Phish returned to Los Angeles for their only area performance on Friday October 24th, playing a stellar show at the renovated Forum, their first visit to the storied venue since 2003. Compared to last year at the Hollywood Bowl, the Forum cultivates a better vibe for a Phish performance. The Hollywood Bowl is trendy, with people attending because it’s the cool thing to do. The Forum, however, was all phans.
The audio quality of the arena was excellent as Mike’s bass and Fishman’s drumming were crisp and tight and drove the deliriously enthusiastic crowd to pure happiness. The Vermont 4 were en pointe with a near flawless performance that was clearly one of the high points of 2014. Trey was especially fluent with soaring solos that danced with verve and passion.
They started things off with an energetic “46 Days.” Trey was on fire with hot and stunning solos. Next up was an inspired funkfest with Mike’s great bassline followed by an extended spacey jam on “Tube.” Fishman came out a clear winner with syncopated precision. The band was really humming, as they busted out “Train Song” before heading into a lovely “Ghost” that floated with ethereal brilliance. “Ghost” had not been played in the first set since last year’s Dick’s run.
One of the highlights of the first set was their masterpiece, “It’s Ice.” A very complicated song with many transitions; the boys handled it perfectly. Loved Page’s work on the Hammond as he and Trey bobbed and weaved effortlessly; Page then shifted effortlessly to a funky synthesizer with sparkling decrescendos that wowed us all.
After the always upbeat “Kill Devil Falls,” we were served a set-closing “Bathtub Gin” for the ages. Phish was at War (Low Rider style) with a great version of War’s “Low Rider” teased inside Bathtub Gin. It was the first time since 9/4/2011 that we were treated to a “Low Rider” tease…worth the wait.
The second set started at a more reserved pace with “555” from their new album Fuego (read the review here) and “Backwards Down the Number Line.” The boys kicked into high gear with an inspired “Down with Disease.” Always a crowd pleaser; this version was brilliant. The light show was wonderful as Phish’s maven Chris Kuroda had the entire Forum ceiling bathed with elegant white LEDs that looked like the heavens. All the while the stage was completely dark giving us all a mysterious experience. Trey was firing on all cylinders with great improvisation.
Then, the opening piano chords of “Fuego.” Fishman’s drumming was superb, hitting the mark and supporting the beautiful harmonies. Again Page did us all justice with great work on the Hammond all the while Trey was Trey with impassioned guitarwork.
Next came the always fun “Twist” and “Bouncing Around the Room,” which segued into a great “David Bowie.” “Bowie” opened up with some really cool synthesizer and then into the structured complexity and virtuosity that makes Bowie one of their best.
Closing the 2nd set was the hard driving “Character Zero “that whipped the crowd into delirium. They rocked it hard and the result was very satisfying. We got a real treat with Harry Hood as the encore. To close the show, Trey, Mike, Page and Fishman gathered to the left of the stage. Bathed in a single spotlight they performed the a capella Grind perfectly.
Phish is playing at such a high level these days; after 31 years of performing, they can still bring it. It was a great performance that really whets the appetite for Halloween at the MGM in Vegas.
Phish Setlist, 10/24/14 L.A. Forum, Los Angeles, CA [courtesy of phish.net]
Set 1: 46 Days, Tube, Train Song, Ghost, Sparkle, Sample in a Jar, Divided Sky, The Line, It’s Ice, Kill Devil Falls, Bathtub Gin
Set 2: 555, Backwards Down the Number Line, Down With Disease > Fuego > Twist, Bouncin’, David Bowie, Character Zero
E: Harry Hood, Grind
[Photo courtesy of Phish Facebook]