By Matt Christie
Photos by George Trent Grogan
Commerce City, CO – Resting just 20 minutes outside downtown Denver, Dick’s Sporting Goods Arena is the home of Phish’s annual Labor Day weekend summer tour blowout. Phish has called this venue home since the inaugural 3-night run in 2011, each year strengthening their claim that [indeed] “Phish love Dick’s.” The outdoor sporting arena is also home to MLS’ Colorado Rapids.
Last night’s performance kicked off the weekend as the band was met with a sell-out crowd of nearly 27,000. Following their historic 13-night residency at Madison Square Garden, demand for these shows reached new heights. That demand has been intensified by a lack of a west coast presence and a New Year’s Eve speculation. No matter as Phish brought a patient, focused approach in their song selection and execution, starting the weekend in style.
‘Blaze On’ got the weekend off to a buzzing start. The playful composition had fans and band alike in true singalong style. Next up, Mike Gordon led ‘555’ which led nicely into ‘Breath and Burning.’ Clear from the opener, Phish was happy to meet this weekend with a vacation pace. The opening trio of newer songs always serves as a healthy pulse check for the 30-year veterans.
The next section of the set went old school. The bubbly ‘Theme From The Bottom’ followed. Free flowed naturally from there, opening the space as the set began to take shape. A turn from soaring solos to group-led pulsing funk felt like a clear contrast in styles, but meshed nicely.
Opening the floor for funk, Tube’s progressive rhythms were sprinkled by layers of synthesized bass effects and looping delays. A resolve led the dance party into a Major key before a bluesy conclusion.
A nice rendition of ‘Roggae’ showed signs the set was coming to a close. The set-closing ‘More’ upbeat and pacey guitar runs have let this song grow into an energy-packed set closer.
After a brief intermission, ‘No Men In No Man’s Land’ provided a spacey theme to build on. As the song surpassed its typical length requirement around 10 minutes, the band continued to nurture these sonic interludes into a series of massive peaks. After an extended rendition, ‘Carini’ dropped in for a visit. This is “one of those songs” you almost always want to hear them play. This song continues to provide improvisational inspiration at the top of it’s class and last night was no different.
After a solid 45-minute chunk of music, ‘Ghost’ emerged to lead the set close to the hour mark.
A quick roll of the tom-toms into Harry Hood. Savoring moments from each turn, the crowd erupts in a shower of LED glow in-fact “You Can Feel Good About Hood.” A set-closing Cavern had the bleachers rocking one last time.
As the band exited the stage prior to the encore, we all finally had a chance to catch our breath!
The quick break led to an intimate The Horse > Silent In The Morning. Chuckling through the slightly-flubbed guitar intro, all was quickly forgiven as the night came to a rocking close.
Phish returns to the stage Saturday, September 2 at 7:30 MST.
Set 1: Blaze On, 555, Breath and Burning, Theme From the Bottom > Free, Tube > Roggae > More
Set 2: No Men In No Man’s Land > Carini > Ghost > Harry Hood > Cavern
Encore: The Horse > Silent in the Morning > Character Zero