Last night, Phish played their second of three shows at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island in Chicago. The memorable performance saw the band in fine, “mid-tour form”–despite the fact that it came on just the second night of their truncated summer run–affirming that their week of musical and technical rehearsals at Milwaukee’s BMO Bradley Harris Center was well worth the effort. The band was extraordinarily tight and cohesive for their second night of tour, as proven through the exploratory second set, another Phish debut (after 4 the previous night), and one of the finest jams in recent memory.
The first set featured mostly standard fare, as the show got underway with “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan,” “The Moma Dance,” and “The Wedge,” which didn’t come close to the all-time highs the tune reached in the same venue on 7/20/14. An uneventful “Halfway To The Moon” followed, as usual offering not too much in the way of “things to write home about.” The “Ya Mar” that came next faithfully brought its summer sunniness to the table. In addition to the regular “Play it Leo!” organ solo, this “Ya Mar” got a “take it Mike” bass segment taboot, the bassist capitalizing on the opportunity with a bouncing solo. “Martian Monster” blasted off our of “Ya Mar,” and contented to coalesce as arguably the strongest tune from the Haunted House 2014 Halloween set. Good-but-not-great versions of “Wingsuit,” “Bouncin’,” followed, before cheesy-but-growing-on-us Big Boat tune “More” gave Trey Anastasio a chance to unleash some dextrous licks to close the set.
Looking over the setlist during the break, fans couldn’t be faulted for worrying that they may have a “Saturday Night Special” on their hands–you know, when they play the easily-accessible tunes, eschewing the jams and the theatrics for the presumably less die-hard weekend warrior crowd. However, on the back of a top-notch seven-song second set, the band would morph the “Saturday Night Special” concerns into post-show raves about a truly special Saturday night.
The set began with the unexpected Phish debut of Trey Anastasio Band staple “Corona,” with Page’s keys, Fishman’s drumming, and Mike’s bass groove translating seamlessly into this unfamiliar material. “Corona” served as a quick palete cleanser for the meat of the show that came next in the form of a “Simple” that proved to be anything but.
After the tune’s usual structure, Trey led the band into major key jam territory for a blissful vamp, which gradually dissolved into ambient, outer space sonic texture, with Trey sprinkling in fiery lead lines for good measure while Mike powered the train forward through a haze of synth sounds from Page. Just under the 12-minute mark, the jam dissipated, a seemed as though it would move into a new song. However, a dark, driving, bluesy jam began to take root in its place, keeping the train rolling along (and hinting at a familiar Arkansas mule named Jerry), before breaking into a heavily distorted groove reminiscent of “The Dogs.” “Simple” continued from there at a slow burn, with fragments of “plinko” lines from Page adding ambiance before boiling over with glorious cacophony behind a reverb vamp from Trey. The jam’s final minutes were comprised of soaring tension and release, before the band finally landed in the set’s sole “breather,” a pretty rendition of “Winterqueen.” When all was said and done, the “Simple” clocked in at a whopping 27+ minutes, making it the third-longest “Simple” ever (after 11/16/94 and 12/9/97) and the third-longest overall jam since the band’s 2009 reunion (after the storied “Tahoe Tweezer” on 7/31/13 and the fantastic “Chalkdust Torture” from Randall’s Island on 7/13/14). If the band is reaching such towering heights on just their second night out, we can all be glad, glad, glad about the prospects for this 2017 summer run.
“Winterqueen” gave way to a short-and-sweet “Light,” which segued seamlessly into an always-welcome “Scents and Subtle Sounds” (minus the intro). The “Scents” jam went from breezy and pretty to dark and grimy for a few minutes of excellent improv before making a full segue into a funky “Cities” before finally finding the opening notes to “Slave” for an emotional climax to end the set. A “Loving Cup” encore–the second Exile On Main Street encore selection in as many days–sent the fans out into the Windy City feeling a beautiful buzz.
While the first set of this show will certainly not be a go-to for re-listening, this show’s second set is premium grade fresh Phish, and will certainly be served up on fans’ headphones and car stereos for years to come. Just two shows in, and we’re already making some lasting musical memories. Summer 2017 is just barely underway, and Phish is already winning big.
Phish continues their summer run with their third and final Northerly Island show tonight, before they head on to Wright State University Nutter Center in Dayton, OH for their first of two one-off weekday shows this coming week before they begin their highly anticipated “Baker’s Dozen” run on Friday.
Setlist: Phish | Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island | Chicago, IL | 7/15/17
I: Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan > The Moma Dance > The Wedge, Halfway to the Moon > Ya Mar, Martian Monster, Party Time, Wingsuit > Bouncing Around the Room, More
II: Corona > Simple > Winterqueen > Light -> Scents and Subtle Sounds -> Cities > Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Loving Cup
 Phish debut.
 No intro.
[Cover photo via Phierce Photo by Keith G.]
If you’re heading to New York for Phish’s 13-night Baker’s Dozen run at Madison Square Garden, don’t miss all the incredible late night shows going on in the City during the run! Check out Our Official Guide To Baker’s Dozen Late-Nights for all the info.
Live For Live Music Phish Baker’s Dozen Run Late-Night Shows
July 21 – The Werks @ American Beauty (tix)
July 21 – The Motet @ BB King Blues Club (tix)
July 20, 21, & 22 – Twiddle @ Irving Plaza (tix) *
July 22 – The Werks @ American Beauty (tix)
July 22 – Circles Around The Sun @ Gramercy Theatre (SOLD OUT)
July 23 – Circles Around The Sun (early brunch show) @ Brooklyn Bowl (tix) #
July 25 – Turkuaz at Irving Plaza (tix) *
July 28 – Dopapod @ Gramercy Theater (tix) *
July 28 – James Brown Dance Party – 2 Shows @ Highline Ballroom (early tix/late tix) *
July 29 – Dopapod @ Gramercy (tix) *
July 29 – Perpetual Groove @ BB King Blues Club (tix)
Aug 2 – Matisyahu @ The Cutting Room (tix) *
Aug 3 – Greensky Bluegrass w/ Marco Benevento @ Ford Amphitheatre At Coney Island Boardwalk (tix) **
Aug 4 – “Kraz & Taz” – Eric Krasno Band w/ Brandon “Taz” Niederauer Band @ The Cutting Room (tix)
Aug 5 – Spafford @ BB King Blues Club (tix)
* (L4LM & CEG Presents)
**(L4LM & Live Nation Presents)
# (L4LM & Brooklyn Bowl Presents)