On Tuesday night, Phish made their way across our country’s northern border for a performance at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage. Coming off an excellent headlining performance at Bonnaroo on Sunday, expectations were high for the band’s first Canadian performance since 2013.
The show kicked off on the earlier side with a run of first set staples in “AC/DC Bag”, “555”, and “Ocelot”. While the opening trio of tunes doesn’t look like much on paper, all three numbers conveyed a common theme: guitarist Trey Anastasio is feeling it this summer.
Another longtime first set stalwart followed with “Sample In A Jar”, though this rendition notably broke the longest gap between “Samples” since the song’s debut in 1993 (37 shows, dating back to last July in Austin, TX).
The show’s first big highlight came in the form of an excellent “Stash” that pushed out into some billowing major key improv as Page’s piano work built up to a rapid-fire peak from Trey. For those keeping track, that makes two stretched-out, relisten-worthy renditions of the A Picture Of Nectar classic in just the first five nights of the tour. Keep an eye on that one—this is shaping up to be the summer of the “Stash”.
The first The Wedge” of 2019 bobbed in next, followed by a run through wistful Trey Anastasio Band ballad, “Frost”, marking just the fourth time the song has crossed over into a Phish setlist.
The band picked up the pace once again with a particularly energetic “Halley’s Comet” before slipping into the Phish debut of “Ruby Waves”. While the song was first played by Trey Anastasio Band during a show in Burlington back in 2008, it was revived in full as part of Trey’s Ghosts of the Forest project earlier this year. The song produced some sinister, satisfying improv, Trey and Page spitting synth and guitar licks back and forth while Jon Fishman maintained a tight, cymbal-heavy pocket.
The “Ruby Waves” jam finally built up to a big Trey peak before landing back in its closing refrain to cap a more-than-solid Phish debut. The Toronto appearance of “Ruby Waves” made it the third Ghosts of the Forest song to enter the Phish repertoire so far this summer (following “Drift While You’re Sleeping” and “About To Run“), and it seems just as likely as either of the others to thrive in this setting.
After the band took a moment to collect themselves, Phish’s resident crooner, the Chairman of the Boards, Mr. Page McConnell, stepped to center stage for “Lawn Boy”. Finally, Phish launched into their magnum opus, “You Enjoy Myself”, Trey once again shining throughout to help wrap an overall strong first set on a high note.
After a brief setbreak, the band emerged once again with TAB crossover “Plasma”, marking the first time in its nine Phish appearances that the song has opened a set. The slow-burn funk of “Plasma” marinated for a few short minutes and made a silky transition into major key space before abrupt “woo-hoo-hoos” from Trey signaled a shift into “The Final Hurrah”. The Kasvot Växt standout took on a more measured, melodic feel this time around thanks in large part to the added ethereal harmonies from bassist Mike Gordon. While the song’s “faceplant into rock” vocal sample has been a go-to for Page since Halloween, the full song has never quite sounded like it did in Toronto.
After floating into ambient space and toward a sweeping Trey peak, “The Final Hurrah” wound down and “Wingsuit” took shape. The titular piece from the band’s 2013 Halloween “costume” set gave Trey an opportunity to toy with his tone as he wailed away, making for some hair-raising guitar fireworks.
As “Wingsuit” faded out to the revs of Mike Gordon’s power drill, the band launched into “Golden Age”. Stretching nearly to the 16-minute mark, this “Golden Age” wound up as the improvisational highlight of the show. Phish worked through various distinct sonic spaces thanks to top-notch individual performances and interplay from all four men onstage, showcasing their ever-evolving palette of styles and approaches. Mark this one down on your list of jams to revisit later. She’s a keeper.
Big Boat electronic vamp “I Always Wanted It This Way” arose from the embers of “Golden Age”, giving Page another chance to sing lead before it devolved into its customary digital freakout. The opening guitar chords of “Prince Caspian” gave “I Always Wanted It This Way” an early exit. “Caspian”, too, was shortlived as Trey navigated into “If I Could” after just over five minutes. The Hoist ballad appeared for the third time in the last eight months after remaining a rarity for much of 3.0—a change of pace this writer wholeheartedly cosigns. From there, the band closed out the set with the second “46 Days” of the summer.
Finally, Phish returned to the stage for an encore rendition of Ghosts of the Forest opus, “Drift While You’re Sleeping”. While the multi-part composition is still new to the Phish world, its placement in the encore slot following its set-closing debut in St. Louis helped solidify its growing status as a new exclamation point for Phish sets.
Overall, Phish’s Toronto performance was a strong one, producing a handful of re-listen-worthy highlights in “Stash”, “Ruby Waves”, “Plasma” > “The Final Hurrah”, and “Golden Age”. That said, this may have been the weakest show so far this summer—a testament to how great the band continues to sound on this tour. We’re just getting started…
Below, you can check out a gallery of photos from the show courtesy of photographer Eric Fefferman.
Phish continues their summer run tomorrow night, Wednesday, June 19th, at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. For a full list of upcoming Phish summer tour dates, head here.
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 | Budweiser Stage | Toronto, ON | 6/18/19
SET 1: AC/DC Bag, 555, Ocelot, Sample in a Jar, Stash, The Wedge, Frost, Halley’s Comet > Ruby Waves, Lawn Boy, You Enjoy Myself
SET 2: Plasma -> The Final Hurrah, Wingsuit, Golden Age > I Always Wanted It This Way > Prince Caspian > If I Could > 46 Days
ENCORE: Drift While You’re Sleeping,
A full soundboard audio recording of the show is available to stream via LivePhish.