Phish @ Alpine Valley, Night Two
Phish @ Alpine Valley, August 15
Coming off a scorcher on Saturday night it was tough to predict exactly what Phish had in store for the second night of a two-show run at Alpine Valley in East Troy, WI. While Saturday's two-set affair was more of an "anything goes" type of show, Sunday's gig was more a classic, quintessential Phish show that relied heavily on the band's best material.
[All photos from Alpine1 by John Schulze]
There's two ways to look at a Tweezer opener – a. it's a waste since there's usually little improv in an opener or b. what a statement to start off the show. I'll go with B. on this occasion as the boys actually did jam it out a bit. Sure, they didn't explore very much but the Tweezer opener was the first notice that Phish was on top of their game on this night, especially guitarist Trey Anastasio who hit a flurry of peaks with his frenetic riffing. AC/DC Bag kept the collective energy up and gave Red another chance to shine.
With only three plays over the past 11 years On Your Way Down was quite a treat during the first set. This Allen Toussaint tune may have been made popular by Little Feat, but Phish certainly does the tune justice with keyboardist Page McConnell's powerful vocals and a shredfest by Anastasio at the end. The rest of set one was song based and the quartet nailed nearly everything they touched on this night. David Bowie closed the set with a bang as the Junta tune featured tension and release fireworks leading up to an extended peak.
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The opening stanza was fun and well played but the second set brought things to a whole new level starting immediately with the Ghost opener. Hitting multiple peaks and showing off the resurgence in his ability to shred, Ghost was all about Trey this time around. This was a theme that would continue throughout the set. There was no rest for the weary during this high-impact performance as Ghost was followed by an off-the-charts straight forward take on Theme and the heavy metal tones of Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars. At some shows this tour most fans sat there with their arms folded, but not at Alpine on Sunday. Everyone around me was going nuts, especially during BBFCFM. I half expected a mosh pit to break out.
Phish has been toying with placement this tour as shown by dropping a mid-set You Enjoy Myself on Sunday night. On a weekend filled with insane machine gun work from Big Red, his YEM solo may have topped it all. The guitarist hit a level of fluidity and speed that hasn't been seen in years. This was the YEM solo I had been waiting for and it truly delivered. Anastasio was so jacked up after laying down his solo that he couldn't help but grooving during the bass/drum segment that follows. It was a display of happiness that was contagious.
You had to figure the band would take the energy level down at this point but the group went the other way and took Piper out for a spin post-vocal jam. I hate to be repeat myself, but once again Trey led the jam and fired off a number of blistering riffs that left mouths agape. After a fast-paced jam each of the band members settled on a more sedate groove before Page hopped on the Rhodes and drummer Jon Fishman broke down the beat. Could it be? Yes, it was – an hour into one of the more high-energy sets of 3.0 here came the group's cover of Also Sprach Zarathrustra.
Unlike some of the tour's previous 2001s, this version found the band being patient and willing to extend all of the sections of the song. Eventually the tune segued into another cover – The Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weep – which was turned into a showcase for Anastasio's overdriven soloing. Speaking of overdriven soloing, the set ended with one more shredtastic Trey solo in a Character Zero that had arms pumping in unison.
We all knew Tweezer Reprise was coming but the question was what else would we get? That question was answered with the first mellow song since Farmhouse nearly two hours previous – a gorgeous cover of Oh! Sweet Nuthin' by the Velvet Underground. Played for only the fourth time since Halloween '98, OSN let McConnell's voice shine and featured stellar riffage from Trey. As we prepared for Reprise most were shocked when Cavern came instead. In fact, Reprise didn't even come after Cavern since Joy was thrown in for good measure during what turned out to be a four-song capper.
All in all the Alpine Valley run was one of the most consistent of 3.0 and showed just what this band is capable of after getting a few weeks of shows under their belts. The pair of gigs weren't dependent on bust outs or especially creative improv instead it was on focused and cohesive versions of classic Phish tunes. Summer Tour 2010 has been a winner on a number of levels and Alpine put