Phish returned on Wednesday to once again do battle at the Roman coliseum that is the Orion Amphitheater, with the band closing a two-night Huntsville, AL run with another song debut.
As the band took the stage, guitarist Trey Anastasio stepped right onto his wah-wah pedal for the first-ever show-opening “Plasma”. Once again defying the notion that tour-opening runs merely serve the purpose of shaking the off-season cobwebs, the band dove straight into the jam sounding like a well-oiled machine with plenty of gas left in the tank for 21 more shows.
Trey’s loping guitar intro brought on “Sigma Oasis”, the pandemic-era anthem that has proven itself time and again as a contender of a jam vehicle. This version kept up that reputation, with Trey’s leads lofting atop Page McConnell‘s grand piano, his weapon of choice throughout the show. Jon Fishman raised the band to a frenetic pace as he found every available nook to insert more and more cymbals and snares. Pushed by Page’s Clavinet and Trey’s filtered effects, the band quickly left the song structure and opened into a surprisingly vast jam for just the second song of the show.
As the improv leveled off into ambiance, the band received new marching orders by way of Page’s minor chord introduction to “Wolfman’s Brother”. The fierce Trey-propelled jam kept the band in abnormally deep waters for this early in the show, only for the following “Evolve” to issue a gentle reminder that—though the sun may have dipped below the walls of the coliseum—this was indeed still the first set.
Switching discographies over to the Mike Gordon songbook, the bassist touched on his new Flying Games disc with “Mull“. The punchy ponderance launched the band back out into the improvisational ether, as propelled by Page’s Wurlitzer before a quick “Bouncing Around The Room” singalong to pull everyone back to reality.
This grounding proved only a brief respite, as Trey executed a shaky landing into “Stash”, with the guitarist ultimately finding his footing by the end of the first verse. The jam ascended on the crest of Fishman’s cymbals, with Trey taking flight via soaring leads for a ride that—while serotonin-inducing—kept well inside the lines.
Perhaps themselves dissatisfied with the song’s tepid journey, Phish finished off the second set with another improvisational monster of the band’s early days, “David Bowie”. After displaying their technical mastery through the song’s introduction, the improvised section opened up as Mike’s bass elicited subaquatic murmurs while the jam bubbled up from the bottom. Pushing the band along, Fishman’s toms amplified the droplets as Trey dialed up the intensity until the whole thing boiled over into the composed ending shred fest to close the set.
Set two kicked off with “A Wave of Hope”, the undisputed improvisational champion of Trey’s quarantine album Lonely Trip. Ascending now, Page’s Wurlitzer once again acted as the intergalactic passport, with the vessel finding its propulsion in Fishman’s polyrhythms. Trey kept a surprisingly low profile throughout the excursion, toggling through his pedal boards for just the right effect before abruptly firing off the “Fuego” riff and breaking up Jon, Mike, and Page’s conversation.
On the other side of the lyrics, “Fuego” would emerge as the lengthiest jam of the evening—perhaps worth the rip-chording after all. Almost as if there was no “Fuego” in the middle, the band resumed the ambient interstellar space of “A Wave of Hope”, with the notable inclusion of Trey who must have found that glass slipper of an effects pedal.
“A Wave Of Hope” would serve as the band’s springboard through “Fuego”, into a modest “Piper”, landing in the debut of another Trey Anastasio original, “Ether Edge”. One of ten songs debuted during the Trey Anastasio Trio run at Denver’s Mission Ballroom last month, “Ether Edge” doesn’t exactly have the dark gritty aura of Tuesday’s “Oblivion” debut. Instead, it’s one of those newer Trey songs about letting go of fear and pain, but at least it features some twinkly Rhodes work from Page during the breakdown. Of the six songs played in set two, “Ether Edge” is the only one that clocked in at less than ten minutes.
After the first stoppage in play of the second set, we returned to live action with “Mercury”. The song marked a rare back-to-back nightly appearance by Fish’s Marimba Lumina MIDI controller, which helped introduce “2001” the night prior. The resulting lofty “Mercury” jam would float right into the crushing “Free” introduction, riding that wave through the end of the second set.
Phish – “Mercury” > “Free” [Pro-Shot] – 7/12/23
Back for the encore, Phish once again referenced the nearby NASA center as well as higher education, just as the band had done throughout Tuesday’s show, most notably during the “Icculus” encore. In “Alumni Blues”, Trey altered the lyrics to, “I had no hat on my head / And no PhD,” as Page went for extra credit with opulent grand piano runs before the segue into “Letter to Jimmy Page” and back to “Alumni Blues”. Finally, Phish finished off the first run of summer tour with a “Run Like an Antelope” closer that delivered all the hair-raising peaks one could hope for in an “Antelope” encore.
With Phish tour officially underway, the band travels next to Alpharetta, GA for a three-night run this weekend. For tickets and a full list of tour dates visit Phish’s website. To order your LivePhish webcast for any of the band’s upcoming summer shows, head here. Check out a collection of fan-shot videos of last night’s show from Mike Wallace below along with images by photographer Keith Griner.
Phish – “Bouncing Around The Room” – 7/12/23
Phish – “David Bowie” – 7/12/23
Phish – “Fuego” – 7/12/23
Phish – “Run Like An Antelope” – 7/12/23 – Partial
Setlist: Phish | Orion Amphitheater | Huntsville, AL | 7/12/23
SET 1: Plasma > Sigma Oasis > Wolfman’s Brother, Evolve, Mull > Bouncing Around the Room, Stash, David Bowie
SET 2: A Wave of Hope -> Fuego -> Piper > Ether Edge, Mercury > Free
ENCORE: Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Run Like an Antelope
 Phish debut.
 Lyrics changed to “no PhD.”
This show featured the Phish debut of Ether Edge. Trey teased Super Bad in Free. Trey changed the first Alumni’s lyrics to “no PhD.”