We’ve reached the unofficial end as summer as well as the official end of Phish Summer Tour 2011. The quartet headed to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver tonight for the first of three shows at the soccer pitch.
Everyone loves a good theme, and for the first show of the Denver run, Phish dug into their vast repertoire for songs that start with the letter “S.” Standard versions of Sample In A Jar, Sparkle (making its first appearance since October 23, 2010) and (The) Sloth kicked things off before drummer Jon Fishman sang lead on a rarely played cover of the Rolling Stones’ Sweet Virginia. This Exile On Main Street tune had only been performed three times prior including a 1999 show in New Orleans, the Musical Costume set at Festival 8 and a December 5, 2009 show in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Next up was the group’s second rendition of Suskind Hotel. The quartet took a Birds-like jam a little deeper than the Super Ball IX version, though still very different than the psychedelic excursions that emerged from the Mike Gordon-penned original on GRAB tour. Strange Design followed leading into a Stash that featured typically dark and fiery improv driven by guitarist Trey Anastasio. The best jam of the set came out of a loose and funky Sneakin’ Sally in which Fishman and bassist Mike Gordon toyed with the tempo before the exploration dissolved into the first notes of Sparks by The Who. Last played 463 shows ago on November 29, 1996, this take was only the 13th Sparks in Phish history dating back to March 23, 1987. Scent of a Mule kept the theme going as did Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan. Colorado fans got their second taste of Exile in the opening stanza with the first Shine A Light of 2011.
Split Open and Melt gave the band another chance to stretch out improvisationally and featured Trey droning on one run of notes over and over for a while, making for a cool effect as his band mates held it down behind him in the other otherwise straight forward Melt. A Squirming Coil closer finished out the “S” set and has us wondering whether each song in the second set would start with “S” as well.
READ ON for the rest of our recap, tonight’s setlist and The Skinny…
The answer came soon enough with a scorching Sand that opened set two. Trey weaved one rapid-fire riff after another, building to a frenetic finish with a few pretty and weird excursions along the way. Simple came next and the song continues to stand out for the band’s willingness to patiently explore the end jam in new ways. On tonight’s version, Page threw in spacey synth sounds while Fish pounded a jazzy beat and Mike accented one note for measures at a time as Trey worked delay and flange’d layers into the mix. Eventually the space interlude melted into Anastasio’s newest original, Steam, in fine fashion making for a well-executed segue.
Soundcheck: Jam, My Soul, Timber (jam only), Buffalo Bill
Set 1: Sample in a Jar, Sparkle, The Sloth, Sweet Virginia, Suskind Hotel, Strange Design, Stash,Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley > Sparks > Scent of a Mule, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan,Shine a Light, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil
Notes: This show was brought to you by the letter “S.” Sparks was played for the first time sinceNovember 29, 1996 (463 shows). Sweet Adeline was played for the first time since August 1, 1999 (285 shows). Sabotage was played for the first time since November 21, 1998 (318 shows). Scents did not have the intro.
Each time out Steam seems tighter and Trey gets more comfortable and confident in tearing through his solo. As the “S” theme rolled on, Phish continued to dig deep into the catalog for “S’s.” Soul Shakedown Party made only its seventh appearance of all-time next and was the first mid-set version since the famed Nassau ’03 show on February 28, 2003. It didn’t take the quartet much time to pick up where they left off in August improvisationally as displayed during a Seven Below that featured elements of the style of jamming displayed during the Super Ball Storage Jam. Once again, this wasn’t Trey busting out the machine gun, this was four members of the band each adding layers of sound to an ambient stew.
Trey mashed the intro-less Scents and Subtle Sounds into to the end of another fine Suzy Greenberg. Watkins Glen saw the return of the 2.0 era opus’s intro, but it was left out tonight. What was there was the song’s glorious Hood-like jam and it’s a recommended listen for the blissfully potent peak alone. Speaking of beautiful jams, Scents led into the Slave to the Traffic Light that everyone saw coming on this night of “S’s.”
With Slave following Scents, the crowd was treated to two majestic jams in a row and both contained intense peaks. In keeping with the theme, Phish eschewed The Horse for only the fourth Horse-less Silent In The Morning in the band’s history and first since December 13, 1999 in Providence. Though the “S” theme was clearly in effect, the band members never mentioned the “S”ness until Sanity. Anastasio stuttered on “S” throughout the whole tune and added some fun banter including saying “I don’t need a place to hide, do you?” Eventually the tune ended with all the band members slurring “S” in the mics. As if the evening wasn’t filled with enough surprises, Phish ended the second set by busting out the a cappella Sweet Adeline, last time played August 1, 1999 at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan.
For the encore, the quartet had yet another trick up their sleeves. The masses at Dick’s went nuts when Phish lit into a cover of Sabotage by the Beastie Boys. Yet another mega-bustout, Sabotage last appeared way back in 1998 at the Hampton Comes Alive shows. So all in all, every song the Vermonters played tonight started with “S” if you include (The) Sloth, which you do. Quite a feat.
Phish has always been inventive with setlists and making sure each show has a completely different feel than any other show. Many of the group’s loyal fans follow setlists and read coverage like ours, because you never know what they’ll do next. This evening’s show is a perfect example of why folks like me keep coming back tour after tour and can’t seem to look away. Anastasio and his mates clearly put lots of thought into making the first of the three Denver shows worth the while of those who traveled from far and wide to attend. How do they possibly top themselves the next two nights?
- Venue Capacity / Attendance: 26,000 / 20,000*
- Previous Shows at Venue: N/A
- Number Of Songs / Length – First Set: 14 / 8:18PM > 9:52 [94 Minutes]
- Number Of Songs / Length – Second Set & Encore: 12/ 10:35 – 12:06 [91 Minutes]
- Total Number of Songs / Covers / Originals: 26 / 7 /19 [Through First Set]
- Biggest Bustout: Sparks (463 Shows – Last Played 11/29/1996) [through first set]
- Debuts: N/A
- Average Song Gap: 54.69
- Longest LivePhish Track / Shortest LivePhish Track: Sand (12:12) / Sparks (2:17)
- Wardrobe: Page – Navy Short-Sleeve Shirt / Jeans, Trey – Plaid Button-Down Shirt / Jeans, Fish – Dress, Mike – Scarf, White Button-Down Shirt, Black Pants
- Audio: Live Phish SBD,
* – Estimate
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