On Saturday night in Colorado, Phish returned to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for their second of three shows this weekend and their 23rd overall performance at their annual Labor Day weekend stomping grounds. The sold-out crowd returned in hopes of receiving a performance as satisfying as Friday night’s spectacle, and the band once again came out of the gate with typical second set favorites wedged right into the start of set one.
“Sand” was quick to get the party started as Jon Fishman and Mike Gordon fueled the field’s creative array dance moves. Trey Anastasio wailed away at the guitar to bring the opening tune to a peak before Gordon’s bubbling cauldron bass tones signaled the start of a rare early-show “Down With Disease”. This 17-minute rendition was filled with the kinds of peaks and valleys normally reserved for an early second set position, but apparently, the boys like tossing this one at the beginning of Dick’s shows, as they did so in 2012 and 2016 as well. Gordon, who was dressed like he just jumped off the Backstreet Boys’ Millennium album cover, clobbered the high-energy jam with Page McConnell who put his Hammond B3 Organ to work.
Next, “Shade”, the 3.0 ballad normally reserved for the second set, saw the light of Set 1 for the first time, returning to the rotation for the first time since the band’s 2016 run at The Gorge. If you’re happy about the return of “Shade”, you likely have one fan in particular to thank. Prior to yesterday’s show, fan Michelle York ran into Trey at her hotel and asked him what happened to the tune. Trey agreed that he loved that tune, and York shared a photo and summary of the interaction in the Phriendly Phish Phans Facebook group, ending her post with “#nowwewait.” Turns out, she didn’t have to wait too long.
From there, McConnell displayed one of his Big Boat tunes in the form of “Home”. “Wolfman’s Brother”, which has been placed somewhere on a Dick’s setlist every year except 2012, brought the show back to old school territory after two newer selections. Trey got loopy with the effects while Page put his Clavinet to work around Gordon’s big bass drops. Trey laid down a plinko-like riff reminiscent of an 8-bit video game soundtrack, that hinted at shifting the momentum in a new direction but instead brought the song a finish.
After a hotter-than-usual “Wombat” at the July 22nd Gorge show earlier this tour, Saturday’s version at Dick’s was straight-forward and cuddly rather than over-the-top and muscular. Page hopped on the synth for thick, funky solo which led into “Everything’s Right”. After closing 8/8/18’s first set at Camden with a masterful performance of the song that shifted gears several times thanks to Fishman’s quick thinking, this newer tune has proven it has potential at every level. While Fishman once again laid the foundation for a monstrous jam, Trey had other ideas, cut the cord, and moved into a raging set-closing “Bathtub Gin”.
Phish returned to the stage with “Set Your Soul Free”, yet another new tune making its Dick’s debut. A dark and grimy start to the jam created by Trey’s echoing effects dissolved into a mellower, blissed-out space, giving Page time to shine on the grand piano. Gordon hit some bombs toward the end of the nearly 18-minute piece, helping ring in “Fuego”, a song that has made an appearance during Labor Day weekend at Dick’s every year since it’s Fall 2014 debut. Trey used his arsenal of pedals to great effect to create an overflowing washing-machine sound that Gordon and Page built upon with synth layers and chunky bass hits. The jam appeared to be heading down an even darker alley, but Trey decided it was time to initiate some more Saturday night rock and roll in the form of “Chalkdust Torture”.
The foursome quickly moved through the ferocious “Chalkdust” and brief interstellar “Twist” that soon followed, showing somewhat less patience than their five-song Friday night soiree. “Piper” went on a voyage of its own next, but rumbled to a halt to make room for a simple, standard “Wedge”. Kuroda attempted to turn the arena into a spaceship during “2001”, his light rig seemingly defying gravity as the crowd danced toward the cosmos. Gordon pounded away on the bass and created a slow-building launch pad for Trey to achieve liftoff. The party continued with the Allen Toussaint-penned “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” for the first time since the legendary Baker’s Dozen run. Unlike the “Sneakin’ Sally” from 2016’s Bill Graham show, this version saw little improvisation and quickly took a turn out of the alley in favor of a gorgeous set-closing “Slave to the Traffic Light”. Gordon, who continued to receive votes as the MVP of the night, moved around Trey’s playing with a thumping heartbeat groove that gave the full band a foundation to finish strong.
With a second set that contained more songs than the first and a first set that featured some of the night’s most extensive improvisation, Phish continued to assert that there are no rules when it comes to Commerce City setlist creation. So far, there have been no gags, no puzzles to decode, and no repetitive, thematic teases throughout these sets (see 9/4/16 “Crosseyed” quotes). The band finally chose “More” as the encore for the second time this tour, as song title described exactly what the sold-out crowd was craving from Sunday’s finale. Last show of the summer coming up!
You can view a gallery of photos from Dick’s night two below courtesy of photographer Bill McAlaine.
Setlist: Phish | Dick’s Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, CO | 9/1/31
Set 1: Sand, Down with Disease, Shade, Home, Wolfman’s Brother, Wombat, Everything’s Right, Bathtub Gin
Set 2: Set Your Soul Free > Fuego > Chalk Dust Torture > Twist > Piper > The Wedge, 2001 > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Slave to the Traffic Light
A full soundboard recording of the show is available to stream via LivePhish.