For a band that loves to keep the audience guessing, the last few tours have seen Phish throw more curveballs than usual. Openers, closers, and encores have enjoyed the most variation, but first set mainstays have been popping up late in second sets, and vice versa. Any song can be stretched. And we’ve heard a lot of different songs this year (214 to be exact).
Those trends continued on Tuesday as the band took the stage for a one-night stand at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. For the first time since its debut at Madison Square Garden during the Baker’s Dozen night two, Strawberry, The Beatles‘ “Strawberry Fields Forever” got the call to open the show. Just like on 7/22/17, this arrangement was performed a capella. Two traditional show openers followed as the band breezed through standard passes of “Crowd Control” and “Punch You In The Eye”.
Landing in the fourth spot was a short, inside-the-box “46 Days” but after the call back of the chorus, the band decided to take this one for a brief walk. A light, ambient jam eventually slid into an unexpected “You Enjoy Myself”. Another trend of late is the abbreviated vocal jams in “YEM”. Last night, guitarist Trey Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon didn’t even take off their axes for the vocal antics and after about 45 seconds they launched back into an instrumental jam, though it didn’t really go anywhere interesting.
Phish – “You Enjoy Myself” – 8/2/22 – Partial
[Video: Jack Kusner]
Did they jam “Tube”? Sadly, no. This slow, plodding version never developed.
— DidTheyJamOutTube? (@TubeJamUpdate) August 3, 2022
After a measured and paced start to the set, Phish decided to slow things down with the Sigma Oasis love song, “Shade.” Coming on the backstretch of a first set that never quite found its footing, the timing of this tearjerker seemed a bit odd.
“Reba” followed, complete with “Moos” from Fishman’s sampler during the “bag it, tag it, sell it to the butcher in the store” lyrics. It was a mostly competent pass through the ambitious composition and the jam that followed was sublime in a way that only Phish playing “Reba” can be sublime. This one wrapped up with the whistling. Harking back to tradition, the customary set closer “Cavern” finished a rather mild first frame.
Opening the 2nd set for the first time since 10/25/2014 was “Free”. This song is one that can show up anywhere at any time, but the setlist chameleon is still an unusual site for this slot. The band was patient with it, letting “Free” simmer a bit before bringing it to a rolling boil. Mike and drummer Jon Fishman were responsible for the charging, plucky direction this one took, letting Trey and keyboardist Page McConnell dance on top and usher it to its peak before breaking away from the theme. This 25-minute version, the second longest on record, explored multiple distinct sections, each one with an interesting moment or two. It was quite a departure from the vibe of the first set.
As the last notes of “Free” fizzled, Page played the opening chords to “Esther”. “Esther” was once rare and considered somewhat of a bust-out, but this is the third performance of the Junta tune in 2022. The band has not shied away from the intricate compositions this summer, and for the most part, Phish handled this one well, though there seemed to be a little confusion about the lyrics near the end.
Phish – “Esther” – 8/2/22
[Video: kembra allen]
Swinging the pendulum from dark and macabre back to bright and easy was “Blaze On”. This version was straight-ahead, high-energy 3.0 Phish rock. Exactly what you’d expect from this song in the middle of a second set. Before wrapping it up, the band moved into a completely different section that didn’t do much but served as a nice segue into “Scents and Subtle Sounds”.
Fishman’s ferocious, relentless drumming is what makes the jam in this one so special. He’s like this massive, rolling wave and the rest of the band just gets to carve different lines throughout it. There’s so much energy created by the drums that the rest of the band members just have to hang on and make sure they don’t fall off their boards.
This one surged and surged as Trey’s sustain ripped right through it all. At one point it felt as though the group was going to move on, but Trey knew there was more in the tank and wanted to take it out for another quick spin so he could bring the song to another peak before eventually drizzling into a quick pass through the space funk of “2001”.
Rounding out the set was a dark, twisted, atonal “Split Open And Melt”. This one was weirder than usual. For most of it, there wasn’t much to lock in with, you just had to listen and stare into Phish’s version of the Upside Down.
A succinct but raging “Bathtub Gin”, showing up in an encore for only the 5th time in its 33-year history, put a bow on the evening.
Last night in Ohio it seemed as if Phish needed the sun to go down in the Akron suburb before it could really dig in. But once it did, a huge second set made up for a first set that felt a little flat and disjointed. The second set was one of the strongest of the summer. And it just reinforced something I’ve felt about the band for a long time.
It doesn’t really matter what Trey, Mike, Jon, and Page play. It just matters how they play. And right now it seems like every night, no matter the song choices, they find a way to squeeze out something special. They’re energized and excited and we’re certain to get some incredible music as the tour rolls onward.
To order your LivePhish webcast for any of the band’s upcoming summer shows, head here. To sign up for a free trial membership to LivePhish+ and listen to the whole summer 2022 tour and more, head here. For a full list of upcoming Phish shows, head here.
Following Phish’s Sunday tour-ending Dick’s Sporting Goods Park performance, an all-star amalgamation of funk players will keep the party going at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom for The Phunk Sessions featuring members of John Mayer‘s touring band, Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk, and more [get tickets].
Setlist [via phish.net]: Phish | Blossom Music Center | Cuyahoga Falls, OH | 8/2/22
SET 1: Strawberry Fields Forever (The Beatles), Crowd Control, Punch You in the Eye > 46 Days > You Enjoy Myself, Tube > Shade, Reba, Cavern
SET 2: Free > Esther > Blaze On > Scents and Subtle Sounds > Also Sprach Zarathustra (Strauss/Deodato) > Split Open and Melt
ENCORE: Bathtub Gin
Strawberry Fields Forever was performed for the first time since July 22, 2017 (168 shows). Fish quoted Strawberry Fields Forever in the YEM vocal jam and in the jam that followed. Trey teased Also Sprach Zarathustra at the end of Gin.
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