Phish headed north of the border to Canada on Wednesday for the first time since 2019 and only the third since 2000 for a one-off show at Toronto, ON’s Budweiser Stage. Coming off a strong trio of shows on the beach in Atlantic City last weekend, the band delivered two sets predominantly packed with recent live staples.
The show began just after 7:30 p.m. with a relatively standard “Sigma Oasis” highlighted by clean, melodic patterns from bassist Mike Gordon. While several recent renditions—most recently, Friday’s 20+ minute sea beast from Atlantic City—have launched some enticing improvisation, this one took a somewhat shorter route as Trey Anastasio channeled its momentum into a slightly faster-than-usual “Blaze On” at the ten-minute mark.
Stark angles and lush color combinations from Chris Kuroda and Andrew Giffin‘s kinetic lighting rig complemented some nimble “Blaze” riffing from Trey as Page McConnell and Jon Fishman helped push the song to a satisfying early-show peak. Grinning at the response from the Canadian crowd, Anastasio profusely expressed his gratitude: “Thank you, thank you, thank you so much,” he glowed. “We’re so happy to be here. We love coming to Toronto. Very excited.”
A slow, slithering “Steam” and a lightning pass through “My Sweet One” brought the band to yet another song fresh off a strong Friday appearance in Atlantic City, “Theme From The Bottom”. This “Theme” rose patiently to the top thanks to a shuffling Fishman backbeat and moody ambiance from Mike and Page before breaking the surface and bursting free with an anthemic, major-key progression.
Phish – “Theme From The Bottom” [Pro-Shot] – 8/10/22
Though apparently ambivalent about remembering all the lyrics to the ensuing “Wombat”, the band was clearly having fun as the funky Fuego track moved into a measured groove not unlike the one that had emerged from “Theme”. The glorious tension and release of “Stash” accompanied the dying rays of Wednesday’s daylight before the increasingly prevalent “Sand” closed the night’s first act.
📸 Rene Huemer pic.twitter.com/mq15SqGTYn
— Phish: From The Road (@Phish_FTR) August 11, 2022
Phish’s recent tours have reclassified the roles of certain songs within a show, and Toronto’s set two-opening “Sample In A Jar” seemed to further that trend. A straight-ahead, first-set rocker for virtually its entire Phish career, “Sample” has gotten some creative treatments as of late. This one marked the song’s first time appearing in a second set since Saturday evening at 2011’s Superball (which was really the first of two evening sets following a day set), its first time in the second half of a two-set show since 6/20/09 at Alpine Valley, and its first time opening a second set since 12/15/99. “Sample” improv, too, has been a phenomenon of recent Phish, and this one followed suit with the second extended jam (in a jar) of the summer—and just the fourth ever.
Riding some rumbling synth tones from Page, Mike broke out his drill to signal the arrival of “Down With Disease”. Always a reliable improv launchpad, this “Disease”churned through a number of distinct spaces over the course of its 18-minute runtime, from calm and meditative to eerie and mysterious, making it a commendable companion to the extended version from Friday night… even as some fans may have wondered, “Hey, didn’t they play a lot of these songs on Friday night?”
As Fishman maintained the beat and the jam descended into darkness around him, Trey nudged the band into the night’s sole tour debut, a not-very-long “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long”. The joyously morbid Kasvot Växt vamp quickly found its way to “Twenty Years Later” as it lurked through the darkness, stopping to siphon off a bit of its ghoulish energy.
“Light” eventually rose from the still-glowing embers of “Twenty Years Later”, Page McConnell adding tasteful accents over a tight groove. Stark reds, blues, and whites from above followed this “Light” jam down a dark alley for a few hair-raising minutes before the band arrived safely in “Bouncing Around The Room”.
With time for a few more, Phish rattled off a pair of funky, fan-favorite covers, “2001” and “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley”, before returning to Friday’s bag one last time for a set-closing “Free”. Much like “Sample In A Jar”, “Free” seems to be in the midst of a Renaissance of sorts. Among the tour’s most frequently played numbers, the Billy Breathes rock anthem has opened sets, closed sets, broken past 20 minutes, and even popped up during an encore this summer. Here, it wrapped up a late-second set dance party on a high note with a toiling Type I jam as the light trusses overhead seemed to move, appropriately, into an “old, old wooden ship” formation not unlike the shape on the cover of Big Boat.
Phish – “2001” (Richard Strauss) – 8/10/22
Upon returning for the encore, the Chairman of the Boards headed straight for center stage to croon a Canadian “Lawn Boy”. After thanking the crowd once again for inviting the band up to Toronto, Phish closed things out with another heavy-rotation exclamation mark, “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.”.
It’s hard not to feel like this show was something of a “side quest” along Phish’s main journey, a cliff-notes version of what the band has been doing stateside this summer for an audience largely comprised of people who probably haven’t been seeing them over and over again for the last month. Toronto got a solid show, but just days after a stellar AC run, the bar is set extremely high.
Now, the band will head back to the States and set sights on a weekend run at Alpine Valley Music Theatre, a place that regularly draws storied performances out of the band. Buckle up.
Check out a gallery of photos from the Toronto performance below via Eric Fefferman. For a full list of upcoming Phish tour dates, head here. 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 | Budweiser Stage | Toronto, ON | 8/10/22
Set One: Sigma Oasis -> Blaze On, Steam, My Sweet One, Theme From the Bottom > Wombat, Stash, Sand
Set Two: Sample in a Jar > Down with Disease -> Death Don’t Hurt Very Long > Twenty Years Later > Light > Bouncing Around the Room, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Free
Encore: Lawn Boy, Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.
Down with Disease was unfinished.