Settling in for night two of three at the 1STBANK Center, the crowd and the members of the band seemed to be making themselves at home. Anastasio flashed a smile before sending the opening chords of "Runaway Jim" bouncing around the arena. The rolling guitar chords and tale of a free-spirited canine who didn't come home until he was seventeen (that's 119 to you and me) was a fitting opener, immediately whipping the crowd into a dance frenzy.
Mike Gordon's bass was noticeably more full in the room from the get-go. Whereas on Sunday night the low end seemed dull, last night you could feel the chest-pounding pressure right away. Next, the band moved into "Foam" -- with Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell (for the most part) nailing the intricate and overlaying composed parts over Gordon's poppy bass lines.
Gordon's thumping bass was also the highlight of "Wolfman's Brother," with McConnell laying down on a funky Billy Preston-esque clavinet as the song moved from the composed section to the five-minute jam at the end. Even the stodgy security guard on the stairs below our suite stopped hassling people long enough to bob her head to the dance fest in front of her.
Anastasio brought the song back in for a landing before launching back off into "Reba," another of the earlier composed numbers for which the band is known. A short "Haley's Comet" seemed more like a moment of musical ADD as it quickly moved into an extended and downright dirty "Tweezer."
After getting shortchanged with a six-minute version of the bass-slapping goodness in Telluride this past August, it was satisfying to have the jam-centric tune stretched out to nearly twelve minutes this go-around.
After the initial rock-funk explosion, the song transitioned to silky-smooth funk guitar lines over McConnell's creamy Fender Rhodes and eventually onto a more classic guitar shred-fest before slowing the song back down at the end.
I made my way around the arena during the new Gordon tune, "What Things Seem," half paying attention to the bass-heavy, smoky pool-hall shuffle of a song while again suite-hopping. The room didn't feel nearly as hot last night as it did on Sunday, but a trip down to the floor still left me drenched in sweat from dancing and dodging other people dancing.
The band closed out the set with a blistering "Run Like an Antelope," with Anastasio changing around part of the lyrics from the name "Marco Esquandolas" to a game of Marco Polo with 6,500 fishes out of water before dropping into the final blistering guitar solo of the song.
The band opened up the second set with the TV on the Radio tune "Golden Age" -- a song Phish has played only once before, last fall in New York. Like a lot of songs the band covers, "Golden Age" took on a Phish-like persona as the band turned the sexy beat-heavy tune into its own style of disco groove.
Anastasio stretched the song out for nearly nine minutes before oddly coming to "Piper" -- a song that has yet to grab me since the band's return last year from a nearly five-year break. While Fishman is always amazing to watch as he speeds the song up to a frantic pace over McConnell's scorching B-3, Anastasio didn't really lead the band anywhere worthwhile.
Thankfully, just as I lost interest in the song, Anastasio did as well, and opted to take us all downtown to the disco with "Camel Walk." Like the bumpy, uneven walk of a dromedary, the song has a disjointed, zigzag-y funk with strange stops and starts all over the place; it inspires some interesting dance moves, which makes for some great people watching.
I found my way to the back of the soundboard when the band was halfway through "Gotta Jibboo" and Anastasio was looping whale-call noises over Gordon's repetitive bass line. I found myself watching light designer Kris Kuroda work through most of the tune.
While bands are relying more and more on fancy LED screens and displays during their shows, Kuroda has maintained a certain simplicity for years that still puts light shows twice the size of Phish's to shame.
The light board played like a piano to the changes of the music; the lights hung from three circular shifts as slow, arching beams of blue light morphed into a furious spinning alien space ship hovering above the band.
I also had the pleasure of standing next to the craziest taper I have ever seen during "Jibboo." For starters, you have to to be somewhat nuts to be a taper in the first place. Dragging thousands of dollars of electronics to a concert where people dance drunkenly in the dark around you is way too much stress for me. But this guy was tippy-toe dancing over his recording gear with headphones on, listening to the show he was actually at.
The band must have been feeling the Farmhouse album, because four of the songs last night came from that album -- the last of which was "Twist." Gordon took control of this tune, laying down thick underwater-sounding bass lines that rang around the arena like a bell.
I slowly made my way back to the upper level during this tune, walking entirely around the near-empty lower ring past a handful of cops watching highlights of Monday Night Football on a bar television. For the second night in a row, the band left me feeling like it had switched up the set closers. While the nostalgia-heavy lyrics and straightforward rock and roll of "Backwards Down the Number Line" has grown on me a lot over the last year, it should have come before the almost-always epic "Fluffhead," not after.
Admittedly, the intricate beauty of the composed section of "Fluffhead" and its cathartic release at the end is my favorite Phish composition, but I won't be that whinny, nitpicky Phish head and complain about such things. Especially not after how well both tunes were played.
The first encore of the night was the goofy "Sleeping Monkey," which featured Fishman letting everyone know in his beautiful falsetto just who sent home his monkey on the train as he belted out the lyrics over McConnell's gospel-like organ swells. The band ripped through a quick "Tweezer Reprise" to end the set, with Anastasio dancing around on stage and high-stepping through his final peaking guitar solo.
Click through for Critic's Notebook, complete Set List and download links.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Can you not tell my personal bias by now? By The Way: Some asshat AGAIN threw a full water bottle at Fishman's kick drum and AGAIN hit it with a "thud" during the encore break. WTF? Where are this guy's friends to tell him that this isn't a bright idea? Random Detail: After the show, I watched as a rather ballsy bunny rabbit ambled into traffic, stopped and blocked up things until a burrito salesman came along and nudged it onto the sidewalk.
SETLIST Phish - Night two* 10/11/2010 - 1STBANK Center Broomfield, CO FIRST SET Runaway Jim Foam Back on the Train Wolfman's Brother Reba Halley's Comet Tweezer What Things Seem The Squirming Coil Run Like an Antelope
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*Anyone who purchased a ticket for the show can log in using a code on their ticket for a free MP3 download of the previous night's show. Click link above or download individual songs for $.99 apiece.