Phish started the weekend off right during Friday night’s performance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. With 50% of their 4-night run complete, the band showed up with a slew of covers and introduced a special guest during the over-the-top encore.
“Cavern” kicked off the festivities and for the second night in a row, the opening tune contained lyrics referencing the moments “before the dawn” for those that explore the extracurriculars in Sin City. “Beauty of My Dreams” came out of nowhere and delivered a cheerful bluegrass vibe to a city in the middle of nowhere. Not played since the 2016 Halloween run in the same venue, the Del McCoury Band cover was dusted off with perfection. The last time “If I Could” was placed in the first act was 7/8/2012 at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. This delightful ditty from 1994’s Hoist was given a brief and beautiful extension thanks to Anastasio’s soft solo and Mike Gordon’s soulful interplay.
Keeping the rarities coming, Gordon hopped on lead vocals for “Weigh,” one of the strangest songs in his catalog. After a conglomeration of bust outs that, on paper, looked like a casino buffet of sound, the familiar “Sand” delivered the first danceable tune of the noteworthy show. Jon Fishman laid down a strong foundation by way of percussion as Anastasio delivered fuzzed-out funk that morphed into a ferocious solo. Playing like a man possessed, he took the arena on a joyride with his stellar playing as the other members worked around him and marveled at their fearless leader. “Back on the Train” warmed up McConnell’s Hohner Clavinet as the guitarist experimented with his various pedal effects during this Farmhouse favorite groove.
“Martian Monster” holds a special place in the MGM Grand Garden Arena and has been given special treatment during each Halloween run since the 2014 debut. Chris Kuroda used his magical lights to give an eerie alien abduction effect as they hovered above the crowd. While “Your trip is short” may soon be replaced by “Faceplant into rock” samples, costume connoisseurs will never forget the wild “Chilling, Thrilling” set for the past.
“Mercury” has taken many forms in its short-lived existence and has served as one of the highlights of 2018. Friday night in Nevada might have been the most glowing version yet. Finding a deep and dark pocket, Gordon complimented the Type II jam nicely as Anastasio led the crowd on an unexpected voyage of discovery. Just as it sounded like “Mercury” would be reduced to nothing, a second extended jam section was patiently built up and delivered with confidence. McConnell put his organ to good use and Gordon layered a meaty effect onto his trusty bass. This euphoric, 25-minute (#mustrelisten) take on one of their newest jam vehicles left the rambunctious crowd stunned. In order to snap them back into reality, a straight-forward “Suzy Greenberg” was played as the set closer to a grateful audience.
The no-filler, six-song second set was initiated by “Soul Planet”. Piling thick and goopy effects on the guitar, Anastasio came out of the gates ready to throw more jet fuel on Friday night’s fire. Phish’s many critics can talk trash about the Partridge Family-esque lyrics, but the insane improvisation that have blossomed out of this jam vehicle should keep all the haters in their parents’ basements. Cool and collected, Trey had a field day around Fishman’s determined beat as McConnell sat back and smiled on the grand piano. A thrilling ending to “Soul Planet” opened up the floodgates for a “Down with Disease” in its comfortable early second set position.
Gordon slathered a thick groove on the early Type II tranquil jam that would eventually lead to extended “Oye Como Va” teases by Anastasio who continued to crush Friday night. After a happy-go-lucky “Disease” started leaning toward the dark side, the band rapidly switched gears by introducing “Guyute”. While not as rare as the first set bust-outs, the ugly pig has only been seen three times since the 2014 Halloween run under the same roof. The nightmarish “Bouncing like a newborn elf” section is always a fantastic way to spook out the ghoulish crowd.
If anyone is looking for some modern cow-funkery, look no further than the tight “Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley” which found Gordon putting on a bass-clinic and McConnell rocking the Clavinet like a mad scientist. The “Light” that ensued presented a locked-in band bringing back that joyful vibe found in the “DWD” from earlier in the set. Rock-star Trey reached yet another peak before descending into a choppy dark place with help from McConnell’s otherworldly synth sounds. Before exploring anything deeper, “Slave to the Traffic Light” was presented as the shiny and bright set closer.
The final bust-out of the wild show was found in the encore. Anastasio hopped behind the drum kit while Fishman–toting his favorite home cleaning appliance–was introduced as Bob Weaver as the enthused crowd put their “faceplant-into-rock” hands together. Syd Barrett’s “Bike” was more or less sung by Fishman (complete with a quality vacuum solo) before he thanked the crowd and commented on having the best job in the world. Before returning to the kit, Anastasio begged Fishman’s alter ego to “Twerk for the people” which he unapologetically did. The hilarious display of idiocracy led to an old-school “Good Times, Bad Times” to close out an exceptional event.
Don’t miss the act Bob Weaver calls “The funnest band in the world” during their Fall Tour 2018 finale in Las Vegas!
“Hold Your Head Up” > “Bike” > “Hold Your Head Up”
[Video: Andrew O’Brien]
Below, you can view an incredible gallery of photos from the show courtesy of Phierce Photo by Keith Griner.
Setlist: Phish | MGM Grand Garden Arena | Las Vegas, NV | 11/2/18
SET 1: Cavern, Beauty of My Dreams, If I Could, Weigh, Sand, Back on the Train, Martian Monster, Mercury > Suzy Greenberg
SET 2: Soul Planet > Down with Disease > Guyute, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Light > Slave to the Traffic Light
ENCORE: Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up, Good Times Bad Times