Phish, an American summer tradition for more than 30 years, celebrated the 4th of July with arguably the high-watermark for Summer 2014, and the tour is only four shows old. The second night of the nearly-annual three night run at SPAC was arguably the strongest of the shows and featured new material from Fuego and not a single cover song – a stretch dating back to December 28th, 2013.
Naturally, the show opened with “The Star Spangled Banner”, on the 200th anniversary of the song’s birth during the War of 1812. “555”, the 2nd in 3 shows, filled in at the typical “Let’s play ‘Moma Dance’ and get the party started” slot, followed by “Kill Devil Falls” and then the first liftoff of the night with “Moma Dance”, later than usual but no complaints could be heard.
Then “Reba” appeared mid-first set, a seemingly rarer placement, but so perfect, as it kept things interesting and gave a chance for earlier than second set ethereal bliss. Speaking of bliss, “Waiting all Night” was a good pair to Reba, but also a good break time for anyone who hadn’t yet taken a minute to collect themselves amid an inspired and active first set. “Runaway Jim > 46 days, Rift” followed for a happy sing along dance time on the lawn.
“Split Open and Melt” – the potential set closer – continued the off and on dance frenzy of the show, flip-flopping back and forth between staples and jam vehicles. Melt’s ending jam was on par with versions from its last era of strong set closers, 2000. But this was not the end – “The Squirming Coil” emerged as the PERFECT first set closer, just as the sun was going down and the last bit of light left the Saratoga skies. Fishman hit the high note during “It got away…” and Trey lost it briefly before recovering. Page’s beautiful outro could have brought a tear to your eye.
When it comes to a seven-song second set, it means you have no complaints. Even with “Backwards Down the Number Line” showing up both expected and unexpected, we had one helluva time in those first five songs. “Fuego” is straight fire. Start to finish, a growing jam with a vibe in the same class as the 12/31/10 “Holy Ghost”, began with Mike’s bass groove and slowly pushed the jam, keeping Trey in check and progressing towards the beautiful jam that developed from the patience. The first must hear jam of the SPAC run, and the first Type II “Fuego” means we have a long and awesome summer ahead of us if this show is any indication.
“Down with Disease” and “Twist” were a nice 1-2 follow-up to “Fuego”, keeping the energy consistent and exhibiting great patience, a trait that
Phish Trey does not always put forth. The result was Mike taking the lead on “Disease” with a recurring bass groove that flowed nicely while Page was nowhere to be found for a spell, although the mouth-popping noises were interesting as things eventually descended into “Twist”, full of ‘Woos’ and whatnot, but nothing too spectacular in this version.
“Light” quickly emerged for a solid and progressing jam that built around Trey’s guitar riff, leading to a psychedelic jam straight from the late ’60s and Bob Ezrin’s tutelage on Fuego. Trey’s ‘Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind’-esque repetition comfortably landed “Light” right next to “Theme from the Bottom”, as pleasant and well placed as you could ask for after four powerful jam vehicles. There was hope that this would be a “Theme” ala Atlantic City 2013, but that may have just been a one-off treat.
“Backwards Down the Number Line” served as a breather song for both band and fans, and although we still danced, this song could be in the first set of any given show and receive far less audible groans than it did tonight. But when you follow “BDTNL” with “First Tube”, all is forgiven as we couldn’t have asked for a better closer to this show. And having Jedi Trey slowly rising his guitar into the air to cap it off – Priceless. A “Character Zero” capped the night and did nothing more than increase anticipation towards the final night of the run at SPAC.
Set 1: The Star Spangled Banner, 555, Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance > Reba, Waiting All Night, Runaway Jim > 46 Days, Rift, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil
Set 2: Fuego > Down with Disease > Twist > Light > Theme From the Bottom, Backwards Down the Number Line, First Tube
Encore: Character Zero