A Phish concert is something much larger and extravagant than several thousand people convening to sit and listen to a favorite band play some of its most-favored songs.
The extravagance begins with the pre-concert soiree that simmers and boils-over in the parking lot hours before show time — a version of tailgating in which everyone gets into the proper state of mind for what will unfold inside the venue: three hours of excess, indulgence and catharsis.
Wednesday night, the quartet from Vermont sold-out Starlight Theatre, drawing a crowd that exceeded 7,800. From the initial appearance of the band on stage, just as dusk was settling in, till the final thank-yous were delivered as the clock crept toward midnight, much of the crowd remained on its feet, dancing, spinning, singing along and otherwise immersing itself in the heady, cosmic vibe.
That is one of this band’s many strengths: its ability to switch genres seamlessly, from rock to funk to jazz to progressive versions of country and blues. Its effortlessness betrays its sophistication. Decades on the road have honed this band into an impressive live machine, one that appears to enjoy all the rituals without falling into routine.
Phish shows are documented, chronicled and analyzed like few others, and between sets there was plenty of meticulous Monday-morning quarterbacking going on over the show’s first half. The only soft spot for me was the relatively tame cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “The Ballad of Curtis Loew.”
The second set generated more energy, on stage and among the crowd. The fuse was lit with the opening numbers, “Tweezer” and “Mike’s Song.” Then came “Bouncing Around The Room,” a joyous almost-pop tune that detonated a blissful vibe that the band managed to sustain for nearly a half-hour as it glided into the ensuing tunes, stoking the mood and the festive storm. From the back of the theater, the crowd looked like the surface of water, in motion, in unison.
They closed the second set with another barn-burner, “Suzy Greenburg,” then returned for an encore: a stout cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup” that turned into one of Phish’s own, “Tweezer Reprise.” It brought to a rousing close a long night that captivated most of a large crowd that bounced and grooved all the way through it, around the theater, into other orbits.
Setlist: Chalk Dust Torture; Skin It Back; The Moma Dance; Rift; Bathtub Gin; Stash; The Ballad of Curtis Loew; Kill Devil Falls; Funky Bitch; Run Like an Antelope. Intermission. Tweezer; Piper; Mike’s Song; Bouncing Around the Room; Backwards Down the Number Line; Heavy Things; If I Could; Weekapaug Groove; Harry Hood; Suzy Greenburg. Encore: Loving Cup/Tweezer Reprise.
Timothy Finn | The Star