Phish Brings ‘Fuego’ to NYC | Randall’s Island Night 2
“Welcome To Our Joy.”
These were the words—emblazoned upon a banner above the entrance to Randall’s Island—that greeted thousands of Phish fans in New York this weekend. In town for a three-night run, the beloved jam band turned the island into a mini festival ground filled with fun perks: Phish-themed beer (“Vlad the ImPAler,” anyone?), funky art installations, free scoops of Ben & Jerry’s “Phish Food,” and a pop-up store selling limited-edition merch.
Indeed, nothing is quite as joyous for Phish lovers as summer tour. The carefree spirit of Phish shows—the essential reason why massive crowds have consistently flocked to see the band since the early ’90s—is the perfect companion for summer nights spent dancing and partying with friends. (Another great thing about Phish shows is that pretty much every person around you, stranger or not, is your friend.) Pair Phish with a carnival-like weekend residency in New York City, and you’ve got the perfect setting for super-memorable happy times.
The Randall’s Island run marked the first official Phish shows in the NYC area after the June release of their latest album Fuego. Since the summer tour started on July 1, Phish’s sets have proven to be heavy on Fuego material and light on covers, with interesting song placement and fresh jams mixing things up. Consider, for example, the “Farmhouse” set opener at Saratoga Performing Arts Center the weekend prior, or the radically re-invented “Bathtub Gin” jam in the first set of Randall’s Island Night One. Two-thousand-fourteen is an exciting era in the long, storied history of live Phish.
The middle show of the Randall’s trio was consistent with the overall vibe of summer tour thus far. “AC/DC Bag,” a standard go-to opener, surprisingly hadn’t yet made an appearance on this tour. Phish finally summoned it on Saturday night to the satisfaction of many in the audience who predicted it beforehand. Always a good warm-up, the song got the crowd moving and segued into “46 Days” before the set took a reggae-themed turn with “Yarmouth Road,” a song off of bassist Mike Gordon’s recent solo album Overstep.
The fun streak continued with the peppy new tune “Devotion to a Dream” before becoming serious with the hard-hitting, guitar-driven “Free.” (“Devotion” was the first of three Fuego songs in Set One, including the Page McConnell-led “Halfway to the Moon” and “The Line.”) Phish picked up the tempo again with a bust-out of “My Sweet One,” which hadn’t been played live since October 2013. Later in the set, an excellent version of “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” put the spotlight on guitarist Trey Anastasio’s extensive, winding solos.
Anastasio dedicated the ultra-climactic set closer “Run Like an Antelope” to a few special guests in the audience: Steve “The Dude of Life” Pollak and his children. The Dude of Life—who co-wrote many classic Phish songs, including “Antelope”—is a legendary figure in the band’s history. “[The Dude] brought two of his three kids with him, who are at their very first Phish concert,” Anastasio informed the cheering audience. “We told you backstage that your dad and I wrote this song together in 1983. This is dedicated to you at your first Phish concert.”
Set Two contained half as many songs as the first set, but doubled on the lengthy jams. The four-piece got the crowd dancing again with the upbeat “Punch You In The Eye,” another tour debut, before taking the show in a more exploratory direction with “Carini” followed by “Ghost.” The sixteen-minute rendition of “Ghost” slowly unraveled itself into a multi-directional, stellar jam for the ages. Its funky ending, anchored by drummer Jon Fishman, transitioned into the dreamy Fuego gem “Wingsuit.”
“Wingsuit” is a fantastic example of how Phish’s 2014 summer tour is seeing Fuego songs define themselves as live pieces: this one is a grand slow-burn that conjures feelings of flying in the night sky. On this evening, the supermoon peeking out from behind the clouds and the faraway lights of the city skyline beyond the stage made “Wingsuit” feel extra-spacey.
The dramatic jam unexpectedly gave way to a totally opposing vibe: a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock & Roll” sung by McConnell, which initiated the audience’s most frenzied glowstick-tossing of the night. The very New York cover choice delighted the crowd and provided a brief respite from the set’s jam-heavy song selections. The detour was minor, though, because an eighteen-minute “Harry Hood” followed to end the set.
Phish returned to the stage once more for a three-song encore of “Tube,” “Joy,” and “First Tube.” The building, bass-heavy intensity of “First Tube” always makes for a fantastic show-closer by giving fans one last chance to rage as hard as they can. But it was the line in “Joy” that summed up the theme of the night (and of Phish shows in general) as the crowd started to trickle out of the exits: “We want you to be happy / ‘cause this is your song too.”
Setlist for Phish @ Randall’s Island | 7/12/14
AC/DC Bag >
Devotion to a Dream
My Sweet One >
Back on the Train
Halfway to the Moon >
A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing
Run Like an Antelope
Punch You In the Eye >
Rock & Roll >