Phish corralled an enthralled Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night, throttling the capacity venue with a volatile, messy and emotional two sets of pure Phish. In its eighth showing at Dick’s, Phish reigned.
On the first night in three years the band completely sold out the 25,000-spectator soccer stadium, Phish gave their finest. Best Dick’s. Best Phish.
And it’s all thanks to the old stalwart, “Chalk Dust Torture.”
Once, when “Chalk Dust” was young, it was belle and was often galloped out for lengthy dalliances. But in later years “Chalk Dust” was just a song.
Then Dick’s “Chalk Dust.” More than 22 minutes of guitarist Trey Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell exploring both dark minor chords and uptempo majors. Wandering so far off leash, forging new, abstract and often-jerky routes through an old tune, with each of the four contributing direction. It was magic.
Exposing a band willing to blow up on the way to blowing it up, Phish’s “Chalk Dust Torture” Saturday night reached the top-shelf of the 30-year Vermont quartet’s trophy case.
But it was more than that one, game-changing song that opened up a rambling second set that should rank as Phish’s finest moment in Colorado since some Red Rocks stand in the late 1990s. “Light” fell from the cubist jams drummer Jon Fishman was conjuring late in that “Chalk Dust,” which never really wrapped. “46 Days” brewed the blues that were sparked inside “Chalk Dust.” Yeah it was all about that one song on Saturday night until Dicks got “Steam”ed.
“Steam” – with Anastasio’s inspired licks billowing over McConnell’s tension-building crescendos on keys – is a treasure. Watch “Steam” evolve into the next seize-and-release jam vehicle for a band that rarely needs a reason to explore and explode. After laboring to a climactic peak in “Tweezer,” the band crumbled, letting the iconic tune fizzle into an awkward end.
Anastastio seemed to take the stumble personally, riling up his typically sing-y “Backwards Down the Number Line” into huge gulps of awesome, with Fishman locking in tight to Anastasio’s every wiggle.
As most of Dick’s realized a legend was made late Saturday night, the band had one more gift. “On The Road Again” showed the fellas honoring the great Willie Nelson with a fun, buoyant take that stoked the flames leading into the anticipated yet rousing “Tweezer Reprise.”
So the lead up to The Best Phish Show at Dicks was a roiling 13-song first set. “Buried Alive” opened the show and kicked off a first set that bests most seconds. The “Wolfman’s Brother” featured an animated Anastasio pulling a key-pounding
McConnell into a brilliant jam. With bassist Mike Gordon stretching his reggae with his smooth “Yarmouth Road,” and McConnell’s eloquent touch on “Halfway To the Moon,” the first set could have settled into the Phish setlist mold for tunes up front, jams in the back.
Not happening. Anastasio, bounding for most of the night, delivered some of the night’s finest licks in the first-set “Bathtub Gin” and, surprisingly, “Gumbo,” all while sculpting a truly memorable gateway to the greatness that came after set break.
Halfway To The Moon
Bouncing Around The Room
Run Like An Antelope
Chalk Dust Torture
Backwards Down The Number Line
On The Road Again
Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.