The only rules which Phish had set for their eight-show micro-tour fall run seemed to be, 1. Don’t play any repeats, and 2. Don’t play any songs over 20-minutes.
On Sunday night’s third straight show at North Charleston Arena, the quartet stuck to the rule book. While there are other bands with massive repertoires of music and the ability to expand the original compositions into something unique each show, Phish is the only band confident enough to play nearly 200 different songs in ten days.
“Sigma Oasis” kicked off Sunday’s show and introduced the Charleston crowd to a new Trey Anastasio/Tom Marshall tune. After the song’s solo debut on 12/15/2018, Trey commented, “I like it as a philosophy we’re already here, there’s no place to get.” Perhaps this tune was written for the members of the Phish community who call for rarer bust-outs, longer jams, and bigger bass bombs to make a “better show,” rather than just enjoying the present moment.
A high-energy “Buried Alive” nodded to Saturday’s show with “Little Drummer Boy” quotes, and quickly moved into a bass-heavy, Mike Gordon-Anastasio choreographed “Guelah Papyrus”. The standard bluegrass “My Sweet One” picked up the pace for the evening’s sole Kasvot Växt tune, “Everything is Hollow”. While Phish’s Scandinavian alter-ego has appeared at nearly every show since the 2018 Halloween costume set, “Everything is Hollow” is one of the rarer tunes, and Sunday was just its third appearance to date.
In the sixth spot, Trey ordered “The Curtain” (hold the “With”) for the audience members that “followed the lines going south,” to Charleston for the three-night run. The shorter “Curtain” was played with precision and made its first “without” appearance since 8/28/12. The band signaled for crowd participation via clapping to kick off “Mound” from the 1993 Rift album and then cooled things down with the lyrically-reflective “Brian and Robert.”
Page McConnell and Gordon created a killer bass-organ funk jam in “Crazy Sometimes” as lighting designer Chris Kuroda cast a kaleidoscope of color across the Coliseum floor. Traveler’s “Frost” and Big Boat’s “Breath and Burning” brought a relaxed vibe to the first set before the year’s first “Alumni Blues” > “Letter to Jimmy Page” > “Alumni Blues” sandwich (the tenth of the post-hiatus era) powered its way through. McConnell took over on the organ before the “Letter” section to Anastasio delight, remembering their roots from the late ‘80s when they played the same composition for much smaller crowds.
Fishman laid down a solid foundation for an “It’s Ice” standout jam that bubbled and fizzed thanks to more work from the keyboardist. McConnell blended his Clavinet nicely with Anastasio’s effects-heavy guitar work as he introduced a few licks reminiscent of “Shakedown Street” before they collaboratively segued back to the lyrics. The set-ending ‘Walls of the Cave” packed a hard-rocking punch and found Anastasio conservatively headbanging right until the end.
Watch the live debut of “Sigma Oasis” as the show opener from Sunday’s performance below.
Phish – “Sigma Oasis” – 12/8/2019
J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight” opened the second set and saw the light of day for the first time since the band’s iconic “THANK YOU” encore from the 9/6/15 performance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The sub-eight-minute version didn’t get too far before shifting gears into the “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan” that gave Anastasio time to ride a bluesy wave around Gordon’s chunky bass notes. The quartet awkwardly moved into “Energy” as if they were not sure when Anastasio would begin singing, but quickly recovered for the second attempt at The Apple in Stereo cover in 2019. The breezy jam once again found McConnell on his favorite piece of equipment this tour–the organ.
To continue the theme of heavy song rotation, “Energy” segued into a blissful “Soul Planet”. McConnell synth-fully worked around Fishman’s cymbal line and assisted Gordon in creating a spacey, bass-filled pocket as Anastasio reprised the “You’re already there,” lyrics from “Sigma Oasis”.
In a ballad call, Anastasio chose an extended “Wingsuit” followed by McConnell’s spacy “I Always Wanted It This Way”. The synth-focused Big Boat tune would provide the last jam of the set and found Gordon influenced by his drummer’s expertise. Anastasio’s long-form composition, “Petrichor”, took the title as the longest tune of the evening and allowed the band to delicately move through the song’s six sections before a well-known cover. “Boogie On Reggae Woman” was the funky Stevie Wonder track fans were craving, but Sunday night’s version zigged where it should have zagged. Just under six-minutes, the late-set tune wasn’t given much of a makeover and instead introduced “Rise/Come Together” to end the second act.
Just when fans felt underwhelmed by Sunday’s disjointed second set song selection, Phish returned with “Pebbles and Marble” for the first part of the extended encore, marking a first for the Round Room tune. The Ghosts of the Forest original, “Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1”, took the second slot before the show’s fourth cover of the night with Jimi Hendrix’s “Isabella”.
Watch the set two opening cover of J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight” from Sunday below.
Phish – “After Midnight” – 12/8/2019
Similar to Night 13 of the no-repeats Baker’s Dozen encore, Phish reprised a tune that they had already played a few shows prior and did so in a sarcastic, nostalgic way. The “Chalkdust Torture Reprise” had a ‘60s surfer pop ring to it as Anastasio fought through his hysterical laugher to introduce the band, closing with, “We’re The Phish from Vermont!” before a “Plasma” outro to officially end it. The crowd went insane watching the 36-year-old group have the time of their lives and finish Fall Tour 2019 in true Phish fashion, never taking themselves too seriously.
“The Phish from Vermont” returns to the stage on Saturday, December 28th, for the opening night of their 2019-2020 New Year’s Run at Madison Square Garden. While tickets are sold out for all four shows, they are reasonably priced on outside vendor outlets.
Setlist: Phish | North Charleston Coliseum | North Charleston, SC | 12/8/2019
Set One: Sigma Oasis*, Buried Alive > Guelah Papyrus, My Sweet One > Everything is Hollow, The Curtain > Mound, Brian and Robert, Crazy Sometimes > Frost, Breath and Burning, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > It’s Ice > Walls of the Cave
Set Two: After Midnight (J.J. Cale cover), Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan > Energy (The Apples In Stereo cover) > Soul Planet, Wingsuit > I Always Wanted It This Way, Petrichor, Boogie On Reggae Woman (Stevie Wonder cover) > Rise/Come Together
Encore: Pebbles and Marbles, Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1, Izabella (Jimi Hendrix cover), Chalk Dust Torture Reprise
* Phish debut.