Last night, Phish wrapped up a two-night stand at the Bethel Woods Center For The Arts. This amphitheater sits on sacred ground as it was the site of the original Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969, something not lost on the band.
The amuse-bouche for Saturday was “Evening Song”. The mellow, breezy Sigma Oasis tune feels like an odd choice to start a show, but three of its four performances have opened sets. The Scandinavian synth-pop of Kasvot Växt‘s “Turtle In The Clouds” followed before the band breezed through a confident, inside-the-box version of the semi-rare “Vultures”. Though it debuted in 1997, to me this one always felt like it could exist in the Gamehendge canon (despite the “Woos” from the crowd). “My Sweet One” saw some prodigious piano work from Page McConnell, prompting guitarist Trey Anastasio to bellow “Leo!” during the keyboardist’s solo.
A very solid pass through the quirky title track from Phish’s 2004 album Undermind landed in the fifth spot and finally saw the band relax and open up a bit, with things getting interesting right after the “Undecided, unrefined” refrain at the end of the song. But a bouncy, dark jam that caught some steam too quickly gave way to a brighter, mellower jam that eventually drizzled into the beautiful, increasingly infrequent “Fast Enough For You”. Played for the first time since 6/30/2019, a gap of 86 shows, the band showed no rust with this one. Trey’s guitar tone and sustain on the back half were transcendent, questioning whether I’ve ever heard his tone so full and clean.
Speaking of transcendence, one of the pillars of the Phish anthology followed. When the band arrives at the Pearly Gates, and Saint Peter asks them to play their way into heaven, I think “Divided Sky” must be the song they play. Even though it didn’t go anywhere it hasn’t been before, this version was nearly flawless and soared on the back half. I’m still hoping to hear this one late in a show, but it’s firmly established as a first set vehicle. The last time we heard “Divided Sky” anywhere else was in the encore at Keyspan Park in Brooklyn on 6/17/04.
Before the final notes rang out from a rocking pass through “Suzy Greenberg”, Trey kicked into the familiar riff of “Ghost”. The closer was certainly the highlight of the set. Bassist Mike Gordon steered the ship throughout, locking in with drummer Jon Fishman early in the jam. Trey and Page seemed especially connected as well as they danced on the chugging rhythm section, building to a ridiculous peak reminiscent of the end of “First Tube” before they dug back into the form. There was no let up in this “Ghost’. It didn’t have multiple sections. There were no key changes. There was no searching. Just straight ahead set-ending Phish rock.
For the first frame, the band bounced from one distinct style to another. And while there wasn’t much cohesiveness to the set, it certainly built and built to a fantastic finish.
Opening a second set for the first time in its 163 appearances was “Prince Caspian”. I wasn’t expecting to like this placement as much as I did, and while it didn’t stack up as a noteworthy exploration, the simple three-chord tune is always a potential jam vehicle and it set them up nicely as Trey dropped into the Talking Heads‘ “Crosseyed and Painless”. It felt like this one picked up where “Ghost” left off, immediately charging out of the gates. Early on, without missing a beat, the band executed a seamless key change that almost felt planned. Though energetic throughout, this jam required a little more patience from the band members as they explored multiple sections before dripping into “Miss You”. Trey showcased some nice vocal range on this one. Like his guitar tone, his singing has only gotten better with age.
“Set Your Soul Free” was up fourth. The straight-ahead rocker fell into a nice groove over which they sang a chorus of “still waiting” from “Crosseyed and Painless” before changing course completely and jumping into Type II territory. The charging, experimental, psychedelic darkness that followed was so nasty it’s hard to think it stemmed from “Set Your Soul Free” and not “Split Open and Melt”. I never thought “nasty” or “sinister” would be an appropriate way to describe “Set Your Soul Free” but this version more than satisfied the “Makes Phish Dark Again” contingent. This jam went in so many different directions. For over 20 minutes it was pure, uninhibited, spontaneous composition before Trey segued back into “Prince Caspian”.
Phish – “Set Your Soul Free” [Pro-Shot] – 7/23/22
“Twist” followed and the band relaxed for a bit with a brighter, mellower jam that eventually pivoted and began its ascent to some of the highest peaks of the night, complete with a “still waiting” call back. It would’ve been fantastic close to a great set but Phish had one more in them.
A raging, faster-than-usual “Carini” closed a second set for the first time ever. And they played this blistering, six-minute version like it was designed to cap huge second sets. It just had a little more pop than usual.
Next up was an encore full of bust-outs. It began with “The Horse” > “Silent In The Morning”. They’ve struggled with “Silent In The Morning” in the post-reunion era, but this was a solid pass through the tune, which emerged for the first time since 2/23/20. “Fuck Your Face”, the White Tape gem, preceded “Buffalo Bill” which made its first appearance since 7/14/19.
And when you’re on the same ground as the original Woodstock festival, it only makes sense to close the night with an homage to Jimi Hendrix. This “Fire” raged, and during his blazing Jimi impression, Trey played the “Star-Spangled Banner” for one extra nod to Hendrix, as the band ripped through the vamp of the “Fire” chords.
Phish – “Star-Spangled Banner” (Francis Scott Key) – 7/23/22
It was a huge Saturday night in Bethel. Phish started chugging midway through the first set and barely took anything off the gas until they said goodnight. You could feel their reverence to the hallowed property and their responsibility to deliver a big show.
To order your LivePhish webcast for any of the band’s upcoming summer shows, head here. To sign up for a free trial membership to LivePhish+ and listen to the whole summer 2022 tour and more, head here.
Following Phish’s Sunday tour-ending Dick’s Sporting Goods Park performance, an all-star amalgamation of funk players will keep the party going at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom for the Phunk Sessions featuring members of John Mayer‘s touring band, Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk, and more [get tickets].
Setlist [via Phish.net]: Phish | Bethel Woods Center For The Arts | Bethel, NY | 7/23/22
SET 1: Evening Song, Turtle in the Clouds, Vultures, My Sweet One, Undermind > Fast Enough for You > Divided Sky, Suzy Greenberg > Ghost
SET 2: Prince Caspian > Crosseyed and Painless > Miss You > Set Your Soul Free > Prince Caspian > Twist > Carini
ENCORE: The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Fuck Your Face, Buffalo Bill, Fire
Set Your Soul Free contained a short Crosseyed and Painless jam with quotes from Trey. Trey also quoted Crosseyed and Painless in Twist. Trey played The Star-Spangled Banner in its entirety during Fire.