What’s better than deciding to go to a show the same week as the show? Not much (besides marrying my wife.) So, during the week of the Mansfield and Hartford shows, I flew my ass up from Georgia to meet with a good buddy who was going to these shows. As a Southerner, I rarely get to catch too many of the Northeast shows. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been to many a great shows in the Northeast (SPAC 04), but I never really go to the random one night stands at classic venues.
This specific night of the Summer ‘16 tour seemed to be the first night that the boys hit a stride in their execution and flow. Mansfield had some PA issues the night before that stopped the show in its tracks. However, Hartford was different. From the onset of the “Pigtail” opener to the “YEM” first set closer, you could tell the energy was as ripe as a classic Georgia peach. The first set (minus the fact that Trey forgot the opening lick to “Julius” late in the set) was spot-on for me. (Chalk that up to a brain fart, and not a lack of “practice.”) However, it was not until the end of the “Meat” that you knew they were serving Spicy brown mustard backstage. “Meat” had it all. Great execution of a seldom played tune as well as some extra light antics that permeated the ripe energy coming off the stage. The first set ended with a very nice “YEM” that featured a cool rotation jam that always adds to the loose vibe this reviewer enjoys.
As with most second sets in the modern era, the centerpiece of this show was a beautiful 18+ minute “Down With Disease” which opened the set. If you do not like the solo from “Down With Disease” in any setting but specifically live, then please stop reading this. (Not really, but seriously…) This jam in particular shined in many areas and was the type of jam where no one really took a lead. Mike and Fish were really in charge of most of this jam. The final five minutes is when the groove really started picking up. Mike and Fish locked into an insane groove that was an absolute clinic in bass and drums connecting on all cylinders. This set also featured a nice rare “Tela” which is one of the first songs I really enjoyed when first delving into Phish. “Tela” featured some very solid guitar work with the end fugue section. Trey was very clearly focused on nailing it and you love to feel that live. “Carini” has become a standard issued juggernaut no matter length or approach in the last few years. In my opinion, it is always a welcome second set tone setter.
This show was probably slightly above average for Summer 2016, but compared to the unreal 2015 expedition the boys put together it paled in comparison. But that is not why I see shows. I see shows because the music is everything (didn’t forget about “The Lizards” encore), and these guys are the best of the best. Consummate professionals who have continued to evolve and continue to amaze night after night. So, when given the chance to write a review the need to nitpick is acceptable, but we all know Phish sounds as good as they have sounded at many points in their career. They continue to push boundaries and make the last minute trips from Georgia to Connecticut always worth the decision. Let’s keep it rollin’!