From the first note to the last, Phish really brought the heat to Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center last night, with a legit bust out, relative rarities, and a ‘jam of the tour’ contender. However, at some points, the band never seemed to be able to get onto the same page, leading to some missed queues. I’m not one to point out every missed note or lyric – I think with the amount of complex pieces of music Phish plays on a nightly basis, it should be expected – but it usually doesn’t affect the flow of the show like it did last night. Some of this sloppiness was saved by classic Phish humor – Trey called out Fishman after botching the intros to Poor Heart and Moma Dance, before choosing to start playing songs that start with the drums – but humor doesn’t really excuse it all. There were points of the show where it felt like the band would nail a complex or highly improvised passage, only to mess up the easy verse that we’ve heard a million times.
Don’t let the flubs take away from the entire show though, as this was a doozy. After starting with a long funky Wolfman’s Brother, Phish got right into the rarities with a fan favorite cover of Frank Zappa’s Peaches en Regalia, and the super bust out Shaggy Dog, played for the first time since October 29, 1995 (574 shows). The ensuing Runaway Jim brought us another song from the ‘dog cannon’ and featured a Saints Go Marching In tease to give it just a little something different. Continuing with the relative rarities, the first set also featured a cover of Light Up or Leave Me Alone, as well as a Llama, Buffalo Bill, and a Saw It Again with a fantastic solo by Trey towards the end. The Saw It Again in particular is worth a re-listen, as the other two Saw It Agains in recent memory were somewhat gimmicky (Merriweather and Utica). The set closed with a David Bowie that was preceded by Trey explaining that the song is consistently requested by Chris Kuroda as it’s his favorite song. The jams in Bowie were top notch, it seemed like everyone in the band had a chance to shine, but when the song returned from the improv sections, the composed parts felt a bit off.
2012 might be the year of Down With Disease. The song brought in the New Year with Mike’s familiar bass bombs being the first sounds heard for many Phish fans in 2012, and the band has been absolutely slaying the song at nearly every stop of tour. The band was firing on all cylinders for this one, almost as if they were shot out of a cannon, recognizing the flubs of the previous set and trying to make up for them. However in what is becoming an unfortunate trend, just as it seemed like Mike was about to go crazy, the boys transitioned into Guelah Papyrus. The following Kill Devil Falls was an extremely above average version, it seems like this song is quickly becoming an essential part of the Phish catalogue. This jam went hard, at times sounding almost like the Rock And Roll jams of this tour so far, but as usual, the fire was abruptly put out and we were transitioned into Twist. Any frowns from the quick change of pace were only temporary – this Twist may be the best jam of the tour so far. It was one of those slow builds, with good use of the whale call creating a spacey vibe until the out of nowhere, the lights were flashing and the band was in full psychedelic jam mode. The jam just kept going and going until we were transitioned to a solid Halley’s Comet, which had picked up steam until it was quickly transitioned into Sand. Sand is another song that is getting a lot of play this tour and it doesn’t seem like anyone minds – it’s a fast, fun, funky song that lends itself to bouncing around. This version was solid, yet will probably be best remembered for a seamless segue into Roggae, an odd choice to come out of Sand that ended up working perfectly.
The encore was a complete surprise – the first Fluffhead encore since November 3, 1990. While most Fluffheads tend to stay relatively simple, this one had a nice two minute jam segment that had Trey beaming from ear to ear while going into an almost reggae styled jam – A great way to close a fantastic show. Overall: some good points, some bad points, but it all worked out. This is one of the best shows of tour, there was a little in there for everything. Song chasers got a bunch of songs, jam chasers got a legitimate ‘jam of the year’ contender, and the whole show flowed relatively well. There were never too many dull moments – if the show slowed down, there was instantly something there to pick it back up. Make sure you listen to the Twist, as it is definitely one for the ages. The band is clearly on fire right now, the next two shows should continue on this trajectory until the four day break before the highly awaited Deer Creek/Alpine Valley run.
Set 1: Wolfman’s Brother, Peaches en Regalia, Shaggy Dog, Runaway Jim, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone > Wilson >Alaska, Stash, Llama, Buffalo Bill, Saw It Again > David Bowie
Set 2: Down with Disease > Guelah Papyrus, Kill Devil Falls > Twist > Halley’s Comet > Sand -> Roggae, Carini > Chalk Dust Torture, Golgi Apparatus
 When the Saints Go Marching In tease.
 Trial Before Pilate (from Jesus Christ Superstar) tease from Trey.
Notes: Shaggy Dog was played for the first time since October 29, 1995 (574 shows). Runaway Jim contained a When the Saints Go Marching In tease. Following Stash, Poor Heart and Moma Dance were quickly aborted due to Fishman mistakes. Trey mentioned that they would play a song that started with drums and Llama was subsequently played. Trey later said that Buffalo Bill was one of his all time personal favorites that starts with the drums. In the Bowie intro, Trey told the crowd that this was Chris Kuroda’s favorite Phish song (having Kruoda give a thumbs up to confirm), adding that “every day back stage, before we walk on, we say ‘Chris? What should we play tonight?’ and he only says one song. Every night.” Twist contained a Trial Before Pilate (from Jesus Christ Superstar) tease from Trey. This show featured the first Fluffhead encore since November 3, 1990 (1,124 shows).
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