Beloved jam group Phish returned to the Atlantic City Beach stage for the second night of its three-night stand at the shoreline venue. After delivering an opening night performance filled with water-themed treats and some impressive improvisation, the quartet of Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, and Jon Fishman wasted no time getting to work on a Saturday evening in Atlantic City, NJ.
The band opened the show with “46 Days”, quickly getting into the pocket for the funky, bluesy number. After the verses, Phish locked into an improvisational session initially led by Trey’s ripping and rocking solo. Surprisingly, the band opened up the jam, taking its feet off the brakes and letting the music flow. It was one of those “are we really getting an extended jam in the first song of the show tonight?” moments, but, alas, the exploration was not yet meant to be.
Somewhat abruptly, Phish segued out of the “46 Days” jam and directly into “The Moma Dance”. While the transition was a bit unexpected, the funky song selection kept the crowd grooving in the opening moments of the show. This version was well played, though the band stayed within the confines of the composition and ended the song swiftly.
Next up was “Olivia’s Pool”, a bluesy number that has had something of a renaissance in recent years. The song is nothing but two verses that discuss the subtleties of the underworld followed by a refrain: “You’ll just go on an oblivious fool.” Phish would play the song a handful of times in 1997, deciding to rework its look and feel dramatically and emerging on the other side of that transition with “Shafty”. “Shafty” is “Olivia’s” evil twin, but that song, too, would only appear a handful of times in 1998 and an even-smaller-handful of times thereafter, including, notably, the second night of last weekend’s Merriweather Post Pavilion run. But this “Olivia’s Pool” was bright and breezy, befitting the beachside vibe of the AC scene.
More upbeat blues were in the cards during this opening run of songs, as Phish brought out its cover of Clifton Chenier’s “My Soul” next. The version was highlighted by solos, first by Page on the Hammond organ and followed by Trey’s soaring guitarwork.
Mike Gordon got his first turn at lead vocals in Atlantic City on the next song, “555”. There were clearly some cobwebs to dust off this song as the band struggled to find its collective footing. Phish seemed to snap back in place around the first chorus, getting into the swing of the funky “555” and taking it for a ride before looping around and ending with the traditional refrain.
Immediately as “555” ended, Trey hit the opening riff for “NICU” and kept the set grooving along. While “NICU” always manages to evoke smiles among the dancing milieu, fans cannot deny that the highlight of the song is and will always be when Trey says those three magic words: “Play it, Leo!” And play it he did, dazzling once again with a soulful solo.
Trey again moved the first set along, emerging from the “NICU” ending with the opening chord shuffle of “Bathtub Gin”. This would be the standout jam out of the first set, ultimately clocking in at 17 minutes. This jam started with Fish quickening the pace of “Gin” as Trey and Page played off each other to build energy in the first set. The band would pivot from these darker themes and into a much brighter, melodic section rooted in the major key. The uplifting section continued to transcend, as the melody-driven jam shifted into a rhythmic free-for-all. Tight and in the groove, the band navigated the psychedelic soundspace until Trey found the song’s thematic melody and pulled his bandmates into the “Gin” conclusion.
After taking a brief moment to appreciate their satisfying work on “Bathtub Gin”, keyboardist Page McConnell led the group into the next song, “Heavy Rotation”. The Page original was played for only the second time in Phish history—a bust out of 253 shows. It’s a great song, so let’s hope it stays in heavier rotation (apologies for the pun, but I’m a new father so I’m allowed at least one groaner per recap). Starting as a slower, thoughtful ballad, the composition twists mid-song by transitioning to a trancing, sprawling jam session. Packed with deep bass and experimental synthesizer tones, Phish settled into a dark and mysterious improvisation driven by Fish’s rhythmic prowess.
Phish – “Heavy Rotation” – 8/6/22
Following a few minutes spent in the darker “Rotation” jam, Trey careened the band into the opening notes of “Character Zero”. After over an hour of music, the song seemed to be placed as the first set closer; a familiar role for this high-energy rock n’ roller. Trey shredded on some pentatonic blues licks throughout the song as fans and band sang together, but, instead of ending the song, Phish departed into a light and free-flowing experimental jam. Before long, “Zero” had launched into orbit, leaving fans to question what exactly was unfolding.
Speaking of outer space, the band would actually conclude set one with a cover of “Moonage Daydream” from David Bowie’s seminal 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars. Fifty years later, the album is still hailed as one of the all-time greats. It also holds the honor of being the last non-original musical costume donned by Phish, in 2016, the year that Bowie passed away. While the Ziggy performance with string musicians and vocalists was a memorable moment in the band’s history, only “Moonage Daydream” has had significant play in setlists since 10/31/16. For good reason, as “Moonage” serves as an excellent vehicle for Phish’s energetic and exploratory style of performance. The version, Phish’s first in 51 shows, was highlighted by long, lustful tones throughout the solo that would lead the song to its finale. An exciting end to an action-packed first set of music.
