On Sunday, Phish continued their 2019 fall tour with a performance at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. Fans braved stormy, icy, windy Long Island weather on their way in as they repeated to themselves, “Never miss a Sunday show.”
While New York and Phish go together like spaghetti and meatballs, it has been over 16 years since the band showed the Long Island arena some love. In fact, Phish has played over 100 gigs in the Empire State since their last show at Nassau on 11/28/03 in celebration of their 20th anniversary (and their iconic show earlier that year 2/28/03 which eventually received an official release via LivePhish). Obvious weather-related setlist choices could have included “It’s Ice”, “Tweezer”, “Seven Below”, or other wintery-mix songs, but audiences have come to understand that it’s a fool’s errand to try to predict a Phish show.
📸 Jake Silco pic.twitter.com/CmNo8TXBmO
— Phish: From The Road (@Phish_FTR) December 2, 2019
Trey Anastasio came out swinging during the first “Ghost” opener since September 2016. The band kept things light and blissful, unlike the previous, demonic version of “Ghost” performed at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park this past summer. “Rift” followed in the second slot behind “Ghost” for the first time in Phish history, and while the straightforward version didn’t turn any heads, it is noteworthy that after 36 years, the band is able to craft unique setlists even with some of their most popular originals.
Diving deep into their vast catalog, the quartet chose the gorgeous Gamehendge instrumental, “The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday”, introduced when they were still charging pocket change for entry in 1987. Gordon sonically celebrated his heritage by slapping the bass during the “Avenu Malkenu” section of the iconic Phish sandwich. The popular Hebrew prayer is always well received by New York (see Magnaball), the state with the highest Jewish population in the country. “The Wedge” was given an added punch by Page and Trey toward the end, and served as the fifth Rift tune played in 24 hours (if you count the “Lengthwise” interlude during Saturday’s encore).
An effects-heavy “Martian Monster” found Trey in his happy place as Mike Gordon followed right behind with some tight bass work and Page McConnell offered his smorgasbord of Disney samples. The setlist continued to flow nicely through an excellent, bluesy “Timber” followed by The Velvet Underground’s “Cool It Down”, last performed on the band’s 2018 Fall Tour. If anyone was feeling the rare cover more than the Long Island crowd, it was Trey’s bandmates, who gave their leader space to knock the rendition out of the park. The night’s second beloved Story of the Ghost original came in the form of the reflective “Roggae”, accented by Gordon’s delicate bass work.
After a few laid-back cuts, Phish turned up the heat with the rambunctious bluegrass original, “Poor Heart”, and a funky, jammed-out “Tube.” Page went to work on the B3 organ, creating a choppy groove around Jon Fishman’s rhythmic cymbal lines. Trey used the Page-Fishman launchpad to develop pulsating siren sounds that transformed into a huge guitar peak.
— DidTheyJamOutTube? (@TubeJamUpdate) December 2, 2019
The energy continued to build during the set-closing “Character Zero”, reminding fans why they drove through a snowstorm on a Sunday to see live music as they chanted along.
A synth-infused “Everything’s Right” kicked off the second set and found Trey leading the band down a dark, ominous path as they lifted off from Type I to Type II territory. Around the ninth minute, Page and Fishman tested the audience’s mental capacity as they seemingly attempted to reenact a sci-fi movie soundtrack. The third section of the 14-minute Coliseum abduction came around minute twelve, as Trey joined in with intense effects that eventually inspired Gordon’s classic bass intro into a lighthearted “Down with Disease”. While the “DWD” jam didn’t get too far, Page hopped on Clavinet behind Fishman’s backbeat to slowly churn out an impressive and unusual segue into “Cities”, highlighted by more outstanding bass work from Gordon. As Trey sang through the first verse, the Talking Heads cover finally took its usual Phishy form, but Fishman wrestled to speed up the tempo to a normal pace. The band called the whole thing off and wound up in a grittier territory with a short-lived, THX-inspired “Carini”.
After the instant-classic version of “Ruby Waves” at Alpine Valley this past summer, it’s hard to not be a little let down by a sub-38-minute version. Although Sunday’s rendition was substantially shorter, Phish was still able to find celestial pockets before playing a duo of celebratory tracks on the eve of their 36th anniversary (12/2/83). “Twenty Years Later” produced a smooth, relaxed jam grounded by Gordon’s melodic bass while “Backwards Down the Number Line” gave Trey more space to wail away with his brothers on stage. The 55-year-old lead guitarist sang the meaningful lyrics with passion as the audience embraced the special moment. To lighten things up, Kasvot Växt favorite “Say It to Me S.A.N.T.O.S” got the call as the set closer, reminding the crowd that this early-‘80s-formed band is still evolving at Kasvotrophic levels.
Phish – “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” – 12/1/19
[Video: Matt Frazier]
The theme of 12/1/19 at Nassau was “remembering roots.” From the Gamehendge classics to newest fan-favorites, Phish showed Long Island why they are still at the top of the world after 36 years of evolution. In what was perhaps a nod to the incredible 4/3/98 version in the same room, the band chose Ween‘s “Roses Are Free” to start their two-song encore. “Get in your car and cruise the land of the brave and free” followed by “Slave to the Traffic Light” was a friendly way to say, “Drive home save” as the evening came to an end. Sunday night’s show served as exceptional practice for their 2019-2020 New Year’s Eve run at Madision Square Garden—just 27 days and 23 miles from Nassau Coliseum (but who’s counting). Before that, however, Phish has a Fall Tour to finish this week.
Phish – “Roses Are Free” [Ween cover] – 12/1/19
[Video: Matt Frazier]
Phish’s Fall 2019 campaign continues for a few lucky fans on Tuesday night with the highly-awaited SiriusXM subscriber show at the 3,500-capacity The Met Philly on Tuesday, December 3rd. Those not lucky enough to snag one of the golden tickets can learn how to stream the show for free here. Phish tour will continue for the masses the following night, Wednesday, December 4th, with a performance at Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center. For a full list of upcoming Phish dates, head here.
Below, you can check out a gallery of photos from Sunday’s show courtesy of photographer Chris Capaci.
Setlist: Phish | Nassau Coliseum | Uniondale, NY | 12/1/19
Set One: Ghost > Rift, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday Reprise > The Wedge, Martian Monster > Timber (Jerry The Mule) > Cool It Down > Roggae > Poor Heart > Tube > Character Zero
Set Two: Everything’s Right > Down with Disease -> Cities > Carini > Ruby Waves > Twenty Years Later > Backwards Down the Number Line > Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.
ENCORE: Roses Are Free > Slave to the Traffic Light