For the first time since they started their Mexican sojourns, Phish treated the phans to four nights of music, instead of the usual three shows.
One thing that’s clear from the setlists at the Moon Palace is that the band stuck to the more straight-ahead songs, and eschewed some of the more complicated compositions. Hard to blame them, they’re on vacation after all. But maybe that’s why it was clear from the start of the show that they still had plenty left in the tank for Sunday night.
Bob Weaver once again took the stage donning the now-famous parrot suit, which I’m sure we’ll see on sale at Sebastian Grey soon enough.
Starting Sunday with the Undermind song “Crowd Control”, Phish continued the trend of laid back, breezy openers. After the soft-start, things got even more mellow with a strangely placed, but nicely executed “Farmhouse”. A fun “Breath and Burning” followed, with a smiley Trey Anastasio and some nice organ work from the Chairman of the Boards, Page McConnell.
After the song, Trey mentioned how nice it was to play in the sunshine so they could see the audience. “You guys are so lit up. Now we know what you look like,” goofed Trey. “Normally, it’s just like a big black thing out there, but we’re onto you now. Normally we feel like we’re four mediocre-looking guys up here, and you’re all these stunning, model-looking people, but now, secret’s out! It’s a whole beach full of mediocre people!”
One of the more cherished songs in the Phish catalog, “Divided Sky”, landed in the fourth slot. A slower-paced start gave them trouble, but they eventually found their footing.
During the silent break in the song, a beaming Trey, almost laughing as he looked around, said, “This is just fucking unbelievable, I mean c’mon, seriously? Look at this. Who gets to do a concert here? This is ridiculous. Sorry, not to break the silence. Hi, people in the water. Hi, people on the bleachers. Just soaking it up, man. Thank you guys, for being here with us, this is the best, the best thing ever. On with the song!”
After the joyous and beautiful jam, a very chatty Trey continued with, “We’d like to do a little number now for you that’s appropriate for a beach gathering, it’s called “Meat.”
“Everything’s Right” was next, with Trey doing a little “It’s all right” vocal improv to set the tone for the first big jam of the night. The jam stayed dark and dirty for a while and was a noticeable departure from vibe up to this point. Eventually, they transitioned into the major key, and the jam soared before it reached its natural conclusion.
At the beach, during sunset, Phish appropriately treated everyone to “The Squirming Coil”. While a soulful Page dug into the solo piano outro, the band stayed on stage to admire him, signaling to the audience that more of the first set awaited them.
A beautiful, soaring, Reba-like “Wingsuit” followed, and as the last ambient notes faded out, Jon Fishman kicked the band into the set-closing “David Bowie.” They didn’t seem super confident in the composed sections, and the jam never really coalesced, but it was a high-energy close to a 90-minute set.
Though not the most interesting set, “Everything’s Right” was one of the more exciting jams of the run, and the band was undoubtedly having a blast. Their love of these Mexican holidays is irrefutable.
Bucking the trend of some lighter openers, Phish took the stage for the second set and immediately launched into “Simple.” As the jam started, the band pulled back as if to say, “This could go anywhere.” Though it took a funkier route than a standard “Simple”, it never quite got going. Trey was having issues with his in-ear monitors during this one. This writer has never seen him wear them, so the sound must be tricky on that stage with all that wind.
TV On The Radio’s “Golden Age” landed in the second spot of the set. The jam out of “Golden Age” immediately went into space-funk territory, with Trey hitting the delay pedal and Page leaning on the clavinet. Mike Gordon was the quarterback early on, locking into a bouncy, staccato bassline. But again, the jam never really went anywhere special and eventually slowed down into a few minutes of drums/space.
As “Golden Age” dwindled, Page took them into “Fuego.” The band wasn’t as tight with this one as they usually are, but the jam came together more cohesively, with Trey throwing in some late “Simple” teases.
Whatever the band needed, they seemed to find it here. As they moved forward, the communication seemed a bit more effortless. Emerging from the smoky ending of “Fuego” was the bouncy, upbeat “Undermind”. They were locked in during this one, and you could feel it. After teasing “Plasma”, one of the smoothest segues of the weekend came as they transitioned into a faster-than-normal “Back On The Train”. Trey and Mike had some fun teasing “Simple” early on. Subtle and patient, “BOTT” chugged along nicely before slowly fading into another dark and spacey interlude.
Before wrapping up the set, and for only the third time since it’s 2018 Halloween debut, Phish played the Kasvot Vaxt tune “Passing Through,” delivering the most exciting version of this song to date. Phish stretched this one out, building tension and hitting the payoffs like only they can.
After only a couple minutes, Phish returned for the encore and played what seemed like an abbreviated “Rise/Come Together”. “The Horse” > “Silent In The Morning” felt like an odd choice for the encore of a four-night run, as they typically struggle to nail this complex arrangement. After they plunked their way through it, the familiar bass drum intro took the band into the happy “Fee”.
A ripping “Funky Bitch” came next, which started to make it feel less like an encore and more like a third set. Page and Trey both shredded their solos, cranking the energy up, and giving the crowd some extra boogie before the night’s final tune, the loud and rocking “More”.
These Mexican destination events seem to be bigger than the music. The band was certainly vibrating with love and light all weekend, and it’s amazing to see the obvious and overwhelming joy and gratitude emanating from the guys throughout all the shows. After all these years, it’s clear they still love it.
Phish will take some time off ahead of a lengthy summer tour beginning on July 14th at the Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR. Click here for more summer tour information.
Setlist: Phish | Riviera Maya | Cancun, MX | 2/23/20
Set One: Crowd Control, Farmhouse, Breath and Burning, Divided Sky, Meat, Everything’s Right, The Squirming Coil, Wingsuit, David Bowie
Set Two: Simple > Golden Age (TV on the Radio cover) > Fuego > Undermind -> Back on the Train > Passing Through
Encore: Rise/Come Together > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Fee, Funky Bitch, More