Review: Phish @ PNC 5.31.2011
Photos by Brian Ferguson
HOLMDEL, NJ â€“ Making my way back to the PNC Bank Arts Center after several years to see one of favorite bands was an exciting trip. Once I heard Phish was doing a two-night run at the outdoor amphitheater, I could not pass up the opportunity. I saw my first concert ever at the PNC Bank Arts Center, and witnessing the spectacular that was Phish at this venue after not being there for a couple of years made it all that more enjoyable.
Kicking off their Summer Tour in Bethel Woods, New York, and coming in hot off the three-night run, expectations were high in the air for Phish Tuesday evening, and they most certainly did not disappoint.Opening with ‘Chalkdust Torture’ on the beautiful summer evening got everybody off their feet and playing air guitar along with guitar player and lead vocalist, Trey Anastasio, myself included. It was aÂ solid warm up with a nice, little jam to get everybody started before dropping into ‘Roggae’, a little more downtempo song compared to the opener. The rest of the set was full of many of my favorite songs including many of which I had not had the opportunity to see live yet.
When ‘Punch You in the Eye’ started up I was more than excited to hear the raunchy introduction driven by drummer John Fishman, especially after missing this as the opener at my last Phish show at Madison Square Garden inDecember of 2009. They then broke into ‘The Moma Dance’ which is one of my personal favorites, and played it one of the best versions I have ever heard before falling very naturally and casually into a swingin’ ‘Rock and Roll’. ‘Sand’ came some time after, a beachy kind of tune that rides a funky little riff for the majority of the song. â€œTubeâ€ which is an older classic, had PNC getting’ down from start to finish before making its way into the beautiful opening chords of ‘Divided Sky’. This fourteen minute compositional masterpiece was beautiful choice as the sun had now finally set and the cool breeze was coming off the shoreline not too many miles away.
Aside from Trey forgetting a few guitar parts in the middle of the song and leaving the audience to form lyrics for the part on the spot, he more than made up for it during his triumphant solo that closes out the song. Busting out a quick but punchy ‘Character Zero’ before the first set was over was the perfect way to end a great hour of music.
The second set opened up with the Eric Clapton song, ‘After Midnight’. They found a nice pocket to sit in and jammed out of the end of the song very seamlessly into ‘Possum’, a funny, fist-pumping sing-along that features bassist, Mike Gordon on vocals. Following ‘Possum’ came piano and keyboards player, Page McConnell lead ‘Drowned’. This jam traveled to the moon and back after finally settling into possibly the most awesome five minutes of space and noise I have ever heard. The noise and space engulfed the amphitheater as ‘Maze’ submerged the stage and seamlessly slid into the set. This was without a doubt the highlight of the show, the song itself was huge and left me in awe of what I had just witnessed. ‘Dirt’ and ‘Alaskaâ€, two short singalongs, carried out the rest of the set before the band decided to drop a massive ‘You Enjoy Myself’ which is quite possibly my favorite Phish song and has been my number one song to see since I got into this band. ‘YEM’ for short, is considered sort of the bands’ collective masterpiece, clocking in at about 20 minutes of psychedelic, funk-sanity.
There was no better way to end the show than that and just before they bid farewell to the roaring New Jersey crowd until Wednesday night, they came back out for a short encore. This time, Jimi Hendrix’s old classic ‘Fire’. To be honest I thought the cover was a little sloppy and seemed like it had just been thrown together backstage but by no means took away from the awesome display of musicianship I had just witnessed. This show left me thirsty for more, which made me even more excited about the fact that I had tickets to the next night’s show.
The show is available for download at www.livephish.com.
PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