After two nights of fun in Bethel, NY, beloved jam band Phish rounded out the weekend with a one-off, Sunday night performance at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford, CT, formerly known as The Meadows. The performance marked the band’s first trip to the outdoor Connecticut venue since 2016. With expectations high for the first Sunday show of the summer tour, the band took the stage shortly after 7:30 and was greeted by uproarious applause.
The show started in fine form with the up-tempo instrumental “Cars Trucks Buses”, powered by potent guitar playing from Trey Anastasio. The band let loose as Trey continued to build the energy in the jam, feeding off of Page McConnell’s emphatic playing on the grand piano. The song whirled into a crescendo before concluding.
Next up was the Big Boat dad-rocker “Breath and Burning”. While the song’s composed sections were played well, including the typical applause for the lyric about raging with Page, this version was most noteworthy for its post-verse jam session. The band stayed in jam space for a few minutes, with Trey and Page trading arpeggiated licks on guitar and electric piano, respectively. It was drummer Jon Fishman and bassist Mike Gordon who truly drove this jam along until Trey returned to the “Burning” chord progression and wrapped up the song.
The band continued with another newer song selection, “The Final Hurrah”. Debuted during Phish’s 2018 Halloween performance under the guise of Kasvot Växt, this was also an extended take that saw the band slyly slip into a free-for-all improvisational section. Page led the jam on the Clav, laying a funky foundation behind Trey’s soaring guitar work. The solo culminated with some roaring tones before Trey sang the song’s refrain and ended the number.
Soaring onward into the first set, Phish continued with “Free”. Even though this was ultimately a standard version, there really isn’t a version that fails to deliver. With its drifting riff, floating-in-the-blimp-a-lot lyrics, and that all-out funk-fest that emerges in the middle, you’re never in bad company with “Free”.
— Phish: From The Road (@Phish_FTR) July 25, 2022
Gordo got his first lead vocals of the night next as the band brought out “Yarmouth Road” for the first time in 39 shows. The song is punctuated by pleasant lyrics and melodies, keeping up the positive energy of the setlist. The band stretched out the song’s ending slightly, toying with the “Yarmouth” melody before ultimately returning to the refrain.
Until this point, the first set had been mostly filled with happy-go-lucky, major-key song selections. Not so with the next song, “Plasma”, which dwelled in mysterious space as the band worked through its verses and into an open jam session. Page dazzled on the Yamaha once again as Fish and Gordo stayed in the pocket, until Trey broke through with a climactic solo that gave way to the composed finale.
The set continued with another recent selection, “Sigma Oasis”, the title track of Phish’s 2020 album, which was released mere days into the COVID-19 pandemic. The number started in its typical uplifting place but turned on a dime into a Fishman-driven funk foray. This was the standout jam of the set, the full band locking in for a wild, spacey ride. After a few minutes, Trey brought the group out of the funk and into a major key chord progression highlighted by ascending guitar work and Page’s Yamaha grand. At the end of this light and breezy finale section, Trey slipped into the “You’re already there!” refrain to help bring the song to a close.
Phish – “Sigma Oasis” [Pro-Shot] – 7/24/22
Nearly 18 minutes later, Phish continued the set with a classic selection, “Limb By Limb”. This one was well played, albeit standard, with some nice interplay during the instrumental break in the middle of the song. The “LxL” call-and-response lyrics had the fans singing along throughout the song.
Finally, after some brief deliberation, Gordo laid down the plodding bass riff of what would be the set closer, “Sand”. This was a funky free-for-all, as the band breezed through the verses and dove head first into Type I improvisation. Trey brought the jam to its peak, ending the song and set with a triumphant, major-key melody.
Phish – “Sand” – 7/24/22
The second set of a Phish show is known for its exploratory nature, and Sunday was no exception. The band started set two with the Lonely Trip song “A Wave of Hope” and proceeded to deliver perhaps the best version of the song so far. The band leaped from the verses and noodled in a light, flowing musical trance. Gordo’s bass perfectly complemented Trey’s melodic playing before pushing the oceanic jam into deeper, more exploratory waters.
The spacey, rhythmic voyage dove into darker waters next, at which point I wrote down “Okay, this is a really long jam,” and checked my watch. Fifteen minutes. The spacey jam began to float as Page summoned synth moods and Trey experimented with mind-bending tones from his effects board. Finally, it was Fishman who reeled the band back in, and as Phish re-centered around its drummer, Trey hit the opening progression and brought the song to its finale.
The set-opening, nearly 24-minute jam was followed by yet another long, seaworthy jam courtesy of “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing”. This ASIHTOS quickly steered into uncharted waters, blown in by a gust of descending guitar melodies from Trey. The jam became very mysterious and trippy, lingering in a drifting space before Anastasio locked into a pentatonic melody and brought the band into a tighter, bluesy jam.
Toward the end of this “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” jam, it was Trey who shifted the band into the next song of the setlist, “Blaze On”. This one was as carefree as ever, as the happy lyrics gave way to some melodic and pleasant improvisation. The musicians gradually brought this musical expression into an ethereal, dreamlike space, highlighted by echoing synthesizers and similar guitar tones.
At this point, Phish had played three songs for about an hour. These stretches do need to end eventually, unfortunately, leaving time for a few shorter and traditional takes to close out the set. First it was “The Wedge”, which broke through the “Blaze On” dream with its high-power riff and all-around funky blues.
The next song, “Farmhouse”, provided the slow-down moment of the set—the breath-catcher, if you will. Trey played through some light-touch guitar work, offering up the obligatory “No Woman No Cry” teases in the process. The mellow moment was followed by the feel-goodery of “Backwards Down The Number Line”, another short and sweet number at the back end of the second set. “Character Zero” followed, bringing the energy back up to close out the frame. This was some pure Phish rock n’ roll, singing and shredding at high velocity.
After a moment or two, Phish returned for the encore and got started by laying down an exceptionally funky cut of “Tube”. The band got creative early and often on this “Tube”, layering in pulsing bass with some slick playing from Trey. Fishman eventually wrangled the band back into the song’s composed structure. Stupendous, to be certain—and, while not terribly long, most definitely jammed-out.
Without hesitation, Fish drove the quartet into the energetic instrumental “First Tube”. The tube-hopping encore ended in fine form with Trey wailing on guitar and, upon completing the song, taking his patented “rockstar glory” moment, his Languedoc aloft over his head as feedback blared from the amplifiers behind him and the crowd cheered for more. Another great show in the books.
No, but tube-fest! #phish
— DidTheyJamOutTube? (@TubeJamUpdate) July 25, 2022
Below, check out a gallery of photos from the Hartford show via Charlie Jenkins. Phish resumes its summer tour at the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY for a two-night run Tuesday and Wednesday.
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Setlist [via Phish.net]: Phish | Xfinity Theatre | Hartford, CT | 7/24/22
Set One: Cars Trucks Buses, Breath and Burning, The Final Hurrah, Free, Yarmouth Road, Plasma > Sigma Oasis, Limb By Limb, Sand
Set Two: A Wave of Hope > A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > Blaze On > The Wedge, Farmhouse > Backwards Down the Number Line > Character Zero
Encore: Tube > First Tube