Phish continued their Labor Day Weekend run at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday with their second of three shows at the Commerce City, CO soccer stadium.
“The Moma Dance” got the call to open the show as it so often does. Kasvot Växt centerpiece “The Final Hurrah” came next complete with focused bursts of solos from Trey Anastasio and shimmering synth tones from Page McConnell. Page often has a tendency to get excited and overuse the song’s “Faceplant into rock!” vocal samples, but they were used sparingly and to tasteful effect on this version.
The “Gumbo” that followed saw Page showcase his saloon boogie piano chops before moving into the biggest bust-out of the night, “Access Me”. This Undermind rarity had only been played live by Phish 5 times prior to its appearance on Saturday night at Dick’s. This marked the first “Access Me” since 7/1/12, a gap of 275 shows, but you could be forgiven for thinking they play it all the time based on how effortlessly they executed the song’s upbeat bounce.
After a strong though relatively straightforward “Funky Bitch”, the band waded into “Ghost” with patience and intent. Trey was feeling it on this one from the start, helping direct the foursome into a slow, breezy opening jam. As the guitarist showered in fluttering riffs and even a “Little Drummer Boy” tease, the song shifted to a dark, churning pace while Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman pushed them into a Baker’s Dozen-reminiscent cocktail lounge space. After several minutes of exploration on this ethereal theme, Trey and Page locked into a sparse, stop-start groove before landing back in the “Ghost” theme. When all was said and done, this “Ghost” had clocked in at 16+ minutes in length and cemented itself as one of the finest versions of the song in recent memory.
As “Ghost” oozed into oblivion, Trey counted off a transition into “Tube”. While just over 8 minutes in length, this “Tube” managed to pack an impressive amount of high-powered improv, quickly moving into spacey swells, a slow-burn bass-led bounce, and breezy major key melodies before building to a white-hot Trey peak. While there was plenty of inspired jamming left in this show, this “Ghost” > “Tube” segment made a strong case as the highlight of the performance.
— DidTheyJamOutTube? (@TubeJamUpdate) September 1, 2019
A “Mountains In The Mist” breather was up next, marking its first appearance of 2019. Finally, the band launched into multi-part Ghosts of the Forest anthem “Drift While Your Sleeping” to cap set one. This marked the sixth Phish rendition of “Drift While You’re Sleeping”, and each of them has served as a set closer or encore. This one, however, was easily the strongest so far. Trey and company hit each of the song’s often-clunky shifts with gusto, and the payoff was immediately apparent. With each successive rendition, this song has become an increasingly satisfying way for Phish to close a set.
Following set break, the band returned to the stage to launch into “Mike’s Song” as a cascade of glowsticks rained down from the Dick’s stands. After bringing “Mike’s” to a roaring peak, the band slid smoothly into “I Am Hydrogen” and, finally, a stellar “Weekapaug Groove”, capping a now relatively rare “classic” “Mikes > Hydrogen > Groove”. This “Weekapaug” was noteworthy in itself as well, producing some sparse, echo-laden improv and arhythmic riffing that eventually found its way seamlessly into “46 Days”.
Phish – “46 Days”
[Video: Live For Live Music]
After another amusing nod to the whole plague situation (“Taste the fear, for the plague is drawing near”), the band led this compact but potent “46 Days” into a frenetic jam propelled by Mike bombs, Page synth swells, razor-sharp Trey licks, and an as-always energetic Fishman backbeat.
The two-song segment of “Set Your Soul Free” and “Down With Disease” proved to be the improvisational highlight of set two. Over the course of these two jams, the foursome explored a steady stream of musical ideas, continually push each other to new ideas and sonic spaces. Fishman, in particular, shined in this portion of the show, remaining a driving force behind the kit as the band traversed each new terrain.
A run of short-and-sweet late-set tunes followed in “NICU”, “Bug”, and “The Wedge” before a soaring “Slave to the Traffic Light” brought the set to a close. The show’s “Brian and Robert”/”Character Zero” encore may have elicited some groans from your more jaded Phish vets, but after these two excellent sets, it’s difficult to complain in earnest.
Phish is playing with purpose, creativity, and excitement, even through two Dick’s shows with setlists that don’t exactly jump off the page. Saturday night’s “Ghost” > “Tube”, “Drift While You’re Sleeping”, and the first half of set two are all worth multiple relistens as you prepare for night three.
With one more show left before a long break ahead of their late-Fall tour, you can expect Phish to pull out all the stops tonight. What’s that thing they say about Sunday shows?
You can scroll down to peruse a gallery of photos from the show courtesy of photographer Bill McAlaine.
For a full list of upcoming Phish tour dates, head here.
Setlist: Phish | Dick’s Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, CO | 8/31/19
SET 1: The Moma Dance > The Final Hurrah, Gumbo, Access Me, Funky Bitch, Ghost > Tube > Mountains in the Mist, Drift While You’re Sleeping
SET 2: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove -> 46 Days > Set Your Soul Free > Down with Disease -> NICU > Bug > The Wedge, Slave to the Traffic Light
ENCORE: Brian and Robert > Character Zero
 Lyric changed to “Taste the fear, for the plague is drawing near.”
This show was webcast via Live Phish and featured the first Access Me since July 1, 2012 (275 shows). Trey teased The Little Drummer Boy in Ghost. The lyrics in 46 Days were changed to “Taste the fear, for the plague is drawing near” as a reference to an outbreak of plague in the Commerce City area. Weekapaug Groove and Down with Disease were unfinished.