There are many reasons to venture to Las Vegas – gambling, award winning restaurants, shopping, swank hotels, and of course, the numerous live shows that decorate the Strip. But it is rare that one band would attract 16,000+ fans to travel to Las Vegas for four nights of music and revelry throughout Sin City, and that is where the allure of Phish stands above and beyond others.
Arriving the night before the musical madness began, the air was electric with Phish fans peppering the hotels along the strip, heading to Brooklyn Bowl to check out The New Deal and The Disco Biscuits, and settling in for a very long weekend of music. There is so much that Vegas offers, so adding in a quality dinner with friends, hopping on the High Roller, partaking in the west coast only delicacy of In-n-Out Burger, renting a cabana by the lazy river at MGM or trying your luck at the tables were competing with preparing for Phish each night, for these are not shows you just show up to at 7:30 pm. Fans likely had packed schedules thanks to Phish each night and selecting what to do during the day thanks to this cornucopia of the usual Vegas offerings.
Yet when it’s getting close to showtime and you’re ready to wander through MGM Grand towards the Garden Arena, passing top notch restaurants and shops along the way, the energy becomes palpable and that familiar buzz that you only find outside a Phish show makes an appearance. You’ll find this in any city Phish plays in, but when you have one of the greatest live bands ever performing in America’s Playground, the experience is unique with vivacity and vibes that are truly sky high.
October 28th kicked things off with “Martian Monster,” and the next two nights that followed featured opening songs from the 2014 Halloween album Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. A surprise set two opener of “Crimes of Mind” stunned the audience, while a 25 minute “Golden Age” took the cake as the jam of the night, with “Simple>Light” not far behind. Saturday’s show featured an hour long second set segment “Mercury > Piper > Scents and Subtle Sounds > Tweezer > I Always Wanted it This Way” that had no let up and brought out one song that was left off Big Boat (Mercury) and one new Big Boat track that fans had been clamoring to hear live (I Always Wanted it This Way.) Sunday’s first set was littered with energetic jam vehicles “Ghost,” “Chalkdust Torture” and “Stash,” while the second set “Down with Disease” and “Birds of a Feather” that opened the set took fans on a 37 minute psychedelic journey deep into Type II jamming. However the “Harry Hood > Have Mercy > Harry Hood” was the big surprise of the night, dropping a rarely played song (the first in 5 years) right in the middle of one of Phish’s oldest compositions.
Then there was Halloween. The popular rumor that was afloat for weeks beforehand, and even given some credence over the summer from those in the know was that Phish would perform David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, perhaps with an orchestra. When fans arrived, they received a PHISHBILL featuring the iconic cover of Bowie’s album, with each Phish band member’s face photoshopped onto Bowie’s over four separate bills. Fans dressed as Bowie took particular joy in seeing the cover, flipping the page open and seeing that yes, Phish was about to honor Bowie. High fives, gleeful smiles, joyful tears and utter amazement were seen in the faces of nearly all fans as they walked in with PHISHBILL in hand, prepared for music history to be made.
Halloween started with “Carini,” throwing fans off from the expected number off Chilling Thrilling, but “Your Pet Cat” followed to keep the theme running. There was not a moment in the set where things slowed down until “Petrichor” appeared late in the set, with mixed reactions throughout the crowd akin to the mixed reactions towards its inclusion on Big Boat. But the first set was just the appetizer; the second set was the meal we had waited all day to gorge on.
The entire performance of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, with six strings, three backup singers (Celisse Henderson, Jo Lampert and frequent collaborator Jennifer Hartswick) found Phish embracing the album fully and diving in deep for a performance that delivered in every way. Starting with a powerful “Five Years,” and ending with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” Phish poured everything into each of the 11 songs. “Starman,” with Mike Gordon leading on vocals, let the children boogie throughout the arena, arms outstretched and singing along with each word. Trey put down his guitar and put forth an impressive vocal performance on “It Ain’t Easy” with Jennifer, Celisse and Jo driving home the powerful tune, while Page stepped away from his piano for “Ziggy Stardust,” Trey nailing the solo and fans air guitaring and fist pumping through one of the most memorable tracks on the album. “Suffragette City,” soundchecked on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon earlier in October, was the most rousing number of the night, pure rock ‘n’ roll from start to finish. But the finale of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” sung by Trey sans guitar, was the most powerful number of the night, with the refrain “You’re not alone” sending waves of chills through the audience.
