Phish returned to Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York this evening for their penultimate show of Summer Tour 2012 – Leg One. Tonight’s second set continued the trend of performances from this tour that have put the fun side of Phish’s music on display.
Having come into the evening with only two songs to go to reach the 200 different songs mark that keyboardist Page McConnell mentioned to Rolling Stone last month, Phish delivered #199 right away by opening with the a capella Undermind track Grind. It wouldn’t be a multi-night run without a Possum and the band obliged by offering the eighth version of the Jeff Holdsworth-penned original this tour. After a run of staples in Golgi and The Moma Dance, the quartet took another stab at The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street scorcher Torn and Frayed. The song’s Drifting-like jam fits Phish like a glove as it did this evening – here’s hoping Torn and Frayed remains in the rotation. With that, we were back to heavy-rotation favorites as Rift and a cover of Cities by Talking Heads came next. Guitarist Trey Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell were settling in on a dirty funk groove during the third Cities of the tour when drummer Jon Fishman suddenly dropped out and started Maze. Page and Trey kept going with their staccato trilling over the Maze beat, but eventually waved the white towel. They each imparted a bit of the creativity they showed in the segue within their sizzling Maze solos. McConnell was also in the spotlight for the Lawn Boy that followed. A tight romp through Frank Zappa’s Peaches En Regalia led into the set closing combo of a blazing Mike-led Bathtub Gin and a rare first set Good Times Bad Times (last one happened 30 miles away in Albany on December 1, 2003). An uneventful first set song selection and improvisation wise, but the band played with fire.
Phish got the second set going with the 20th Down With Disease second set opener since Hampton ’09. Just as Trey was doing his thing through a standard beginning to his solo, he landed on the familiar riff of Blister In The Sun. Though only the first verse and chorus, this marked the 200th different song Phish has played this tour. The quest for 300 begins! From their third-ever rendition of the Violent Femmes classic, Anastasio led his mates back into the Disease jam. After a few delightful minutes of straight-forward jamming, Page hopped on the clav adding a different element to the improvisation and the band explored a more sparse realm. The spacey interlude had melted down to silence when bassist Mike Gordon kicked on his microsynth pedal marking the start of Boogie On Reggae Woman. Boogie On didn’t disappoint thanks to a potent mix of Anastasio layering loops and whale calls and McConnell layering funky clavinet breaks.
The covers kept a comin’ with Golden Age. As soon as the jam segment hit, Trey broke down the groove by inserting a string of choppy chords. There would be no real Golden Age jam as the guitarist laid off after those chords allowing space for Fishman to start a short but sweet 2001 that would’ve made James Brown proud. Next up was a rather impressive Backwards Down The Number Line that may not have extended too far beyond the song’s normal boundaries but did see a number of interesting ideas posed by Anastasio including a tease of Blister In The Sun. Prince Caspian, another song that usually elicits groans from hardcores, was in fine form this evening thanks again to Anastasio weaving inventive licks throughout the lovely end jam. Scent of a Mule picked up where the killer version from Star Lake two weeks earlier left off, with another romp through Blister In The Sun breaking up an outstanding Mule Duel. The Violent Femmes hit was clearly still on Trey’s mind since he started Mike’s Song by dropping Blister In The Sun teases in the intro and as another intense Mike’s jam began. Instead of going the I Am Hydrogen route, Phish treated us to song #201 – Contact. The well-executed set, delivered as a seamless, break-less string of songs, came to a close with a standout Weekapaug Groove that featured an Adrian Belew-esque freak out solo from Big Red. And as you can guess, the Weekapaug contained a small taste of Blister In The Sun. Anastasio strode to the mic after the encore break and said the band wanted to send this one out to MCA who we lost earlier this year. Phish then launched into a sloppy, off-key rendition of Sabotage that brought the topsy-turvy show to a close at 11:40. The first leg of the tour ends tomorrow night at SPAC.
Soundcheck: The Old Home Place, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Skin It Back, Peaches en Regalia, Beauty of My Dreams, Torn and Frayed
Set 2: Down with Disease -> Blister in the Sun > Down with Disease > Boogie On Reggae Woman> Golden Age -> Also Sprach Zarathustra > Backwards Down the Number Line > Prince Caspian -> Scent of a Mule -> Blister in the Sun > Scent of a Mule > Mike’s Song > Contact > Weekapaug Groove
 First verse only.
 Blister in the Sun teases (Trey).
Notes: Blister in the Sun was played for the first time since July 9, 1998 (390 shows). Both appearances of Blister in the Sun consisted of the first verse only. Down with Disease and Caspain were both unfinished. BDTNL, Mike’s Song and Weekapaug all contained Blister in the Sun teases from Trey. Sabotage was dedicated to MCA.
Here’s The Skinny for Phish at SPAC – Night Two…
- Venue Capacity / Attendance / Type: 25,100 / 23,000 (Estimate) / Amphitheater
- Previous Shows at Venue: 9 Shows – 07/27/1992, 07/10/1994, 06/26/1995, 06/19/2004, 06/20/2004, 08/16/2009, 06/19/2010, 06/20/2010 and 07/06/2012
- Number Of Songs / Length – First Set: 12 / 8:24 PM – 9:41 PM (77 Minutes)
- Number Of Songs / Length – Second Set & Encore: 12 / 10:17 – 11:40 (83 Minutes)
- Total Number of Songs / Covers / Originals: 24 / 9 / 15
- Biggest Bustout: Blister In The Sun – 390 Shows [LTP - 07/09/1998]
- Debuts: N/A
- Weather: 73°F Fair
- Wardrobe: Trey – Red Checkered Button-Down Shirt and Jeans / Page – Navy Short-Sleeve Button-Down Shirt and Jeans / Mike – Light Blue Short-Sleeve Shirt and Grey Jeans / Fish – Dress
- Average Song Gap: 37.59
- The Spread: Junta – 2, Lawn Boy – 2, Rift – 2, Hoist – 2, Billy Breathes – 1, Story of the Ghost – 1, Undermind – 1, Joy – 1, Misc. – 3, Covers – 9,
- Longest LivePhish Track / Shortest LivePhish Track: Bathtub Gin – 11:58 / Blister In The Sun :45
- Audio: Live Phish