As musicians, chemistry as strong and as natural as theirs is difficult to come by.
The Fox Theatre, St. Louis
It was something that many of us had thought might never happen. After a five-year hiatus during which all four band members were involved with different musical projects, it seemed like the chances of Phish ever playing together again were remote, at best. Although the motivation behind this unexpected reunion tour is still unclear (there is no new album to promote), it most likely was brought on by the simple fact that they all just missed playing together. As musicians, chemistry as strong and as natural as theirs is difficult to come by, and is probably even more difficult to be separated from for an extended period of time.
The Fox Theatre is, by far, the smallest venue on this tour; every other date is either at a 20,000-seat outdoor amphitheater or at a large festival, such as Bonnaroo. Consequently, tickets for this show sold out in record-breaking time (30 minutes), and were being resold on ticket broker websites at outrageously inflated rates…up to approximately 18 times the face value for seats in the first few rows.
Being one of the fortunate 4,500 or so folks who attended this very special show felt like an honor and a privilege, complete with a deep-down, this-is-an-historical-event feeling that goes way beyond attempting to attach a conventional monetary value to it. Phish shows have always been highly unique concert experiences, musically and otherwise, and this one raised that concept up a few levels. And although this show was certainly not the hottest, nor the longest, nor the most awesome collection of songs the band has ever performed in one evening, it really didn’t have to be any of those things.
Here’s what went down:
"Kill Devil Falls"—one of the few new songs that they’re playing on this tour; it had a bit of a "Chalkdust Torture" feel to it, and it got the show off to a high-energy start.
"Ocelot—also a new song; good, but nothing special.
"Brian and Robert"
"Sample in a Jar"—undoubtedly the highlight of the first set, and one of my absolute favorite Phish tunes ever. This was the song that was stuck in my head the entire next day.
"Rift"—this had a phenomenal extended ending jam, and it also featured Anastasio’s first guitar solo.
"Reba"—played very well, although it could have been a bit longer.
"Horn"—another favorite tune of mine, a sentiment with which-the crowd seemed to agree; it also should have been longer.
"Possum"—always a fun-filled song. The ending sounded like it would end the set, but it didn’t.
"Slave to the Traffic Light"—one of the main songs people were talking about after the show, since it’s old and not very often performed.
"Runaway Jim"—one of their best country-rocker tunes, and is always a great sing-along song (and dance-along) number live.
"Time Turns Elastic"—this ultra-jammy song had some interesting effects, unexpected tempo changes, and other forms of sonic weirdness in it.
"Mike’s Song"/"Weekapaug Groove"—two great songs played back to back. We finally got to hear bassist Gordon sing lead vocals; after being a bit hard to hear throughout most of the night, McConnell (keyboardist) also finally got his time to shine and be noticed.
"Boogie on Reggae Woman"—the official funky song of the evening.
"Character Zero"—Great song to end the set with; -this is definitely one of their best straight-ahead rockers, period, and they played it flawlessly.
"Star Spangled Banner"—sung a cappella. Their four-part harmonies are as tight as they’ve always been. The audience was actually quiet enough to hear most of it; couldn’t believe I actually remembered all of the words!
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"—first time I ever heard Phish cover this. Beautifully done, although some vocal assistance from either Gordon or McConnell would have made it sound even better. | Michele Ulsohn