With the echoes of Saturday’s “Tweezer Reprise” hanging over the boardwalk, Phish returned to the Atlantic City Beach for another climactic Sunday show last night to close both the weekend run and the first leg of 2021’s summer tour.
To open the night, the band opted for classic Latin-style instrumental “The Landlady”, uncoupled from “Punch You In The Eye” for just the sixth time since she reappeared at DICK’s in 2015 after a 20-year, 767-show sabbatical.
Phish – “The Landlady” – Atlantic City, NJ – 8/15/21
Flashing their penchant for continually keeping things fresh, Phish then put a new twist on some old material, affirming to casual fans and touring diehards alike that surprises can and will happen every time this band hits the stage.
On Friday, the band had played “Tweezer” but left the “Reprise” for Saturday’s encore. On Saturday, they played “Scents and Subtle Sounds” without its intro. On Sunday night, the band flipped the script once again, briefly puzzling fans with the missing “SaSS” intro—”wait, didn’t they just play this song?”—before upping the rigging and taking sail into “The Moma Dance”. The unprecedented “Scents Intro”/”Moma Dance” combo carried some clever lyrical symmetry with “If you do it right you’ll find the moment never ends” heading straight into “the moment ends and I feel winds.”
The lyrical juxtaposition was far from the only highlight of this standout “Moma”, which went off for a hearty dose of early-show improvisation stretching over 14 thrilling minutes.
Phish – “Scents and Subtle Sounds” Intro > “The Moma Dance” [Pro-Shot] – 8/15/21
As “Moma” tapered out, the bouncing riff of Kasvot Växt centerpiece “The Final Hurrah” wove in to take its place—an apt selection for the “final hurrah” of both the AC weekend and the eastern portion of Phish’s 2021 summer tour. Though relatively compact at just over eight minutes in length, this grooving rendition was pristinely played, patiently building to a white-hot, Trey Anastasio-led peak. If you’re looking to listen to a band that’s locked in and executing with optimal precision, look no further than this gem of a “Final Hurrah”.
Evidence of that notion continued to pile up with a stellar run through the classic “Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove” suite. This “Mike’s Groove” was remarkable from front to back. “Mike’s” quickly went tension-and-release behind Mike Gordon‘s groove (and a “Strawberry Letter 23” tease from Trey) en route to a hair-raising peak; “I Am Hydrogen” brought a hush to the beach for a contrasting moment of tender beauty; and “Weekapaug” launched things right back into the stratosphere with a raging jam, Trey flexing for the sandy crowd with lightning solo riffs. Jon Fishman, draped in his purple and green donut dress, echoed the sentiments of the roaring crowd when it was finished with a well-earned “YEAH” sample.
After the set’s first pause in the action, Phish caused a roar on the Atlantic City beach with the tour debut of “The Sloth”. Trey kept the jams flowing with a dreamy, serene “Roggae” that lulled listeners into waves of warmth before blasting them with some top-shelf, screaming sustain.
Phish – “The Sloth” – Atlantic City, NJ – 8/15/21
The pace of the chugged along with a vigorous version of blues-rocker “Back On The Train”. An excellent, celebratory ride through seminal Phish composition “You Enjoy Myself” gave fans (and the band) one last chance to sing and dance and bounce along as they closed out one of the best first sets (if not the best first set) of the tour.
Phish – “You Enjoy Myself” (Partial) – Atlantic City, NJ – 8/15/21
[Video: Ryan Mogel]
Set two blasted off with the dissonant, distorted chords of “Carini”. While it didn’t reach the exploratory heights of the version from last month in Alabama, this ominous opener dove straight into uncharted waters for some effect-layered improvisation that drifted from light to dark and back again before winding up in a cacophony of arpeggiated guitar synth and shifting into the second “Set Your Soul Free” of the summer.
This version of “SYSF” delved into deep space and wound through teases of the preceding “Carini” as well as traces of “I’m A Man” and “Linus and Lucy”. The mellow, amorphous Ghosts of the Forest tune “Beneath A Sea of Stars Part 1” showcased a softer, prettier portion of Phish’s sonic palette, offering up a cushion of peacefulness following a pair of darker jams.
“Piper” got its footing on top of that delicate wash of tones before quickly pushing the band back into the dark, dank depths for another standout, extended jam. After landing a thrilling yet fleeting full-band segue back into “Carini”, Trey kicked into the location-appropriate “Waves”. The short but solid reading moved into another quick trip through “Simple” and finally landed back in darker territory for another Ghosts of the Forest crossover, the rocking “About To Run”. A searing “First Tube” finally closed out set two with the due pomp and circumstance, Trey’s raised guitar calling a beach full of grateful, sandy hands to the sky to join it.
With so many of the band’s most emphatic, climactic heavy-hitters already off the table for the weekend (“YEM”, “First Tube”, “Hood”, “Tweeprise”, Slave”, “Chalk Dust”, etc.), there was only one song that felt like it could do justice to this memorable show, run, and tour as the final AC encore. Delivering exactly what the audience needed, Phish graced Atlantic City with a resounding “Fluffhead”—yet another pristine edition of the multi-part epic following the fantastic version in Nashville.
While the show easily could have ended there and fans would have left satisfied, Trey, Mike, Page, and Fish threw in what felt like a “stoppage time” version of “Backwards Down The Number Line”. Sure, nobody really needed this one, but the deep significance of this song to the members of this band can’t be denied, and this version felt particularly heartfelt—on the beach with “all my friends,” where the future is still uncertain but the now is genuinely worth celebrating.
Phish will take a breather for a couple weeks before kicking off the West Coast leg of summer tour at The Gorge later this month, now with added COVID-19 testing and vaccine protocols in place for the foreseeable future. The next few weeks and months are a mystery on that front, and with the pandemic picture in a state of rapid development, it remains the case that nothing right now is guaranteed. We’ll likely see Phish again in a few weeks, but in COVID times, you never really know for sure. Get vaccinated, stay safe, be sensible, and we should be ok.
What we do know, however, is that Phish just wrapped up a chunk of real, live 2021 tour dates—most of them truly fantastic—and that fact alone is enough to ease the minds and warm the hearts of a fanbase still feeling the aftershock of the past year and change.
Phish is back, folks… YEAH.
See you soon…
For a full list of upcoming Phish tour dates, head here.
Setlist: Phish | Atlantic City Beach | Atlantic City, NJ | 8/15/21
Set One: The Landlady, Scents and Subtle Sounds  > The Moma Dance  > The Final Hurrah > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, The Sloth, Roggae > Back On The Train, You Enjoy Myself
Set Two: Carini > Set Your Soul Free > Beneath A Set of Stars Part 1 > Piper > Carini, Waves > Simple > About To Run, First Tube
Encore: Fluffhead, Backwards Down The Number Line
 Intro Only