Getting back into action after the 30+ minute break, the bandmates returned to the stage and picked up their respective instruments to dig into set two. “No Man In No Man’s Land” would take the opening spot, immediately getting fans on their feet for the funky free-for-all. The band departed from the verses with a funky jam piloted by Trey’s bright melodies and some bass-laden accompaniment from both Gordo and Page alike.
The improvisation quickly began to shift, veering into a darker, rock-heavy section. Trey wailed out on guitar during this section, as the band used the guitarist’s longing and echoing tones as a pivot point to depart into a psychedelic exploration. It was a few minutes into this jam that I actually said “Wow”, right around the moment when Chris Kuroda and Andrew Giffin’s lighting rig dazzled in color-changing and zigzagging patterns alongside the band’s hypnotic playing. The sonic exploration continued until it reached a natural conclusion and, some 15 minutes into set two, Trey hit the opening notes of “Tweezer”.
Despite the warm summer weather, it was getting cold, cold, cold on the Atlantic City beach. The band followed the “Tweezer” verses with a patient jam led by Fishman’s tight drumming, giving the band members an opportunity to settle in and really let loose. They stayed in a rhythmic flow state, exploring the space deftly in this trippier moment. Trey would eventually take the lead, turning the band from the expedition to a melody-driven section. The guitarist arpeggiated along the major scales, driving the jam to its melodic peak. Immediately after the peak, Phish segued into a classic blues rock theme that seemed to be on the verge of becoming “Isabella” for a few bars before Trey riffed on the main “Tweezer” melody, albeit in a different key, and ended the song.
Phish – “Tweezer” [Pro-Shot] – 8/6/22
Launching immediately into the next number, Phish fired up a memorable take on the late-3.0 era rocker, “Set Your Soul Free”. The jam quickly went into a brighter, “Light”-esque space, as Page’s Yamaha grand piano played counterpoint to Trey’s elevated melodies. They stayed in this positive space for a few minutes, until the bottom dropped out and the music descended into a chaotic and atonal soundscape. As the band members added to the cacophony, Trey decided he’d had enough and tapped out the opening riff to the classic jam vehicle, “Simple”.
Phish showed no sign of slowing down by choosing a song like “Simple” as the fourth song of the second set. Following the oddball verses, Phish took the jam from melodic to cerebral, with echoing tones ringing out proudly across the crowd. The energy continued to grow as the jam proceeded until Trey reached a bright melodic peak. Page took over lead duties, dabbling on the electric piano as the jam descended into darker territory. Page continued to lead the show, finding high-pitched sound effects to give the whole moment an early-era Pink Floyd feeling.
Some 14 minutes into “Simple”, as the psychedelia faded into oblivion, Trey strummed the opening chords of the Joy ballad “Backwards Down The Number Line”. Love it or hate it, you’ll probably wind up singing along before too long. Trey dusted off a short but sweet solo after the verses, but this BDNTL was never meant to stretch outside its comfort zone. The song concluded with its refrain.
As the last notes of BDTNL rang out, the band immediately started into the fan favorite, “Golgi Apparatus”. The version was mostly standard, but the near-end build-up took an unusual left turn into an unexpected minor key exploration before returning to the “ticket stub” refrain and ending the song with the final verse.
With just a few minutes left in the set, Phish transitioned from the “Golgi” ending into another all-time great, “Slave to the Traffic Light”. Appearing in its familiar set closing position, this “Slave” was played well and ended the second set beautifully.
After the pause, Phish returned for the encore with the ballad, “A Life Beyond The Dream”, imparting its optimistic morals and a soaring guitar solo in the final moments of the performance. Interestingly, the Saturday show from last year’s Atlantic City run had an identical encore to last night’s show, with the band fitting in “Beyond the Dream” before ending the show emphatically with the one and only “Tweezer Reprise”. As the notes of the “Tweeprise” riff echoed out, the band thanked its audience and departed from the stage, putting a strong finish on an overall great performance.
Packed with some impressive jams and great song selections throughout, Phish’s second night in Atlantic City was a memorable one. The band returns to the Atlantic City Beach stage tonight, August 7th, for a highly anticipated Sunday show to wrap up this three-night stand on the waterside.
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Phish – “Olivia’s Pool” – 8/6/22
Phish – “NICU” – 8/6/22
Phish – “Simple” – 8/6/22
Phish – “Golgi Apparatus” – 8/6/22
Phish – “Tweezer Reprise” – 8/6/22
Setlist [via Phish.net]: Phish | Atlantic City Beach | Atlantic City, NJ | 8/6/22
SET 1: 46 Days > The Moma Dance, Olivia’s Pool > My Soul (Clifton Chenier), 555 > NICU > Bathtub Gin, Heavy Rotation > Character Zero, Moonage Daydream
SET 2: No Men In No Man’s Land > Tweezer, Set Your Soul Free > Simple > Backwards Down the Number Line > Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light
ENCORE: A Life Beyond The Dream, Tweezer Reprise