Amidst heavy rain in and around the Boston area, Phish returned to Fenway Park on Saturday night to complete their two-night run at the hallowed New England church of baseball. The show took on a unique feel, as lengthy pre-event rain and lightning resulted in an extended delay, forcing fans to huddle inside of Fenway’s narrow inner hallways and in bars in the surrounding area until an announcement on the show’s fate was finally made that it would, in fact, go on! Due to the shortened timeframe to perform from the delay, the band announced shortly before starting that they would eschew their typical two-set format for a very untraditional one-set performance.
Following the lengthy pre-show lightning delay, Phish finally took the stage at 8:30 pm, two hours after the show’s intended start time. Phish came sprinting out of the gates with a high-energy take on “Carini”. Guitarist Trey Anastasio wasted no time pushing the band into some early exploratory playing, before making a relatively quick and confident transition into “Possum”.
Newer favorite, “Set Your Soul Free” followed, a fitting choice given the song’s “rain” reference in one of its early verses (“SYSF” was also played last weekend in Camden following a particularly nasty downpour). This was Phish’s first real jam of the night, and they took it deep. The rhythm section of Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman locked in as keyboardist Page McConnell laid into his organ, with Anastasio seemingly chasing them as he patiently comped along on his guitar.
Eventually, Anastasio broke free, leading the band into an extended moment of ambient bliss to close out the short-but-sweet jam before moving into the “Thread”, appearing for the first time in 2019 and only the fourth time ever since its debut in 2017. “Thread” may have some potential, but it’s clear why the song has only appeared a few times, as the band has some kinks to work out before it can make its way into regular rotation.
“Wolfman’s Brother” helped steer the ship back in the right direction, as the fan-favorite moved towards a slow funk jam that built to a beautiful peak. “Reba”, finally back in the regular rotation following a few years in time out, found Anastasio making some crucial mistakes during the song’s complicated composed sections, but he all-but made up for it in the song’s euphoric, slow-build jam section. Following the jam, Phish left out the song’s whistling refrain and moved into a typically chugging version of “Back On The Train”.
Making its 2019 debut at Fenway Park, Gordon’s “Mound” came next, off-tempo clapping and all. Anastasio’s scorching Ghosts of the Forest track “About To Run” followed, before Phish launched into the song of the night–their classic jam-vehicle, “Down With Disease”.
Following a minor issue with Gordon’s bass gear early in the track, Phish worked through the song’s form masterfully, with Anastasio replacing the “dancin’ on my lawn” lyric with “dancin’ on my field” in reference to the Baseball diamond on which they were playing. The song’s jam heard the band move into a few different directions, including more bright, blissful instrumentation–a recurring theme throughout this show’s improvisational moments. This continued with “Simple”, which acted as a landing point for the band in-between improvisations. A spirited take on “Backwards Down the Numberline” kept the action flowing, but it quickly made way for the popular Kasvot Växt song, “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long”.
“46 Days” heard Phish once again lock in for some beautiful full-band improvisation, which dissolved into the psychedelic and ambient instrumental, “What’s The Use?”, a song that has increasingly cemented itself as one of their go-to live songs. Phish then followed up the intensity with the playful rarity, “Mexican Cousin”, before “2001” turned up the dance-party vibes inside Fenway with its disco beat unifying the crowd in a wave of funk.
After a night filled with blissful jams, Phish broke out one of their darkest songs, “Split Open and Melt”. Following the song’s complex composed section, the band delivered a unique jam filled with dissonant, droning sounds coming from the stage, with lighting designer Chris Kuroda’s light rig moving ominously above the band. When delivered correctly, the combination of precise playing, dark improvisation, and expert use of the moving light makes “Split Open and Melt” one of Phish’s most effective live songs, and this version certainly showcased all three of those elements.
Following the intense “Split”, Phish brought the music back to earth to close things out with a fun, set-closing version of “Suzy Greenberg”. McConnell was particularly on fire throughout, leading the band through a funky and high-energy solo. Phish left the stage after “Suzy”, and to the delight of all of the soaked, rain-weary fans out there, they returned for an encore, even though they had seemingly passed the rumored 11:00 p.m. curfew.
For the encore, they started things off with the tenth-ever version of “Rise/Come Together”, and the fourth version of 2019. The beloved “Gamehendge” track “Wilson” came next in the show-closing slot, encouraging the crowd of about 38,000 people to “Willllsooooooon” into the rainy Boston skies. Anastasio mixed up the lyrics of the first verse, but recovered quickly. McConnell hit a humorous “Faceplant into rock” sample right before the “blatt boo” guitar refrain, causing much laughter from the rest of the band as he laid into the sample throughout the rest of the song.
Watch the band’s set-opening performance of “Carini” below.
Phish – “Carini” – 7/6/2019
The intense rain and lightning forced Phish to be flexible, and they made lemons out of lemonade to make sure that the show would go on for their fans in Boston. In the end, Phish performed a two-hour-and-forty-minute set, seemingly the longest set of their career (besides the special, seven-hour Big Cypress New Year’s Eve set from NYE 1999/2000). They showcased the most populist version of their band, featuring a blend of classic material, live favorites, road-tested newer material, and a track each from the Kasvot Växt album and Anastasio’s Ghosts of the Forest album, showcasing a little bit of everything that makes Phish great in 2019.
Phish continues their summer tour this week in Uncasville, CT, leaving the spacey confines of Fenway Park behind for a two-night run at the relatively tiny 10,000-person Mohegan Sun Arena.
For a full list of the band’s upcoming tour dates and ticketing information, head to Phish’s website. Each show on Phish’s 2019 summer tour will be rebroadcast on SiriusXM Phish Radio (Ch. 29) at 12:00 ET the following day. Subscribe here.
Setlist: Phish | Fenway Park | Boston, MA | 7/6/2019
Set: Carini > Possum, Set Your Soul Free > Thread, Wolfman’s Brother, Reba, Back on the Train, Mound, About to Run, Down with Disease > Simple > Backwards Down the Number Line > Death Don’t Hurt Very Long > 46 Days > What’s the Use? > Mexican Cousin > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Split Open and Melt, Suzy Greenberg
Encore: Rise/Come Together, Wilson