The third set brought out the heavy jams and pushed the envelope for fans dancing their way through the ninth and final set of the run. A dark “46 Days” led to “Sand,” which was followed by “Twist” that led to a drums segment with the full band surrounding Fishman’s kit and Trey on the marimba lumina. An 11-minute “2001” had hints of Bowie’s “Fame” and was the dance highlight of the night. Closing out the set was “Slave to the Traffic Light,” as good as you can get for a weekend closer, followed by an appropriate acapella encore of Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” with no follow up needed. Fans and musicians will look back at the Halloween show as a banner moment in rock ‘n’ roll history as one of the greatest live bands ever paid immense tribute to one of the greatest and most unique musicians ever.
Setlists via Phish.net
October 28, 2016
Set 1: Martian Monster, No Men In No Man’s Land, Dogs Stole Things, Beauty of My Dreams, Destiny Unbound, Limb By Limb, Home, When the Circus Comes, Steam > The Wedge, Cavern, Walls of the Cave
Set 2: Crimes of the Mind, Golden Age > Simple > Light > Twenty Years Later > Blaze On, The Squirming Coil
Encore: Bouncing Around the Room, Bold As Love
October 29, 2016
Set 1: The Birds, Kill Devil Falls, 555, Roggae, Gumbo, Lawn Boy, Wilson, Maze, Wingsuit, More
Set 2: Mercury > Piper > Scents and Subtle Sounds > Tweezer > I Always Wanted It This Way, The Horse > Silent in the Morning > Golgi Apparatus
Encore: Shine a Light > Tweezer Reprise
 No intro.
 Trey on Marimba Lumina.
October 30, 2016
Set 1: The Dogs, Ghost, Funky Bitch, Chalk Dust Torture, Army of One, Heavy Things, How Many People Are You, Stash, Theme From the Bottom > Suzy Greenberg
Set 2: Down with Disease -> Birds of a Feather , Fuego, Miss You, Harry Hood -> Have Mercy -> Harry Hood > A Day in the Life
Encore: Character Zero
October 31, 2016
Set 1: Carini, Your Pet Cat, AC/DC Bag > Free > Possum, What’s the Use? > Wombat, Tube, Wolfman’s Brother, Ass Handed, Petrichor > Run Like an Antelope
Set 2: Five Years, Soul Love, Moonage Daydream, Starman, It Ain’t Easy, Lady Stardust, Star, Hang On to Yourself, Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
Set 3: 46 Days > Sand > Twist, Meatstick > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Backwards Down the Number Line > Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: Space Oddity
 Lyrics changed to reference Trey’s shirt.
 Phish debut; With Sylvia D’Avanzo, Alisa Horn, Todd Low, Antoine Silverman, Alissa Smith, and Hiroko Taguchi on strings; Trey on acoustic.
 Phish debut; With Sylvia D’Avanzo, Alisa Horn, Todd Low, Antoine Silverman, Alissa Smith, and Hiroko Taguchi on strings and Jennifer Hartswick, Celisse Henderson, and Jo Lampert on backing vocals; Trey on acoustic.
 Phish debut; With Sylvia D’Avanzo, Alisa Horn, Todd Low, Antoine Silverman, Alissa Smith, and Hiroko Taguchi on strings and Jennifer Hartswick, Celisse Henderson, and Jo Lampert on backing vocals.
 Phish debut; With Jennifer Hartswick, Celisse Henderson, and Jo Lampert on backing vocals.
 Phish debut; Trey on acoustic.
 Phish debut.
 Trey on Marimba Lumina and Mike and Page on percussion.