On Sunday, Phish took the stage at Commerce City, CO’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for the 30th time to deliver a climactic closing act for both the 2021 Labor Day Weekend run and the 2021 summer tour. After a summer filled with lengthy jams, new material, and rare songs not played in years, the band was sure to keep the excitement high for the coming fall tour of the West Coast and Halloween run in Las Vegas.
Phish began the night with a stellar “The Moma Dance”, kicked off by the starting gun that is Page McConnell‘s roaring clavinet and buoyed by lead vocals from drummer Jon Fishman and pulsating electric guitar riffs from Trey Anastasio. The band kept this jam relatively short, as the show grooved right along into the tour debut of the elusive “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters”, which was last played on 7/14/18 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, CA. This tune featured a dreamy, peaceful piano solo from McConnell as the band indulged fans in an old-school trip to Gamehendge. A tour debut is always an exciting highlight, especially when played so early in the set on the final night of tour.
Next, the band dealt a sharp, crisp version of “Sand” which gained a rocking pulse from Fishman’s fierce drumbeat and was propelled forward by unique, funky synths. The ambient nature of the jam was aided by Anastasio’s continued use of a delay pedal to further amplify his serene guitar phrasings. Though the song inched toward the 14-minute mark, Trey still hadn’t sung the second verse by the time he signaled the start of “Sigma Oasis”.
It felt cyclical for “Sigma Oasis” to appear at the summer tour closer given how the song—and the 2020 Phish studio album of the same name—served as a beacon of light for many throughout the pandemic. Though the threat of COVID-19 still exists, Phish just managed to stage an entire summer tour largely unmarked by COVID-related incidents. The show has gone on. You’re already there.
The sentimentality continued with the mellow meditation of “All Of These Dreams”, making its first appearance since 10/17/18 at Times Union Center in Albany, NY. The brief telling of the Round Room track was followed up by the always-welcome, bouncy introduction to “Reba”. The band wove through the carefully crafted instrumental passages before delivering some short-but-sweet improvisation.
Those in the crowd who were disappointed in the brief runtime of “Reba” were hopefully satiated with the set-closing “Bathtub Gin” that followed. Though the reliable jam vehicle made five appearances throughout summer tour 2021, none of the prior renditions carried the stopping power of the Dick’s Sunday se-closer. While the runtime was only a modest 14 minutes, the ensemble moved with purpose through the improvisational waters, guided by the distant lighthouse of Trey’s wah-soaked guitar leads. The band treaded lightly in dark areas courtesy of Page’s brooding Wurlitzer work before the song came to a fiery climax to wrap the first frame. After delivering double-digit jams on four of the seven songs in the first set, it was clear that the best was just yet to come.
To keep the lightning energy pulsing on, Trey Anastasio blasted off into the dark funk-soul chords of “Set Your Soul Free” to start the second set. Similar to the mammoth, 47-minute “Soul Planet” from Shoreline Amphitheater opener on 8/31/21, even the most jaded of vets were forced to bite their tongues as Phish turned in an impressive 19-minute offering of the 3.0 composition. The open textures of the “SYSF” jam washed over the masses at Dick’s, with ambient interplay between Page and Trey as the guitarist explored the low-end with his sub-octave synths, linking up with Gordon so everyone got a chance to “swim in the murk.”
The serenity of the “Set Your Soul Free” jam set up the tee for a soothing rendition of Trey’s “Lonely Trip”. Much like Sigma Oasis, this one contained undeniable sentimentality as the song anchored the guitarist’s pandemic-produced solo album, recorded entirely in quarantine. The lyrics “perhaps we’ll finally meet at last” evoked some added emotional weigh on this night, as the fleeting meeting came on the tour’s final night.
Sensing the tear-stained eyes, Phish resumed the party once again with a powerful take on “Simple”, featuring skyscraper-level guitar solos from Trey. Just as the guitarist was really starting to venture out with his low-end effects, however, the band took a hard turn into the lyrics to “Catapult”. The back-and-forth Anastasio/Gordon A Picture of Nectar track made its tour debut and would kick off a run of more setlist antics akin to Deer Creek on 8/8/19.
Phish managed to keep the ongoing “Simple” jam intact underneath “Catapult”, emerging on the other side with more of the bouncy, dark tones that preceded the classic Phish oddity. During the ensuing jam, Trey fit in some “Cool Amber and Mercury” quotes before Mike Gordon fired off the opening to “Meatstick”. Mashups continued to stack up as more quotes from “Catapult” and “Lonely Trip” punctuated the Japanese verse and choreography segments (somebody give Mike a choreography refresher course before fall tour).
Phish – “Simple” -> “Catapult” -> “Meatstick” [Pro -Shot] – Commerce City, CO – 9/5/21
The setlist whiplash finally came to a halt with “Ruby Waves”. In lieu of taking the song too far, Phish instead opted for more quick hits with only the second-ever live telling of “Bliss” followed by its studio partner, “Billy Breathes”.
Phish – “Ruby Waves” – Commerce City, CO – 9/5/21
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
With the clock winding down, fans throughout Dick’s and across the interwebs were hoping that their song would be included in this final frame of Phish tour. Thousands of guesses were surely rendered incorrect as Page stepped to the mic for the seventh Phish rendition of his synth-led, neo-techno Vida Blue original, “Most Events Aren’t Planned”. Some loose thematic relevance to the past 18 months, when everyone’s planned events were obliterated, helped the eight-minute vamp serve as a satisfying bridge to a powerful, if succinct, “Harry Hood” to close out the last set of summer tour.
Returning to the stage with Phish one last time before fall tour opens on October 15th, Trey thanked the audience for sharing in the beautiful weekend before leading the band through his modern-era positivity anthem, “More”, and a rocking “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” sing-along.
Phish returns to the stage on October 15th at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, CA. For a full list of tour dates head here.
Setlist: Phish | Dick’s Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, CO | 9/5/21
Set One: The Moma Dance, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Sand  > Sigma Oasis > All Of These Dreams, Reba, Bathtub Gin 
Set Two: Set Your Soul Free > Lonely Trip > Simple > Catapult > Meatstick > Catapult > Ruby Waves > Bliss > Billy Breathes, Most Events Aren’t Planned > Harry Hood
Encore: More > Say it to me S.A.N.T.O.S
 No whistling
 No Men In No Man’s Land Tease