My wife, Kylie, and I have lived in Phoenix since 2006. That means we moved to Arizona three years after Phish last played it. Their last show in the desert southwest was on July 7, 2003, at the same venue (different name). Needless to say, we have been awaiting their return since we arrived 15 years ago. This was absolutely a ‘hometown show’ for us and the excitement was built for a few reasons. Not only was it Kylie’s first show since 9/5/15 (and second since 12/7/97!), it was our kids’ first show ever and my first show in a proper outdoor shed since 2018. On top of all this we had friends in from Michigan and a local friend came along for his first show. A proper crew was engaged and ready.
Phish delivered. It was a wonderfully crafted show. An almost perfect one-off, Friday set list full of well-known rockers and newer tunes that were taken deep. “Julius” is an opener I’m always up for as it sets a bouncy, dance-y precedence…even when you don’t get through security until half through the tune. It took us about an hour to get through the line. The venue has only two entrances, so no one could have seen that coming.
“Martian Monster” was standard great. Funky as you’d like with Page showing the synth off early on. Mike and Fish’s pocket was already notable here too. “Soul Planet” was the first time they settled into a familiar, relaxed groove that would recur at least a few more times. The third tune registered at over 18 minutes and was one of two jams I’ll come back to from this first set.
“My Friend, My Friend” is a first set pleasure and this one rolled effortlessly out of the Soul Planet jam. Phish is tight and confident and that was apparent here. “Bouncin” received a raucous welcome from a very pleasant, full, and engaged crowd. Sing-alongs with the family were something I’ll never forget.
I sarcastically mentioned “Scent of a Mule” before the show. It’s a song I don’t chase, to say the least. But its place in the 1st set and its playfulness fit perfectly. The kids were entertained. I will complain no longer.
“More” already? Short first set? Oh well, let’s rage. And we did. But then, remember setlists are really getting turned on their head this tour. So there is actually more Trey, it’s “Ghost”! This ghost was quiet and patient. A nice build that modulated (I think). The set ended in stellar fashion and was special.
Again, an unfamiliar opener, “Loving Cup” to start the second set. An 8-minute Loving Cup that had a little extra mustard. Kuroda’s lights made sure everyone was awake as Trey shredded. It’s funny because it wasn’t the crowd or the sound that was most overwhelming for my kids, it was CK5’s strobes. Strobes -> Fam went for a breather up on the lawn while ol’ braddad stayed near the tapers and fell in love all over again to a true Mike’s Groove. The “Mike’s Song” was stunning, and the “I am Hydrogen” was subtle and masterfully played. My first-show dad-friend mentioned how spectacular it was that the audience was quiet for the subtlety we all yearn for. Live for those moments. The “Weekapaug” was tame. The groove was a step slower than you’d expect but it was still a pocket groove that we all danced with.
“Everything’s Right” is correct. Holding tight, check. The ease of the jam is what stands out. Nearly 26 years from my first show and it’s incredible these guys can do this so effortlessly. And I realize it’s not effortless, it just appears that way. Maybe we can call it Grace? The 2021 jams are stunning for the segments that are very different yet combined into a ‘single’ jam. And there’s no pause between the segments. That’s my detailed musical analysis.
The 4th quarter delivered, just as the rest of the show had. The back half of the second set allows us to officially mark this one a 3.65. After a beautiful breather of “A Life Beyond a Dream”, a surprise “Cities” made sure the crowd was funk’d up. And a closer of “Harry Hood”. This Hood is worth a revisit, especially when compared to the last 10-15 Hoods. A delicate, beautiful interlude led to a long, slow build to a serious peak. Phish sent Phoenix to the clear desert stars. I hugged my kids and wife the whole time and this is why I/we do this.
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