Phish returned to Albany, NY last night to complete their tour-opening two-night stand at the Times Union Center. After setting the table with a high-octane first night of Fall Tour, Phish turned in a confident–but somewhat safe–performance on night two in Albany, though the show certainly featured plenty of improvisational fireworks.

Set one started off with the “Crowd Control”, making its second appearance of 2018 and only its eighteenth performance all-time. It didn’t take long for the familiar guitar riff from “Chalk Dust Torture” to kick things into a higher gear, and the band delivered a particularly strong version. Just as the song seemed to be coming to an end, guitarist Trey Anastasio deviated from the song’s typical conclusion and pushed the band into pure improvisation. The unexpected jam moved into an ethereal space, rapidly gaining momentum as Phish charged forward to create a truly unique moment and a clear early show highlight.

Following “Chalkdust”, the band cooled things down with the Round Room ballad “All Of These Dreams”, another rarity that has only been performed twelve times since its debut. Page McConnell brought the energy back up when he started the ever-reliable “Wolfman’s Brother”, and Phish turned in a strong version of the funky favorite. An atypical early show “Scent Of A Mule” was a welcome surprise, having last appeared during “Boston Cream” night of the band’s Baker’s Dozen residency in 2017.

Well-played versions of “NICU” and “Gumbo”  kept things moving, before the band launched into “Steam”, which featured a psychedelic jam with guitar stabs from Anastasio and powerful drumming from Jon Fishman. The quick and goofy “I Didn’t Know” followed, with Fishman delivering his famous and increasingly rare vacuum solo. Phish closed out set one with “Bathtub Gin”, with McConnell leaning into his baby grand to inspire some solid full band improvisation, helping to guide the band to a glorious peak.

Set two started with, the funky, relatively new rocker “Set Your Soul Free”. The band quickly moved past the song into a dark improvisational space, with Fishman and bassist Mike Gordon pushing the band deeper into type II psychedelia, all while Anastasio turned to his delay pedal before pushing forward with a confident lead. The transition into “Birds of a Feather”, however, was rough, with Anastasio seriously missing on the song’s opening guitar lick, while also singing the song’s first verse in the wrong key. The band recovered from these flubs with a powerful version of the song, with a strong and driven jam section.

The multi-sectional epic, “Mercury”, continued the trend of dark jams, with Gordon’s wet bass sound encouraging another round of psychedelic stabs from Anastasio and some serious organ work from McConnell. The jam eventually fizzled, with the band dissolving into ominous ambient sounds before starting “Light”. This version was quick out of the gates, with confident playing from the whole band, as they consistently built towards several huge peaks on another strong version of the Joy jam-vehicle.

A particularly strong version of “The Wedge” preceded “Wading In The Velvet Sea”, the second late-second-set ballad in as many days. While the song was played well, the placement (as always) was questionable at best. The beloved Gamehendge rocker “Wilson” was Phish’s version of an apology, turning the volume to eleven for a raging version that brought the energy in the room back up in a major way. Phish harnessed that energy and put it into “Slave To The Traffic Light”, which saw the band deliver a typically blissful jam as they brought the second set to a close on a high note.

For their encore, Phish started things off with a fiery version of the blues party rocker, “Julius”, after which Anastasio expressed his gratitude to the crowd for a great two nights, explaining that they loved playing at the Times Union Center and that it felt “like a hometown gig”. Surprisingly, the band then started up “Rocky Top” and the band worked through a quick version of the beloved bluegrass standard to bring the show to its end.

While night two in Albany may have come short of the ambitious risks taken on night one, Phish fans should certainly be excited by how the band is playing and for what’s to come over the next two weeks.

“Chalkdust Torture”

[Video: Gregory Marcus]

Following this two-night-stand at the Times Union Center, Phish continues their fall tour this weekend with a three-night run on hallowed grounds at The Mothership, Hampton Coliseum. The band follows that up with a two-night stand at Nashville, TN’s fan-favorite venue, the Ascend Amphitheatre, a three-night stand at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL, and then a four-night Halloween run at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Phish | Times Union Center | Albany, NY | 10/17/2018

Set I: Crowd Control, Chalk Dust Torture, All Of These Dreams, Wolfman’s Brother, Scent Of A Mule, NICU, Gumbo, Steam, I Didn’t Know, Bathtub Gin

Set II: Set Your Soul Free > Birds Of A Feather, Mercury > Light, The Wedge, Wading In The Velvet Sea, Wilson, Slave To The Traffic Light

Encore: Julius, Rocky Top