the band locked into a thick groove. Guitarist Trey Anastasio started off with some choppy playing as the rest of the band coalesced around him, eventually taking the lead as the jam moved into psychedelic territory. The early improv seemed to be building nicely, with Anastasio adding the song’s “screaming through space” refrain to push the jam back into the song for a tight conclusion.
Out of “Soul Planet” emerged a rare early-show version of “2001”. Anastasio added some more “screaming through space” lines throughout the song for a well-played, funky, tight version. Eventually, “2001” made way for a strong version of Mike Gordon-sung tune “555”, which preceded quick trips through “Farmhouse” and “Halfway To The Moon”, before the band dropped a heartfelt, first-set “Waste” on the Nashville crowd.
Phish picked things back up with a raucous back-to-back pairing of “My Friend, My Friend” and “Maze”, before taking the Ascend Amphitheater into space with “Bathtub Gin”. The song’s jam was somewhat restrained at first, with the band gravitating around each other until they launched into a powerful piece of improvisation, with keyboardist Page McConnell and Gordon particularly in tune with each other, allowing Anastasio to solo beautifully over them. The jam moved into dark territory, with Anastasio adding more pedals to his mix while McConnell reached for the upper register of his keyboard. Finally, Anastasio’s guitar pierced through, and he added several ascending blues licks, bringing the band to several peaks before they landed back on “Bathtub Gin” to bring the first set to a close.
For set two, Phish dusted off “Down With Disease” for the first time on their Fall Tour. The song’s euphoric refrain blasted the Ascend Amphitheater into another universe. Lighting Designer Chris Kuroda took the opportunity to move his lighting rig up and down wildly above the band while McConnell and Gordon linked up rhythmically, with Fishman pushing the beat aggressively. After a few minutes of type I jamming, the band moved into an ambient space, with Anastasio once again turning to his echo effect as McConnell leaned into his synthesizers. Before long, the band orchestrated a slick transition into The Talking Heads‘ favorite, “Crosseyed and Painless”. The song’s jam took a few minutes to take off, with Anastasio spending a good chunk of time messing with his pedals. Eventually, Fishman cut the beat in half, and the band locked in for only a few short moments before Anastasio took the band in a different direction, cueing a sloppy-but-energetic transition into “Scents And Subtle Sounds”.
The Undermind classic was somewhat rough, with Anastasio continuing to miss key moments while the whole band struggled with the song’s complicated vocal harmonies. The band made up for their errors with a funky jam that saw Fishman cut out while allowing the rest of the band to coalesce around him. Finally, Fishman came back in with a heavy hand on his ride cymbal, and the band locked into a thick rhythm. Anastasio added a surprising vocal quote of “Run Through The Jungle” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, as well as a “still waiting” quote from “Crosseyed and Painless” and a “Party Time” refrain, cementing this as a more memorable version of “S&SS” even with the early-song flubs.
As “S&SS” fizzled out, Anastasio started up “No Men In No Man’s Land”, the only song to be played at each venue this tour (so far). While the song might be overplayed in 2018, the jams to come out of “No Men In No Man’s Land” have consistently been sublime, and tonight’s version was no different. Anastasio and McConnell were the stars of the show, with soaring guitar and piano parts leading the way during this short-but-sweet jam. “Boogie On Reggae Woman” added some much-needed funk to the evening, and Gordon’s syncopated bass playing was front and center before but the song was quickly aborted in favor of “Harry Hood”. The classic song’s jam is always a crowd-pleaser, and this version saw the band in fine form, with patient playing leading towards the song’s typical euphoric climax.
“Run Like an Antelope” was trotted out for the encore, and, minus a few notable flubs during the song’s intro from Anastasio, “Antelope” provided a solid end to a solid show, especially toward the song’s peak when Anastasio slipped in Some “Still Waiting” quotes from “Crosseyed and Painless”.
While night two in Nashville didn’t live up to the highs of the epic first night at the Ascend Amphitheater, Phish left the crowd satisfied, begging for more, and wondering how long the drive is from Nashville to Rosemont, IL, where Phish will stop this weekend for a three-night run. Of course, all roads lead to Las Vegas, as the band is gaining momentum for this year’s highly anticipated four-night Halloween run at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV.
P.S. Page, we loved your tuxedo shirt!
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You can watch the full show below courtesy of LivePhish and check out a gallery of photos from the show via photographer Christian Stewart:
Setlist: Phish | Ascend Amphitheater | Nashville, TN | 10/24/2018
SET 1: Soul Planet, Also Sprach Zarathustra > 555, Farmhouse, Halfway to the Moon, Waste, My Friend, My Friend, Maze, Bathtub Gin
SET 2: Down with Disease > Crosseyed and Painless > Scents and Subtle Sounds > No Men In No Man’s Land, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Harry Hood
ENCORE: Run Like an Antelope
 No intro.
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