Photo Credit: Rich Fury

Last night, April 19, Phish returned to Las Vegas’ Sphere for the second performance in its four-night residency. Following a packed press circuit that elevated expectations for its landmark booking to new heights, the band did not disappoint, delivering a conceptually sophisticated and technologically dazzling event that fully expressed the band’s intricate identity. Whereas night one cohered in its dedication to presenting classic Phish, this second staging took up a water theme, allowing Sphere’s production team to demonstrate the full extent of the pioneering venue’s capabilities just as the band dove deep into its canon for sonic storytelling swimming in wit and wonder.

Phish walked out to a pre-recorded selection that rang like a jam on “Free” and proved predictive of the opening selection, which was complemented in turn by a cascade of technicolor falling water on Sphere’s towering screens. The glory of this coupling set a bright-eyed tone for the show and hinted at a central theme that was driven home by “The Moma Dance,” which flipped the screen to a spinning fish-eye video of the stage and the surrounding pit, casting some fortunate fans on the venue’s walls.

“Axilla Part II” followed and endured for nearly 18 minutes, complete with surprising jams that saw the quartet locked into the dips and thrashes of the heart-pounding backbeat. The band’s fourth-ever staging of Trey Anastasio original “mercy” ensued as the sphere’s visuals flew over the open ocean, further solidifying the show’s theme and ushering in the tricksy skip of “Bathtub Gin.” The latter cut steered into the band’s impish humor, spotlighting this trademark for the first time in the run with a wave-pool graphic dotted with food-shaped floaties (with a healthy helping of donuts).

The band advanced toward the set’s close with “Theme from the Bottom,” which plunged the audience to the bottom of the ocean, gazing up from the floor at stocks of kelp and schools of fish gently swaying along with the song. In the deeps of the groove, Trey embedded a tease of “Dave’s Energy Guide.” This selection was segued into the set-closer “Split Open and Melt,” which did just as promised to the audience with complex, exploratory jams over the jangling, abstract shuffle of the 1990 staple.

Phish returned to the stage with the Anastasio original “A Wave of Hope,” crashing down on the crowd with its tweaked psych funk again and again for nearly 20 minutes. Cast far out to sea, the band kept the energy afloat with the wide-open wash of “What’s The Use,” which led into “Ruby Waves” and preceded “Lonely Trip,” lower-key Anastasio originals that brought the show’s tone to a subtler, gentler note where the crowd and band alike “drift[ed] in search of land.” An oasis arrived in the form of the fuzz-drenched hard rock of “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” as production hoisted an array of Jellyfish puppets around the stage, before seguing into the aspirational and inspiring “Prince Caspian,” which cast Sphere to the gates of a long-forgotten undersea city.

photo: Dean Budnick

For the final song of the second frame, Phish brought out the certified classic “You Enjoy Myself” and sent the audience on a ride down memory lane with a scene that united fans of all ages in a sweeping sense of nostalgia: a panoramic view of passage through a carwash. When the song progressed to its last act, the video toggled to a close-up pup lapping away at the screen, again playing at the group’s fixation on the absurd just as the set disembarked from an intricate sonic highlight.

photo: Dean Budnick

The encore followed up on this wry sentimentalism as billowing waves of red velvet poured across the dome for “Wading in the Velvet Sea,” gradually giving way to more and more photographs from Phish’s many prolific years before being supplanted entirely by a wall of scenes from the band’s bygone days. After this heart-filled moment, the band finally brought the show to a close with “Harry Hood,” washing the band in a warm and comforting jam under dazzling beams of visually represented soundwaves.

Phish will perform at Sphere again tonight before its final staging at the venue tomorrow, April 21.


Additional photos by Dean Budnick: