Above: The previous “Tela,” November 24, 1998
Phish busted out numerous rarities last night at Miami’s American Airlines Arena. The night opened with the group’s first cover of The Wailers’ “Soul Shakedown Party” since April 17, 2004. The band’s first set also included Phish’s first version of ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago” since July 13, 2003, the debut cover of Hank Williams’ “Dixie Cannonball,” the first take on the blues standard “Corrine, Corrina” since February 24, 2003 and the only stab at the bluegrass rocker “Rocky Top” since July 19, 2003. The group’s cover of “Corrine, Corrina” was particularly notable, as the band first revived the song ten years ago to the day at the nearby Big Cypress Indian Reservation. According to interviews with the band, the musicians decided to revive the tune after a decade upon hearing an early cover on the “From the Archives” show on the festival’s official radio.
The Vermont Quartet also revived a few original songs during its first set: The Siket Disc centerpiece “What’s the Use?—last played on November 28, 2003—and the beautiful Gamehendge ballad “Tela,” an original the band has kept on the shelf since November 24, 1998. Phish also officially debuted “Gone,” a Trey Anastasio original the band tested out during Festival 8’s semi-public soundcheck and officially released on the new album Party Time. High-energy versions of “Runaway Jim,” “Stealing Time From a Faulty Plan,” “Chalk Dust Torture” and “David Bowie” rounded out the set.
The group’s second set placed more emphasis on improvisation, beginning with an extended “Sand” that moved well past the song’s written structure. Phish also nailed a complete “The Curtain With” and played the Hoist ballad “Lifeboy” for the first time since August 8, 2004. To the surprise of many, the set’s biggest jam was tacked onto a funky “Back on the Train” that spiraled into a dreamy freeform improvisation before coming to a head as “Wading in the Velvet Sea.” Some theatrics then took place during a Jon Fishman vignette based around “Hold Your Head Up” and Syd Barrett’s “Love You.” Since Anastasio had declared that Monday’s “I Didn’t Know” featured the last Fishman vacuum solo of the decade, the Phish drummer brought a fan named Rich out of the audience to play the song’s vacuum solo. Rich, who was dressed in a t-shirt made to look like Fishman’s trademark dress, played the vacuum with the band for a few minutes as Fishman sang and ran around the stage. The group then gave Rich the vacuum as a gift while he left the stage.
Clearly loosened up, Phish closed its set with “Free,” a funky cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman” and “Run Like an Antelope.” The latter song featured numerous “Boogie” teases, as well as some vocal references to special guest Rich. A cover of “Frankenstein” that featured Page McConnell on keytar brought the night to a close.
According to Phish.net, “2009 has now had more unique songs (242) than any other year in Phish’s history, beating out 1998 by 2… so far!”