[Thank you @aisincl (Andrew Sinclair) for recapping last night's show in Boston, MA. Please note that the opinions expressed by a recapper for a show on this blog are not necessarily those of any volunteer who works on Phish.net. We are all fans with varying opinions, just like you. -Ed]
Seems that Most Events Aren’t Planned. Tonight once again reminded us to Surrender to the Flow, as the Phish from Vermont played an absolute heater of a show, in a unique environment (39,000 capacity shrine to Baseball) and with some unique meteorological ingredients.
Woke up on the morning of July 6th, 2019 with an excitement in the air. Summer Tour 2019 had built momentum these last few shows, given us so many delights, and here I was on the way up Route 91/84 from Weston, Connecticut to Fenway Park, home of the arch-rival Boston Red Sox. Quick stop at Treehouse Brewery to load up on the finest refreshments in the land, and the daytime chatter focused on the weather and Night 2 conditions. Fenway1 had given us a festive show that highlighted a “Day Set,” 1 with the sun still shining, and a raucous Set 2 that was headlined by yet another sprawling “Mercury” and a great “Sand” opener. We wondered how hot the field conditions would remain for this second leg of the double-header, and if the 7:00pm start time and Boston-mandated 10:30pm curfew would hold true. Typical strategizing.
We headed out from our hosts (thanks Becky/Evan & Robyn/Jeremy) house in Medfield, MA and headed toward that Citgo sign in the sky. Unfortunately, the sky turned ominously dark and heavy. The gloom and darkness that blanketed Fenway proper gave us a nervous feeling. What’s the Weather App showing? How many lightning emojis are displayed? Does this affect the curfew? How much are ponchos?
Okay, let’s find a spot to grab a beer and hopefully this storm will keep passing through like it shows on our phone. Cats & Dogs rained down upon Jersey and Lansdowne, but we were sheltered in a watering hole with the best fan-base one could hope for. My brother Jared had flown over from London to catch the Fenway and Mohegan runs, so his optimism was contagious and reminded me that these conditions are what elevate typical shows into special status. Let’s get over into Fenway’s bowels, as at least we can hide out there, maybe find a can of Julius, and at least have the best intel on show status.
With apologies to our Commander-in-Chief, the Tweet-of-the-Day/Century arrived in my buddy’s phone at 6:43pm, as we saw that the show would go on. But wait, they are skipping the Set Break and turning this into one Bonnaroo-esque beast-mode Set?!?!? Sweet! Who knows how this is going to play out (feel free to share historical single-Set shows for this relative Noob). Let’s get to our seats, and if we are lucky, we may witness something special.
The Phish from Vermont pitched a Jam!
The crowd was fired up, and all pent-up excitement crystallized at 8:31pm in those first few notes of “Carini.” Looks like we’re not messing around this evening. Brings me back to the first time I heard it at MSG, and it rivals “Buried Alive” for best possible opener. I have a little theory that Song #2 will set the tone for the evening’s setlist, and even though it’s probably as arbitrary and pointless as any other Phish-centric prediction mechanism, tonight it seemed to work with “Possum” swinging us from Dark & Sinister opening to Dance Party U.S.A. One of the benefits of sitting in the first few rows of a floor/field section is watching the main aisle roamers, and they sure knew how to boogie as we started picking up speed and fun. Time to rip off this Poncho, and celebrate the weather-gods dealing us a winning hand.
“Set Your Soul Free” may not be the most loved 3.0 output, but if you check the Jam Charts, you will enjoy a number of monsters, including legitimate candidates for 2018 JOTY and the Mexico entry into the 2019 JOTY. Tonight we got some blissful mid-section jamming and ambient sounds emanating from Page’s rig. The boys switched into spaceship-mode, and we lifted off the grounds of Fenway towards the now-subdued skies. “Thread” picked up where "Carini" left off, appealing to the head-banging metalheads in the crowd and giving us some more Iron in our diet. Very cool rocker, and led us right into Trey’s licks as he worked us into “Wolfman’s Brother.” Looks like we getting some red and darkness tonight. This "Wolfman’s" is certainly worth a few re-listens, as it soars and picks up steam real quickly. Mike and Page were featured, and it was clear from this 5-slot that the band was locked and in total alignment. No time to waste tonight.
