Photo by Kevin Kenly
Phish showed some love for the Pacific Northwest at the beginning of their fall tour, making their first visit to Seattle in nearly twenty years (Though the group has visited the nearby Gorge Amphitheater bi-annually for years now). Those who attended the fall run’s opening show the previous night in Eugene Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena welcomed the Key’s more relaxed security and the ability to go outside between sets, and the casual atmosphere trickled over to the band for a mixture of tightly-knit jams and early-tour kinks.
First set started with a surprising “Cavern,” followed by an unsurprising run through “Wilson,” given guitarist Trey Anastasio’s ultrapublicized attention to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson over recent years. The song moved into the hyper bounce of “Rift,” followed by a syrupy slither through “The Moma Dance,” an early highlight. “The Line” signaled the beginning of a mellow run that included “Sugar Shack” and “Lawn Boy,” the latter consummated with a bluesy bass solo by Mike Gordon, who otherwise kept a relatively low profile in the mix in comparison to the previous night.
The energy picked back up with “Kill Devil Falls” and the band settled into a cohesive jam during “Wolfman’s Brother” highlighted by Page McConnell’s tasty contributions on keys, which maintained his impressive presence in Eugene the night prior. The rollicking, countrified “Sparkle” sped up into crescendo, and Anastasio wasted no time jumping into an extensive blast of “Bathtub Gin” featuring some momentous guitar passages flashier than Gordon’s glow-in-the-dark sneakers.
Second set featured a continuous segue of heavy hitters, ripe with soaring peaks despite a couple rocky transitions that felt more like emergency detours. “Down With Disease” beckoned dancers to return to form, followed by TV On the Radio’s “Golden Age.” McConnell led a spacey transition into the angular rock groove of “Fuego,” capitalized by a heavy blast of Anastasio’s sonic alchemy in the middle.
“Light” gave way to the greasy funk of “Cities,” the second Talking Heads cover in just as many days. While McConnell kept hips swinging in the audience, the tune was cut short by Anastasio’s awkward veer into “46 Days.” Still, the rhythm section knows how to turn on a dime and jumped right into the pocket, pushing the jam to high-flying territory before sliding into a gorgeous version of “Sand,” which gave way to another blindsiding swerve into “Backwards Down the Number Line.”
The set wrapped up with a fitting cover of native Seattle legend Jimi Hendrix’s “Axis: Bold as Love.” An energetic encore waited around the corner, building the feel-good groove throughout “Meatstick” and ending with “Character Zero.” For the die-hards and holier-than-thou skeptics there will always be a “better show” to reference and compare, but for the more gracious listeners and the uninitiated, Seattle was a solid showing for a band unafraid to take chances and the fans that embrace the adventure.