Words & Photos by Matthew Cremer
Phish’s visit to one of the jewels of North American outdoor venues this weekend marked the first 3 night run they have performed at the Gorge Amphitheatre in their existence. For only the third show into a freshly embarked upon summer tour, Friday night had refreshingly little to no rust to shake off. The first set opened with TAB’s “Set Your Soul Free,” which was a uncharacteristically poignant opener, but was still a pleasant surprise nonetheless. The rest of the first frame found just the right balance of perky jump starters such as Poor Heart and “Ya Mar” and well placed exploratory anchors like “Wolfman’s Brother” and with a set closer of “Sand.” The highlight was an “Undermind” that carried a smooth, calculated pace that set the table nicely for a sublime version of “Simple” which had some of the few glimpses of Type II improvisational lift-off for this first set. It was an ideal match for an amazing Columbia river sunset.
The second set opener of “Chalkdust Torture” set the tone with a deep, subterranean groove that continued to resurface later on in “Light.” CDT showcased a fine combination of Mike Gordon’s bass groove and Page McConnell’s nimble clavinet playing that helped to drive the second part of the jam with a big ending, albeit prematurely, into a straightforward, but well placed version of “My Friend, My Friend.” A succession of “Fuego,” “Sparkle” and “Halley’s Comet,” were pretty standard, yet polished jabs where the right hook finally fully landed with inspired iterations of the aforementioned “Light” and “Rock and Roll.”
The “Tube” jam was short, but rollicking and felt like heavy undertones of the first set’s “Sand” came through quite well. The night concluded with an always uplifting and exuberant “Golgi Apparatus.”