“Reba” is special, and took us back to the early days with incredibly complicated note-work. Trey was moving fast to honor this selection and display his precision, and aside from a few missteps, the band moved with patience and pace to give us a really enjoyable 11-minutes in this hallowed building. Elegant breathers would simply jump back onto the rails, as we all got “Back on the Train.” The entire stadium was bouncing, and for a 40,000 capacity venue, it looked very intimate and lacking in any bad seats. “Mound” was a classic for the Rift devotees, and it made its 2019 debut in style. “About to Run” allowed Trey to feature additional darker themes in yet another solid, gravely rocker that has been cut from the same cloth as the Kasvot / GotF features from these last 12 months. One of the themes of 2019 Summer Tour has been the smooth insertion of these 30+ newly-released songs. While "SANTOS," "Turtle," "Cool Amber," "Drift," "Ruby" and a few others have instantly found favor in choice setlist positions, others like “About to Run” are still finding their footing. But it’s enjoyable to watch people’s mixed reception to the newer material. I’m sure some of the classics were rejected in their first year or two of debuts.
Draw imaginary set break line here, for a show that will be remembered for its unique structure.
I only say this because “Down with Disease” is a Set 2 opening anchor. Mike took a minute to correctly rock out his opening feature notes, and then the beast choice took off. God, I love "Disease" and would put it up in the pantheon of cornerstone Jam Vehicles. Before we transitioned to the legendary opening riff of “Simple,” Trey assured us that we would be “dancing on a field” throughout the late innings. “Backwards down the Number Line” gets a bad rap, and sure it’s lighthearted and may break up the roaring rock and hypnotic jamming sessions. But it’s festive, and puts a lot of fans into a spirited and delightful mood. We have had a solid, contrasting show through the first 6 innings.
Speaking of gritty rock ballads, “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” and “46 Days” brought us back down to some deep Bass notes and heavier, thick guitar riffs. Nice to hear the audience cheer for Lee Fordham, R.I.P. While we descended back into the lower end of the audio spectrum, “What’s the Use?” slowed things down along the floor. Bunch of us thought we would enjoy a nice “Divided Sky” mid-song pause to express our joy and support for the 4 musicians onstage, but the brief break in the action during “WTU?” allowed a heartfelt applause. Phish responded with careful, delicate playing back up the scales before turning things over to the sing-along “Mexican Cousin.” The third 2019 debut of the evening, this number reminded everyone to keep figuring out a way to get down to Riviera Maya next Winter.
Seventh-inning stretch out of the way, time to turn to the bullpen and close out this game in style. And what better than a funked-out “2001” to get every last ballpark attendee moving & grooving. This song never gets old, and allowed the glow-wars contingent to represent in spades. Seemed like a good time to call for “Hood” or “Slave,” but we descended yet again into “Split Open and Melt.” Seems like an optimal time to point out how incredible Chris Kuroda’s light rig behaved on this night. During “Split,” he turned the lights into a giant snake of movement and bending that mesmerized the audience. Some of these effects are one-of-a-kind, and “Melt” took its time during the ambient middle-portion before those 3 up-the-scale notes brought us back to the finale. We had been shifting between darkness and light all evening, so why not close out this Mega-Set with one last rager. “Suzy” got everyone fired up for a frenetic and jovial finale, and many fans had just a little bit remaining for extra innings. Trey also reminded everyone how grateful they were to play in “the home of the reigning world champion” Red Sox.
The last yin-yang of the evening gave us the uplifting and hopeful “Rise / Come Together” and featured some extra spice via Page and Trey, before we finished with the sinister “Wilson.” A really enjoyable and balanced show, that was made memorable through the marathon Set of endurance and solid playing by all 4 of the boys.
Some final thoughts: This tour has built momentum, and featured enough songs on every setlist to allow each of them to shine. Trey has developed an incredible echoing effect on his guitar, so every note in his solos sounds richer than ever. Page is having a blast with the spillover effects from Chilling/Thrilling, and now a full library of new tunes to play with. As Trey remarked on a Sirius/XM interview recently, “Once Page joined the band, Phish became Phish.” With Mike, there is such a gigantic leap between hearing him on the radio and Live in-person. His contrast with Trey allowed some Jams to reach the clouds over Boston, and others to head deep into the abyss. And Fish, steadying the clubhouse the entire evening, gave us some bookended joys with “Carini” whails and “Suzy” buildup.
TL:DR, a solid show that was as unique for the surrounding weather squeeze plays as the music or setlist. And for those of you who enjoy a continuous contrast of dark, foreboding music with uplifting and chanting numbers, this show should resonate.
Off to Mohegan Sun now, with far less weather risk, an arena capacity one quarter the size of Fenway, and a Band that is starting to warm up the Closer...
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