Following strong showings on nights one and two in Alpharetta, GA, Phish completed their impressive three-night stand at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park last night with a loose and zany final show. Phish came out of the gates swinging with a mix of unexpected covers, interesting song placements, and several beloved rarities that gave this show a unique feel right off the bat—a show that will ultimately be remembered as one of this summer’s standouts.
In a callback to “Double Chocolate Night” from last year’s Bakers Dozen residency at Madison Square Garden, Phish opened up the first set with a cover of “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate. Bassist Mike Gordon‘s pitchy vocals were rough, but couldn’t take away from the crowd’s excited reaction to the funky cover. The evening’s second song, a rare early-show version of perennial set-closer, “Tweezer Reprise”, saw a giddy Trey Anastasio unable to hide his excitement as the audience went wild, going crazy to the beloved high-energy rocker. Delicate The Siket Disc favorite “What’s The Use?” slowly emerged out of the final moments of “Tweezer Reprise”, and it was performed to perfection, with the band nailing each note as they completed the impressive opening trio of songs.
Following a well-played version of the intricate, multi-sectional Big Boat standout “Petrichor”, Phish broke out “Most Events Aren’t Planned”, a Page McConnell-penned track from his Vida Blue side project that first popped up on the final night of last summer’s Baker’s Dozen residency, and then appeared again at the band’s summer-ending run at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver, CO. The short-but-sweet jam was aggressive and driven, quickly building up to an exciting peak. After a strong version of “Vultures”, the band turned to “Reba”, which provided the show’s first true moment of improvisation. After a successful run through the song’s composed section, the band took a deliberate approach to this jam, slowly building off confident playing by McConnell and Anastasio to reach a glorious and triumphant climax.
The bouncy rock of “Sand” allowed for more improv with Anastasio leading the way, starting with a dissonant, heavily-effected section before kicking things into overdrive with an absolutely raging “Machine Gun Trey”-esque solo that marked the climax of a set filled with big moments.
Phish picked up right where they left off in set two, continuing the bust-out-heavy show with “Taste”, which has only appeared on a setlist eight times since 2013. The jubilant “Taste” jam included prominent teases of “What’s The Use?” and “You Sexy Thing”, with Anastasio moving around the neck of his guitar with ease. The jam dissolved, and the band started up TV On The Radio‘s “Golden Age”. Phish found their form on this song, syncing up for some impressive full-band improvisation. A patient jam allowed for McConnell to lead the way before making way for a powerful and fast blues section. “Golden Age” provided the improvisational highlight of the show, as the band worked through several interesting musical ideas on their almost-nineteen-minute journey.
After bringing the type II jam back into “Golden Age”, Anastasio delivered the whistling coda of “Reba”–which went unplayed earlier in the show–over the “Golden Age” groove for a surprise mashup that showcased this show’s wacky element. One of the band’s more reliable jam-vehicles, “Twist”, quickly moved into a darker space, with Jon Fishman continuing the song’s funky groove while Gordon delivered a dark bass lead. Anastasio continued his fiery playing with a short, raging solo before bringing the band back into the final section of “Twist”, and then through a slick transition into “Waves”. This was an impressive version that eventually devolved into ambient noise, with McConnell leaning into his synthesizers, Anastasio creating wild sounds with his guitar pedals, and Gordon seemingly using a rock or object of some kind to make noise come out of his bass.
Out of the ambient noise came “Fuego”, giving the band the chance to tackle some more type I improvisation, with slick playing from Fishman leading the charge while Anastasio used his guitar pedals to create wild effects. Following a short jam, the band surprisingly moved into “The Mango Song”, a rarity making just its third appearance since 2014. McConnell was impressive on the A Picture of Nectar favorite, and that inspired playing continued on the next song, “Bathtub Gin”.
“Gin” allowed the band to really shine as a cohesive unit for a prolonged period. Fishman started playing around with the song’s beat as soon as they started jamming, switching up his emphasis before the band locked in, taking a blissful moment and turning it into an ambitious exploratory journey, with Anastasio absolutely on fire throughout. The band had just finished “Gin” when Anastasio started playing “You Sexy Thing”, bringing the band back into the song for one more verse before abruptly ending and bringing set two to its natural conclusion.
For the encore, Phish turned to “Fee”, an old fan-favorite that has become a major rarity, having also only been played three times since 2014. Anastasio dusted off his megaphone for the performance, which unfortunately saw him forget large chunks of lyrics as he laughed and turned his mic out to the crowd for help. After quickly finishing “Fee”, Anastasio humorously promised to close with a song he knew all of the word to, and started up the funky instrumental, “2001”, providing one more huge dance party moment after a weekend filled with them in Atlanta. The band included several teases of “You Sexy Thing” and “Tweezer Reprise” in their run-closing tune, at one point playing elements of “You Sexy Thing”, “Tweezer Reprise”, and “2001” simultaneously. The amusing encore ended with Anastasio leading the band through several hits before yelling “You’re all such sexy things!” to finish the show.
Phish just wrapped up a three-night run for the ages, almost certainly their best multi-night run of the summer…so far. After a somewhat uneven West Coast leg, the band seems to be back firing on all cylinders, just in time for their much-anticipated run across the Northeast. Phish will hit Camden, NJ this Tuesday, August 7th for the first of two nights at BB&T Pavilion. For a full list of upcoming dates, head to Phish’s website.
You can view a gallery of photos from the performance courtesy of EMily Butler Photography.
Setlist: Phish | Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre At Encore Park | Alpharetta, GA | 8/5/2018
Set One: You Sexy Thing, Tweezer Reprise > What’s The Use? > Petrichor, Most Events Aren’t Planned, Vultures, Reba, Sand
Set Two: Taste > Golden Age > Twist > Waves > Fuego > The Mango Song > Bathtub Gin > You Sexy Thing
Encore: Fee, 2001