Phish - Long Beach Arena - 8/15/12
Opening night of a tour can go two ways. Fortunately for Phish, they kicked off the second leg of their summer run with a bang. Playing to a nearly packed house, the veteran jam band performed for over two-and-a-half hours, sprinkling in both well-known and obscure songs in addition to familiar covers.
Having reformed three years ago after an extended hiatus, the quartet seems to be recapturing the magic that made them one of the highest grossing touring bands in the world. After you've been in a band for nearly 30 years, you can only hope to be as familiar with your bandmates and the music as Phish are. Sans set list, Singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon would briefly chat between songs, inform keyboardist Page McConnell and drummer Jon Fishman and they'd be off.
Beginning with "Suzy Greenberg," there was a radiant energy flowing between band and audience. Whether it was raining glow-sticks or beach balls being batted, fans feeling the music as the band was. Anastasio's guitar has picked up and he's back to being one of the most talked about guitarists in the world. His effortless playing made the difficult seem easy, with many fans losing themselves in the music.
Like any Phish concert, the two sets were pretty different. The first set was more rocking whereas the second featured more obscure and longer improvisational jams. Fans responded favorably to almost every song and the band had them on their toes with anticipation, especially during the lengthy second set when it was difficult to gauge what was to come next. Highlights from both sets include the Talking Heads' "Cities," popular standards "Stash" and "Bouncing Round The Room," as well as lengthy instrumentals on "Harry Hood" and a cover of the Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll."
One thing the Vermont rockers know how to do well is please their fans. Sometimes when you see a show where singer isn't interacting with the crowd, they can seem aloof. Not here. Anastasio let his guitar do the talking, building on the tenacious drumming of Fishman and Gordon's thick bass lines.
It's undeniable that whatever you may have thought of each set, the band sounded great. At a place as old as the Long Beach Arena (50 years-old), it can be tough to get over the issues that a building like this can cause. Despite having a month off, Phish sounded as tight as a band can be on their first night back. But for a band that's been together over the better part of the last 30 years, are you really surprised?
Critical Bias: The short (under 10 minutes per song) first set did it for me, while the second set allowed fans to lose themselves in the music.
The Crowd: What do you think?
Random Notebook Dump: During the intermission, an angry security guard came up to me and asked what was the crap he just heard and why the hell so many people liked this garbage. I guess he doesn't have any Grateful Dead vinyls in his living quarters.
Set list below:
Cities (Talking Heads cover) > Kill Devil Falls
Cool It Down
Bouncing Around the Room > Bathtub Gin
Quinn the Eskimo (Bob Dylan cover)
Rock and Roll (Velvet Underground cover) > Ghost > Limb By Limb
Dirt Harry Hood > Good Times Bad Times (Led Zeppelin cover)