There’s no way around it. Phish played an instant-classic show at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for the second night of their three-night run. The band followed up last night’s awesome “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” with an incredible performance filled with memorable jams, huge peaks, and and undeniable energy from beginning to end.
Kicking off the show with a fiery run through “Chalkdust Torture”, the band quickly followed it up with a fun take on “Free”, which found guitarist Trey Anastasio eschewing his recent use of his echo effect for a more driven mid-song jam. Following the opening one-two punch, the band performed a quick version of their new song “Breath and Burning”, which has already been played five times in 2016.
Phish then kicked it into high gear with a rare first set “Theme From The Bottom”. This version quickly launched into space, with drummer Jon Fishman pushing the beat, beautiful playing from pianist Page McConnell, and perfect lead licks from Anastasio. As the song seemed to be coming to it’s conclusion, Phish dropped right into their cover of “Cities” by the Talking Heads, bringing some funky clav licks to the party courtesy of McConnell before the jam quickly faded out into the pulsating intro of “Maze”. Making only it’s second appearance of the summer, Phish wasted no time in busting the doors open on this one, with McConnell continuing his dominance on the keys before Anastasio took over with a vintage tension-and-release solo.
After the high energy run, Phish then busted out “Wombat” for it’s first appearance of the summer. Fishman rapped the opening lyrics as the crowd went nuts, and the song seems to have gotten even crazier and funkier after a 53 show lay off, as the song hasn’t been performed since Phish’s Halloween run in Las Vegas in 2014. The jam was down and dirty, as Phish showcased more of their 2016 brand of funk. “Split Open and Melt” showcased bassist Mike Gordon‘s dissonant playing as Anastasio and McConnell brilliantly built themselves towards a peak in the song’s improv section. The band was fully locked in throughout, minus a minor hiccup as they returned from the jam to the song’s conclusion.
Phish then decided to have a laugh with only the second “Sparkle” of the summer, which quickly fizzled out into the percussive opening of “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing”. The song moved quickly into a dark space, giving the band a chance to jam cohesively one more time before closing out the set. Phish then moved to the front of the stage for an a capella number, with the band performing their third-ever version of David Bowie‘s beloved song “Space Oddity”. The first set was incredible, and left fans on the edge of their seats in anticipation of a hot second set.
The band returned to the stage for set two, and picked things up right where they left off with a “Down With Disease” set opener. Trey and Page continued chasing each other musically, doubling each other’s parts for a pure “hose” moment, the music flowing through them freely before Anastasio let it absolutely rip with a soaring guitar solo. The jam dissolved into a blissful groove, and McConnell took the lead, as the band moved from bliss back into darkness, slowly building the jam back up into pure, intense rock’n’roll.
Phish left “Down With Disease” unfinished, but kept it rollin’ with with 2014 album title track “Fuego”. The band put in a tight performance of the song before heading into type II territory, quickly returning to the intensity they exhibited in the set opening “DWD” before transitioning into “Ghost”. The funky tune told us it’s story before blasting off courtesy of a Mike Gordon-led-jam that really brought the funk, winding it’s way into another truly “hose” moment, with the band firing on all cylinders and delivering a standout jam.
Fishman tried to bring it back into “Ghost”, but Trey was having none of it, and started playing the opening chords to “Scents and Subtle Sounds”, the first version since Magnaball. After skipping the intro to the song, the band toyed around with the lyrics as the song slid back into a blissful improv section that again featured Trey and Page linking up on a beautiful chord progression. The band crafted this section brilliantly, winding its way perfectly into yet another jam-vehicle in “Light”. The intense, exploratory improv continued with a true type II jam emerging from “Light”, with several major ideas explored. The final idea of the jam was a truly funky moment that surprisingly transitioned into the ultra-rare “Manteca”, which actually had lyrics for a change.
The funky bust out was, however, short and brief, but Phish kept the surprises coming as they busted out their incredible cover of “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin. McConnell had been toying with his Fender Rhodes all night, and the band had been playing so intensely all set long, so this cover made perfect sense. The song didn’t have much of a jam, as the band confirmed this show’s classic status when they started a note-perfect version of “Fluffhead” that concluded the second set.
Phish then opened the encore with a perfectly placed “Bug”. After a great performance of the emotional song, they finished things up with a raging “First Tube” that drove the crowd into an absolute frenzy. The encore capped off a completely excellent night that found Phish at the top of it’s game, taking no prisoners, and reminding fans why they are such an absolute live juggernaut.
Phish returns to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium tomorrow night to finish their three-night run. If tomorrow night is anything like the first two, phans in San Francisco are in for something special.
Setlist: Phish at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA – 7/19/16
Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, Free, Breath and Burning, Theme From the Bottom > Cities > Maze, Wombat, Split Open and Melt, Sparkle > A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Space Oddity
Set 2: Down with Disease > Fuego > Ghost > Scents and Subtle Sounds > Light -> No Quarter > Fluffhead
Encore: Bug, First Tube
 No intro.
Notes: Scents and Subtle Sounds did not contain the Intro. Light contained a Manteca tease.