With what feels like so little left from the regular rotation on this repeat-less tour, Phish, with eyes clear and pure, opened Saturday night at North Charleston Coliseum with “Fluffhead”—a song that has made it’s way to the top of the first set a handful of times, despite also having opened the show in its most recent appearance on 7/3/19. Even so, it’s a hard one to see coming as the opener. Though they often struggle to nail the layered composition (tonight was no exception), it’s never unwelcomed by the crowd.

Following the raucous, anthemic peak of “Fluffhead”, Phish brought “Ocelot” out to play. This tune has felt extra breezy in recent years, and this version was no exception. The band fell quickly into the groove, letting Trey Anastasio dance on top with his signature pitch bend before wrapping it up rather quickly.

The spotlight fell to Mike Gordon for the third song of the night, laid back bluegrass tune, “Nellie Kane”. Both Page McConnell and Trey didn’t do much with their respective solos on this one, and the rather uninspired version was brief.

Related: Phish Delivers “Carolina” Party To Kick Off Three-Night Run At North Charleston Coliseum [Videos]

Next up, Page leaned on the now-familiar samples that open the power-chord heavy “The Dogs”, a setlist mainstay from their 2014 Chilling, Thrilling Halloween set. A widely-anticipated “Reba” landed in the fifth spot. The band had trouble early in the composition but rebounded nicely for what the crowd was patiently waiting. The sparse, spacey beginning of the jam was a little less patient than usual, with Trey digging into the lead fairly quickly. Nothing out of the ordinary here, but a solid “Reba” jam nonetheless. They bagged and tagged this one with the song’s common whistling outro.

Following “Reba”, Page took his turn at the microphone leading the band through “Halfway To The Moon”. He was the star of the short jam that ensued, digging in with his piano power chords and octaves.

After the mellow and easy Mike Gordon-penned “Train Song”, the band decided to do some more whistling! The ugly pig, who Phish fans don’t often to get to hear about, made his tour debut on Charleston. Maybe the last truly ambitious 1.0 composition, “Guyute” still packs a punch when the band gets it right. But on a night when Trey was already having trouble with the difficult compositions, “Guyute” didn’t feel like the best choice. Even with the sloppiness, the song still managed to whip the crowd into a frenzy.

Almost as if Trey was telling the band to “relax, we’re doing fine”, the frenzy was laid to rest with a quick, beautiful “Strange Design”. For only the fourth time in Phish’s history, the David Bowie rocker “Moonage Daydream” finally delivered the face-melting rock the crowd was hoping for. This song has always felt like the perfect set closer, and tonight Phish delivered it in that slot for the first time. This seems to be a favorite of Trey’s as it allows him to go full classic rock guitar hero, a role everyone welcomes with open arms. This may not have been their best attempt (for that, see Baker’s Dozen Night 1), but for those hoping for a darker, deeper 2nd set, it was a great note to leave on.

Finding its way into a show for the first time since 7/29/15, and for only the fifth time ever, Phish opened the 2nd set with the short, cruising “The Connection” from 2004’s Undermind.

The first notes of TAB’s “Mr. Completely” just felt different than most of what transpired in the 1st set. Trey was immediately beaming and looked back at Jon Fishman almost as if to encourage the energy absent for most of the night. The jam stayed dark for a few minutes while Page spent time at the Fender Rhodes. Trey eventually transitioned the band from E minor to major and leaned into his delay and loop effects while Page danced on the Moog. Trey teased “No Man In No Man’s Land” and “The Wedge” and the band eventually switched keys yet again into A major. After the most interesting and exploratory jam of the night so far, Trey effortlessly slid the band back into the form and wrapped things up.

The Talking Heads’ dancey jam vehicle “Crosseyed and Painless” followed, making it clear that the energy was high and going to stay that way. Page’s clavinet sounded dirtier than usual, and just as Mike stepped into the foreground for the first time of the night, Trey pulled things back and started a Siket Disc-type jam while Fishman sang the “still waiting” refrain. Page followed Trey’s lead and landed on his thick synths while Trey made his way into the Christmas classic, “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Phish – “Crosseyed and Painless” [Talking Heads cover] w/ “Little Drummer Boy” Teases – 12/7/19

[Video: kembra allen]

The extended “Drummer Boy” jam eventually segued into the ballad, “Dirt,” replete with “Little Drummer Boy” teases during the introduction. “Dirt” felt excellently placed, and Trey handled it beautifully.

The Kasvot Vaxt number “Cool Amber And Mercury” came next. Even though this tune gives the guys a bit of a break, Trey seemed focused and that helped the band fall into an easy groove. Mike and Fishman locked in quickly, allowing Trey and Page to patiently explore until Trey signaled to Fishman to start the drums for “Split Open And Melt”.

The bottom quickly fell out of the groovy darkness as Fishman moved to the marimba lumina, and the rest of the band followed him into a Phish-flavored, ‘Drums>Space’-like jam while Trey teased “The Little Drummer Boy” yet again. The real star of this “SOAM” was Chris Kuroda, as he demonstrated the full range of his colossal lighting rig. Out of the spacey darkness, Trey pulled the band briefly back into “Crosseyed” before quickly bouncing back into “Split Open and Melt”.

Phish – “Split Open and Melt” > “Litte Drummer Boy” tease > “Crosseyed and Painless” [Talking Heads cover] – 12/7/19

[Video: kembra allen]

The Rolling Stones-inspired Ghosts of the Forest number “A Life Beyond The Dream” followed. This was another slow burner that felt expertly placed within the set. All smiles for this next one as Trey thumped the “duh-duh .. duh-duh” opening notes of “Wilson” and the band jumped into a faster-than-usual version of the barn burner.

To cap off a very well-paced set was “The Squirming Coil”. Redeeming themselves after some of the missteps with the more complicated compositions earlier in the night, “Coil” was executed almost flawlessly. Trey and Mike left the stage early, leaving Fish and Page to duet for a couple of minutes before the drums faded. For a band that can take you in so many different directions, and a keyboard player who can create so many different textures, the moments at the end of this tune have always been one of the reasons Phish (and Page McConnell) is so special.

The quartet returned to the stage and began the encore with the goofy acappella “Grind” before Page McConnell grabbed his Keytar signaling the band’s highly sought-after cover of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” to end the night.

Phish – “Grind” – 12/7/19

[Video: kembra allen]



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Though the band never really found their rhythm during the 1st half of this Saturday night show, they regrouped and stepped up for a very solid, fluid 2nd set. Phish concludes their short 2019 Fall Tour tomorrow with their third show at the small North Charleston Coliseum. For a full list of upcoming dates, head here.

Below, you can view a photo gallery of the night’s show courtesy of photographer Caroline Bell.

Setlist: Phish | North Charleston Coliseum | Charleston, SC | 12/7/19

Set One: Fluffhead > Ocelot, Nellie Kane > The Dogs > Reba, Halfway to the Moon > Train Song > Guyute, Strange Design, Moonage Daydream

Set Two: The Connection, Mr. Completely > Crosseyed and Painless > Dirt, Cool Amber and Mercury > Split Open and Melt > Crosseyed and Painless > Split Open and Melt, A Life Beyond The Dream > Wilson > The Squirming Coil

Encore: Grind, Frankenstein

This show was webcast via Live Phish. The Connection was last played on July 29, 2015 (171 shows). Trey teased No Men In No Man’s Land In Mr. Completely. The Little Drummer Boy was jammed in Crosseyed and Painless, whistled and teased in Dirt, and teased in the first Split Open and Melt.