Jam band legends Phish returned to Austin for their first solo show in Central Texas in 16 years Tuesday at Austin360 Amphitheater. The band branded their two stop run in the state, The Texas Two-Step. The performance was the fifth of 25 dates the beloved act from Vermont on the current summer tour.
Phish waited until the sun was nearly down before kicking off the festivities on a warm, breezy night at the Circuit of the Americas. Appropriately, they led off with the Jon Fishman-penned tune Party Time with its simplistic lyrics and up tempo feel. The party was indeed on, as fans danced with abandon in a general admission pit area and the seats behind them.
Waiting until it was nearly dark to get the show rolling allowed the band comprised of Trey Anastasio (guitar), Page McConnel (keyboards), Mike Gordon (bass) and the band’s namesake, Jon Fishman (drums) to feature their “fifth member” lighting wizard, Chris Kuroda who was celebrating his 1500th show with the group. The light show was a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of colors designed to compliment the venue with it’s distinctive red tower behind the stage.
Phish selected older material for the better part of the first set delving into 90s song, Free then shifting to rare live cut, Halley’s Comet before cranking it up a notch with a super funky Wolfman’s Brother. The party kept rolling as the Americana-tinged jam Possum led into a subdued Lawn Boy. Page and Trey joked about the show being a homecoming for the guitarist who was born in Fort Worth.
Phish stayed with the softer tempo, opting to perform a less than euphoric version of the normally upbeat Bouncing Around the Room setting up for new ballads Devotion to a Dream and the Gordon-led song, Sugar Shack before leaving the Austin crowd on a high with a rambunctious Run Like an Antelope prior to a 30 minute set break.
During the break fans were overheard talking about how puzzled they were the first set was not as high-energy as expected given how long it had been since the foursome headlined their own show in Austin. Their concern was short-lived as Phish delivered a deep cut filled, rollicking second set that began with 46 Days segued into Dogs briefly before going back into 46 Days.
The band seemed to know the majority of the crowd held less expectation than the tour heads, rolling out ballad, Shade for only the second time ever. The reggae-ish Blaze On was performed publicly for the third time. Show rarity Gotta Jibbo was sandwiched in between the two new tracks that made the setlist-obsessed phish-heads more excited than they may have had a right to be.
A hypnotic Wading in the Velvet Sea set up the sizzling trifecta of David Bowie followed by fan favorite, Suzy Greenberg into a mind-blowing Tweezer Reprise which completed the song begun at The Forum in Los Angeles three nights earlier but never finished. Trey continued to amaze fans with his on point guitar playing coming off a career benchmark, performing with the Grateful Dead on their final five show run.
Phish left the stage to ecstatic cheers, returning for a single encore covering The Rolling Stones’ Loving Cup. The song was only the third cover the Burlington band has played on the current tour.
Phish performed as good as ever, playing with a cohesive tightness most bands dream of achieving. The funky effects during Suzy Greenberg were contributed by Anastasio and McConnell. While Trey typically brings it every show, he appeared to hold back a bit during the first half the show before unleashing new techniques and tones he may have picked up while guesting with The Dead during the second half. Gordon and Fishman kept perfect time with both flashing brilliance during separate solos. The group bolstered their status as the best working jam act in the country as they move towards the three-day Phish festival Magnaball in New York next month and their tour-ending run over Labor Day weekend in Denver.
Halley’s Comet (Richard Wright cover)
Bouncing Around the Room
Water in the Sky
Devotion to a Dream
Run Like an Antelope
46 Days (>)
The Dogs (> 46 Days reprise)
Waiting All Night
Wading in the Velvet Sea
Suzy Greenberg (>)
Loving Cup (The Rolling Stones cover)