Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Phish Manchester 10/26/10 - Please Me Have No Regrets

Phish came up to Manchester, NH last night, an easy 30 minute drive for me.  I met up with Dr. Pauly (I haven't read Pauly's review yet) and Senor before the show and we perused the wasteland that was the lot outside the Verizon Center.  It looked like a filthy tailgate scene - with wookies of all shapes and sizes hawking their wares:  sparkly head bands, grilled cheese sandwiches, Nitrous balloons, beer, etc.  I was surprised that the notoriously anal NH State Troopers didn't jump on the nitrous sales - I hypothesized to Pauly that they probably didn't know what it was - NH isn't used to that level of degeneracy!  

Pauly and I found our seats with time to spare, and relaxed as we watched the arena fill up.  "5 guy" was sitting next to us - a guy who wears a shirt with a large number 5 on it, who Pauly recognized from Colorado.   The band kicked off at 8:15 with After Midnight, which got the place pumped, and the energy after the follow up The Sloth was sizzling.  "Sleep all day, Rip Van Winkling. Spend my nights in bars, glasses tinkling."  Sadly, for me, I thought that Phish totally lost their way after this in the first set.  They had the crowd absolutely charged up after Sloth, but a constant cease in the flow - they'd stop and discuss the next song after every song, something I've never seen them do to this extent - and a shaky song selection (lots of tour debuts though) crushed the crowd's energy.  Alumni Blues was cool, but the Mellow Mood follower had people running for the bathrooms.  Things didn't improve with Access Me, but the crowd released pent up fury during a raucous Llama.  I didn't think the sound mix was nearly as good as it was in Providence, despite the fact that I had nearly identical seats, and Llama came out sounding like a lot of noise.  Between songs, I would make sarcastic song requests to try to tilt Dr. Pauly, fake screaming "T T EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!" and "JOYYYYYYYYYYYY"  which made him laugh, knowing I was joking.

Phish crushed the budding enthusiasm again with All of These Dreams, before rallying with The Curtain With, which led the crowd to chant along with the lyrics "As he saw his life run away from him, thousands ran along, chanting words from a song.  Please, Me have no regrets."  The crowd enjoyed Scent of a Mule, but again, with the sloppy sound mix I found it to be a lot of noise.  A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing was long and jammy, and It's Ice was dark and dirty before they closed the set with Walls of the Cave, which took 10 of its 12 minutes to build into a worthy explosion of energy.  There was a guy two rows behind us blowing up the kind of balloons you make balloon animals out of, and carefully launching them in a regular stream out over the crowd.

At the set break, Senor came down to sit with us, and he shared my disappointment over the first set.  I've seen a lot of Phish shows and the common theme in all of them is frenzied crowd energy.  It just wasn't there - a result, I think, of the disjointed song selection.  Reading some reviews this morning, however, people are calling this one of the best shows of the tour, so who knows.  All I can say is that the first set seriously lacked a strong energetic vibe.

All of that changed in set two.  Perhaps the crowd was coiled like a snake waiting to strike - the Possum opener absolutely BLEW UP the joint.  A very loud, very intense 10 minute Possum seemed like a relief to the crowd, who finally got to explode in a Kuroda-driven series of halogen-lit peaks.  There was no settling down in this set, as Light followed and kicked off a stream of segues that saw the band continue without break for most of the rest of the set.  Mike's Song started, as usual, happy and bright, and ended raucous and pounding, with Senor dancing in the row behind us playing multiple air-instruments at the same time.  Mike's jammed out before settling into the novelties of Simple and Makisupa Policeman, where Trey sang the lyric "Woke up this morning, all I could do was shrug.  Go back in my bedroom and smoke another nug."  Makisupa flowed into Night Nurse, a reggae cover, which morphed back into Makisupa, and was then followed by and upbeat Wedge.

Ghost followed, and was dark and searing - 11 minutes of filth - before another novelty, the Mango Song.  One review I read today said that Mango only got played because they butchered the opening segue back into Weekapaug Groove, which came out like Mango, so they went with it.  I noticed at one point that Trey was directing the band - he said something to Mike, who went to tell Fishman, but Fishman was looking into the crowd and spacing out, so Mike had to stand there for 3 minutes before Fishman turned and finally got the call.  At one point a girl in the first few rows got up on a guy's shoulders and flashed Trey.

Weekapaug jammed back into Llama, which closed the set in a firestorm of noise, light and energy.  Sadly, Show of Life was a mellow encore, missing an opportunity to put a real stamp on the night.

An insane second set made up for an energy lacking (although rarity bust-out filled) first set, and sent the mass of wooks out into the hallways of the Verizon Center still whoooping en masse.   I made it home in half an hour, and settled into bed to a ringing in my ears...


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