Photos by Larry Hulst
Phish nailed the first night of its tour-closing three-show-stand at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, Sept. 4.
While the three-hour concert featured a score of tour standards (“Halley’s Comet,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Run Like an Antelope” and “Wolfman’s Brother”), the band’s performance was anything but ordinary as they breathed fire into a familiar setlist with inspired jams, creative soloing and airtight playing. The night also featured a few uncommon covers – TV on the Radio’s “Golden Age”, and Ween’s “Roses Are Free” – and the encore-breakout of Pink Floyd’s “Bike,” the first time played by the band in more than 100 shows.
Phish was on from the moment they hit the stage with “Tube” and “Ghost,” linked by an undulating jam and followed-up by a lively “Halley’s Comet” cemented by Mike Gordon’s sturdy bass runs. “Halley’s Comet” morphed into “Undermind” before the band steered the crowd onto “Yarmouth Road” and “Bathtub Gin.” “Bathtub Gin” was a show highlight; the band locked into the song’s loping groove while keyboardist Page McConnell splashed atonal piano filigrees over the crowd favorite. Next up was “The Wedge,” which seemed to be a tribute to the scores of Phish fans who travelled to the Centennial State to see the band close out its summer tour. For the first time that night, the sold-out crowd seemed linked with the band and it helped them through the tune by joyfully singing along to the chorus, “Take the highway through the Great Divide.” Phish closed the first set with equally enthusiastic renditions of “46 Days” and “Run Like an Antelope.”
Anastasio took over Jon Fishman’s drum kit while Fishman commanded the microphone during the first encore, a demented, Farfisa- laden cover of Argent’s “Hold Your Head up>Pink Floyd’s “Bike”>”Hold Your Head Up.” Phish then sent the crowd home with a rare second encore, a jubilant version of the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup.”
After a short intermission, the band returned for a loose second set, starting off with “Wolfman’s Brother” and the new “Blaze On,” which featured a slow-burning jam from singer-guitarist Trey Anastasio that squeezed every drop of color from the musical rainbow, and lyrics that could be the new mantra for Phish fans, “When I screw it up once, I do it twice!” The band lent its special touch to the cover songs before dipping into “Fuego,” the title track of their 2014 studio release. Phish closed its second set with McConnell’s evocative “Wading in the Velvet Sea,” followed by a rousing “Walls of the Cave.”