Phish delivered a nostalgia-fueled setlist highlighted by cuts from the band’s 1990s heyday to open a two-night stand in Bethel, NY on Friday. The first of two weekend concerts at the Bethel Woods Center For The Arts featured 17 songs debuted before 2000 out of a total 22-song show.
Starting things off was the first show-opening “Golgi Apparatus” since 8/16/15, per Phish.net. Phish started the show with all the gas in the tank, and though there were a few kinks at first, by the time the group got to the composed section it felt like we’d already reached our cruising altitude as Trey Anastasio dished out soaring leads.
Segueing into “Sample In A Jar”, Phish lofted through the sing-along favorite with some agreeable jams as Trey found his footing while Jon Fishman laid the steady ground. Page McConnell propelled the improv into minor territory as lighting designer Chris Kuroda picked up the signal and dimmed the lights to some late-night red mood lighting. The jam proved to have legs, though the band’s flirtation with darkness was only a temporary layover as Trey and Page connected to bring us over the horizon as the song traveled over the peak. “Sample In A Jar” clocked in at over 14 minutes, which per Phish.net statistician Scott Marks signaled the third-ever jammed-out rendition since the band took it for a ride at the “jam-filled” Baker’s Dozen night four.
Phish – “Sample In A Jar” [Pro-Shot] – 7/22/22
Clifton Chenier‘s “My Soul” acted as a reset button, with Page throwing down some boogie-woogie on the grand piano and taking his turn in the captain’s chair. The Chairman of the Boards retained his seat on the following “Gumbo” as he swirled around from Hammond B3 to grand piano to clavinet, where he finally found his groove while Trey lasered in on a sweet spot, earworm lick. Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman again took the band down a dark corridor that proved the gateway to some extended improv for a nearly ten-minute, unfinished “Gumbo”.
That brooding jam led straight into “Saw It Again” for some brief, power chord-driven murk. Phish maintained a continuous stream of consciousness with a transition to “Timber (Jerry The Mule)” as Gordo kept the band submerged in the low end, before finding his way to the front of the pack for “Meat”.
During the stop-start rhythmic experiment that is “Meat”, Trey, Fish, and Mike each got their turn in an around-the-horn jam. Page, however, cashed in his turn on the following “Lawn Boy”, though he was temporarily so overwhelmed by those factory hues in the middle of his croon.
Leaving the suave sophistication of McConnell’s cocktail lounge act, the recurring musical theme of darkness reared its head again in a Phish song as expertly composed as it is brooding: “My Friend, My Friend”. Trey embraced the gloom as he briefly experimented with noise rock feedback before the song gave way to “Guelah Papyrus”, with Mike and Trey hitting their little jig so no fretful frown would spoil the mood.
The ensuing “Brian and Robert” gave some balance to the first set with a ray of light, and we’ll forgive Trey for using a capo to play such a beautiful song. Finally, to bring the mood back up, Phish closed out the first frame with some classic pre-Eagles Joe Walsh riffage on “Walk Away”. Of all the songs in set one, “Meat” and “Brian and Robert” were the newest, both debuted in 1998.
Coming back out for set two, Phish fired up “Mr. Completely”. The band is still finding its way through the somewhat recently unshelved composition, with less than two dozen performances of Trey’s One Man’s Trash track since its return in 2017. This led into a song Phish knows quite well, “You Enjoy Myself”. At the tail end of the vocal jam, Trey picked his ax back up as the band went straight from the vocal jam right into an instrumental one, no introductions needed.
The healthy instrumental addendum of YEM found its way into “Fuego”, a great riff for playing at high volume. The group found light in this jam, illuminated by the “Fuego” and casting a dreamlike spell that ultimately manifested as “Joy”. The well-placed sentimentality of songs like “Brian and Robert” and “Joy” proved welcome thematic foils to some of the darkness that pervaded the group’s improvisation.
An air of levity floated Phish through a cover of Stevie Wonder‘s “Boogie On Reggae Woman” as Page’s clavinet and Mike’s bass came out in full force to add some much-needed funk to Friday’s programming. By the time the band got to the following “Scents and Subtle Sounds”, it appeared as if all the improvisational gas had been run out of the tank as the members, albeit pleasantly, treaded water in a brief jam.
Phish – “Boogie On Reggae Woman” (Stevie Wonder) – 7/22/22
[Video: Gregory Marcus]
Perhaps sensing this, Phish wound down the set with some straight-ahead rockers with a sequence of “Wilson”, “Possum”, and a set-closing “Cavern”. Though there wasn’t much left for improv, these people paid for a show and they got it. Trey even remembered all the words to “Cavern”.
Returning once more for the encore, Phish opted for “A Life Beyond A Dream” which, though it isn’t the most high-energy end to an evening, best personified the show’s musical journey from darkness into light.
Phish returns to Bethel Woods Center For The Arts tonight, July 23rd. 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.
For a complete directory of Live For Live Music‘s Phish summer tour 2022 coverage, head here.
Setlist [via phish.net]: Phish | Bethel Woods Center For The Arts | Bethel, NY | 7/22/22
Set One: Golgi Apparatus > Sample in a Jar, My Soul (Clifton Chenier), Gumbo -> Saw It Again > Timber (Jerry the Mule) (Josh White, Sam Gary) > Meat, Lawn Boy > My Friend, My Friend > Guelah Papyrus, Brian and Robert, Walk Away
Set Two: Mr. Completely > You Enjoy Myself > Fuego > Joy, Boogie On Reggae Woman (Stevie Wonder), Scents and Subtle Sounds > Wilson > Possum > Cavern
Encore: A Life Beyond The Dream
Gumbo was unfinished and contained a Long Tall Glasses tease from Page.