Phish returned to Eugene, OR’s Matthew Knight Arena on Wednesday to round out a two-night, midweek run.

The first night of the run on Tuesday had been an emotional one as Trey Anastasio took a few minutes to address the upsetting incidents at the band’s San Francisco show this past Sunday. The music, too, took on a lighter, more pleasant tone as Phish appeared to take a conscious break from the summer 2021 “darkness” in favor of dwelling in the light. Wednesday’s show offered more of the same as the band delivered upbeat setlist choices, feel-good jams, and one particularly rare bust-out.

Lest we had forgotten the larger grey cloud hanging over live music in 2021 amid our community’s acute moment of grief, the band reminded fans prior to the show that mask-wearing was required in the venue when not eating or drinking. Some fans may have prickled at the rule, but the events of the last few days surely offered some renewed perspective: this thing we love to do is fragile, and it can’t hurt to take some extra care.

Continuing this tour’s growing trend, the band went with an unorthodox opening song in “Mr. Completely”. After Trey Anastasio and Jon Fishman‘s recent “practice session” on the song at a little woodshed called Radio City Music Hall, it was only a matter of time before it made an appearance on Phish’s fall tour. While it didn’t reach the heights of Tuesday’s opening “Down With Disease”, “Mr. Completely” performed admirably in its first-ever set one appearance thanks in large part to the nimble fingers of Mr. Page McConnell on the piano.

Next came a surprise from the summer 2013 playbook, The Apples in Stereo‘s “Energy”, which returned to the rotation in 2019 after a six-year absence. The sunny tune quickly slipped into a crawling groove crawl akin to the “Mr. Completely” jam that preceded it, McConnell and Fishman setting the tone. “Energy” eventually rumbled into “Timber”, which featured some nice surges of tension thanks to stands of jagged, bent riffs from Anastasio.

After a brief pause, the Mike Gordon-led “Casual Enlightenment” made its second-ever appearance following its debut on Sunday night at Deer Creek this past summer. The song’s pulsing outro eventually gave way to roars of excitement from the Oregon audience as Trey kicked off “Divided Sky”. Forever a prized jewel in Phish’s crown, this version delivered its patented catharsis in spades. From screaming sustain to a powerful “pause,” the magic of “Divided Sky” was as strong as ever in Eugene.

A lovely, languid “Farmhouse” then gave way to a memorable, set-closing “Split Open and Melt” segment. While “Melt” has long commanded the crown in the world of “evil” Phish, the run’s “mellow”-over-“menacing” theme prevailed here, as well. The result was a patient, meditative, jazz-inflected jam that seemed to grow organically to a well-earned climax without dipping into the darkness for which it’s known. Faint sirens soon seeped into the mellow mix as Trey painted abstract frescos on guitar (think “Beneath a Sea of Stars”).

As the jam pooled into sparse, reflective space, some organ swells from Page heralded the biggest surprise of the night, Story of the Ghost closing track “End of Session”, for the first time since its nearly two-decade-delayed debut on Jam-Filled night at the Baker’s Dozen in 2017. The ultra-rare interlude—a gorgeous accoutrement for an unusually lovely “Split Open and Melt”—finally led back into the “Melt” coda to close the set.

It could be worth noting that this “End of Session” interlude seemed to mirror the recent debut of “And So To Bed”—another song Phish recorded decades ago but has always shied away from playing live—at the tour opener in Sacramento. With long-lost tunes coming out of the woodwork and setlist orders getting a shakeup all around, it’s clear that Phish has been examining the way its live catalog fits together this tour. These sorts of thematic reassessments tend to come about when the band is planning and practicing for something special, and with Halloween just around the corner, odds are “weird setlists on fall tour” is a phenomenon being prompted by whatever awaits us in Las Vegas on the 31st.

Phish returned after setbreak for a short and sweet run through “AC/DC Bag”, a longtime first set staple that has now appeared during set two in three of its last four renditions. This was just an appetizer, however, as “Ruby Waves” promptly arrived to serve as the improvisational meat of the set.

Phish – “Ruby Waves” – 10/20/21

Ignited by stimulating synth swirls from Page on the verses, “Ruby Waves” breezed through billowing, contemplative motifs over the course of its nearly 30-minute runtime. Trey quickly adopted an upbeat, “Timber”-like chord progression as Page broke the accompaniment down to a trickle, toying with tempo, dynamics, and motion. Things got particularly interesting as the band fell in behind a driving Gordon groove at the 23-minute mark, the bassist plodding over percussive electronic flutters from Page’s synth arsenal and an unrelenting Fishman backbeat.

Trey locked into a melodic riff around 28 minutes in and allowed the band to meet him at that pleasant port before drifting into “Lonely Trip”, the beautiful quarantine tune that quickly won the hearts of Phish fans this summer.

“Golden Age” dropped in next, flirting with minor keys but keeping the energy more “smoldering” and less “sinister.” Once again, the band dabbled with jazz expressions here before Mike Gordon picked up the baton and led the others into a pretty, “Bug”-like breakdown.

With time for one more, Trey fired up “Backwards Down The Number Line”, driving home the run’s thematic positivity with an emphatic, white light peak. The two-song encore offered two final blasts of rock n’ roll energy—”Wilson” and “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.”—to send fans on their way down the coast.

Phish fall tour 2021 continues Friday, October 22nd in Phoenix, AZ. For a full list of upcoming dates, head here.

Listen to a full audio recording of the show via LivePhish.

Click below to revisit Live For Live Music‘s full coverage of Phish fall tour 2021 including photos, videos, and concert recaps.

Phish Fall Tour 2021 Recaps

10/15/21 Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA – Recap
10/16/21 Chase Center, San Francisco, CA – Recap
10/17/21 Chase Center, San Francisco, CA – Recap
10/19/21 Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR – Recap
10/20/21 Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR
10/22/21 Ak-Chin Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ – Recap
10/23/21 NICU Amphitheatre, Chula Vista, CA – Recap
10/24/21 The Forum, Inglewood, CA – Recap
10/26/21 Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA – Recap
10/28 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Recap
10/29 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Upcoming
10/30 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Upcoming
10/31 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Upcoming

View Fall Tour Coverage

Setlist [via]: Phish | Matthew Knight Arena | Eugene, OR | 10/20/21

Set One: Mr. Completely, Energy -> Timber (Jerry the Mule), Casual Enlightenment, Divided Sky, Farmhouse, Split Open and Melt > End of Session -> Split Open and Melt

Set Two: AC/DC Bag > Ruby Waves > Lonely Trip > Golden Age > Backwards Down the Number Line

Encore: Wilson, Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.