Phish returned to Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s last night for their second show at the venue and of their 2018 Summer Tour. They wasted no time getting down to business in Lake Tahoe, turning in a high-octane night of music that was peppered with thoughtful improvisation. With the cobwebs officially shaken off after the first show of the summer, Phish is decidedly back after Wednesday night’s performance at Harvey’s.

Phish got the show on the road with a stellar take on Gamehendge-era fan-favorite “AC/DC Bag”. The standard version came and went quickly, but set the tone for the second solid first set in as many days. Next up was “Martian Monster”, which invited keyboardist Page McConnell to cue up some of his spooky Halloween samples from 2014’s full-album reimagination of Disney‘s Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. Drummer Jon Fishman then addressed the crowd, inviting them to learn the lyrics to and sing along with the next song; of course, that song was “Ass Handed”. Fishman slowly enunciated the song’s repetitive lyrics for the audience, before kicking into the song’s instrumental fiery ending.

The band followed “Ass Handed” with “Everything Right”, which provided a platform for the evening’s first extended improvisation. Led by Fishman and bassist Mike Gordon‘s locked-in groove, McConnell turned to his spacey synth pads, eventually allowing for a patient Trey Anastasio to fill in the blanks with guitar stabs and squeals, finally connecting with the band for some power-rock exploration. Fishman was in fine form, guiding the band into this first-set jam, which clearly encouraged Anastasio to take it further and further. The band re-grouped around Fishman’s beat, with Anastasio adding some vocal vamps before they dissolved into an aggressive version of “555”.

After an energetic run through “The Wedge”, the band delivered their first attempt at “Lawn Boy” since the famed Baker’s Dozen version. While this version wasn’t stretched to forty-three-minutes, it did receive a generous response from the crowd, acknowledging the song’s new place in Phish’s pantheon. The infectious shuffle of “Back On The Train” picked things back up, with Anastasio shifting things into second-gear for a short-but-sweet type I jam. After swiftly running through the main portion of “Ocelot”, the band once again settled on a dark, power-rock vibe during the song’s jam section, and they built that vibe towards a cacophonous peak.

After using power-rock as a tool throughout the first set, the band brought things full-circle with perhaps their best power-rock song: “Theme From The Bottom”. The triumphant version seemed to put an exclamation mark on an exciting first set when the band surprised the crowd and started up “Bathtub Gin”. The reliable jam vehicle was as potent as ever, with the band quickly moving into a type II territory, as the rhythm section once again locked in to allow Anastasio’s exploratory guitar playing to truly shine. This “Gin” jam was pushed to multiple peaks before the song was completed, finishing off the set in fine fashion.

The dissonant bass of “Down With Disease” ushered in the beginning of set two. The band came out firing on all cylinders, confidently improvising before settling into a more melodic and meditative space. After settling there for a few minutes, suddenly, Anastasio’s guitar pierced through, announcing the arrival of the delicate Siket Disc favorite “What’s The Use?”. After finishing the ambient favorite, The band changed gears with a buoyant “Blaze On”, coalescing around the song’s groove for a strong jam that found Fishman utilizing some of his auxiliary percussion instruments while McConnell and Anastasio both soloed wildly. Moving into a spacier territory, Anastasio started making excellent use of his effects pedals and Gordon included a bass bomb or two, adding to the jam’s ominous feel before it slowly faded out.

Big Boat standout “I Always Wanted It This Way” then faded in, taking the excited crowd on a synth-based journey. McConnell added lots of out-there sounds and samples as he led the band into a decidedly weird territory, with Fishman providing a pressing, persistent drumbeat. Anastasio cued up “Joy”, cutting short the electronic freak-out for an admittedly-solid version of a questionably-placed second set ballad.

“Limb By Limb”, on the other hand, provided the ultimate shot of adrenaline late in the show. After a good sing-a-long from the crowd during the song’s anthemic chorus, McConnell slid over to his Hammond B3 organ and offered up an ominous chord progression that the band centered around for a short and interesting piece of improvisation. The crowd erupted as Fishman started playing the familiar drumbeat of “2001”, and the classic cover was as funky and powerful as ever.

Finally, Phish finished things off with a tight version of “You Enjoy Myself”. The iconic song was played to perfection. Fishman continued to shine brightly throughout, laying the foundation for the song’s punchy jam that saw Anastasio offer up some guitar fireworks. Following Gordon’s typical bass solo and the mysterious vocal jam, Phish brought the energetic second set to a close.

“Limb By Limb > 2001 > You Enjoy Myself”

[Video: Dr. Randy’s Channel]

With scarce time before the relatively early 10:30 PM curfew, Phish turned to the one and only “Suzy Greenberg” for their lone encore, offering up one more dose of energy to the crowd before they took their bows and called it a night.

Only two shows into their summer tour and Phish is already in fine form. The band is clearly on the same page and you can hear it in their playing, particularly as they lean into improvisation. With the band set to hit The Gorge this weekend, fans making the pilgrimage for the band’s first three-night run at the storied venue should be excited for things to come.

Setlist: Phish | Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s | Lake Tahoe, NV | 7/18/2018

Set One: AC/DC Bag, Martian Monster, Ass Handed, Everything’s Right > 555, The Wedge, Lawn Boy, Back On The Train, Ocelot, My Sweet One, Theme From The Bottom, Bathtub Gin

Set Two: Down With Disease > What’s The Use? > Blaze On > I Always Wanted It This Way > Joy, Limb By Limb > 2001 > You Enjoy Myself

Encore: Suzy Greenberg