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Sunday, September 16

Review: Phish - Chaifez Arena – St. Louis, MO - 8/28/12

             Phish disembarked into St. Louis, riding a wave of momentum as their most-celebrated tour since reuniting in 2009 was winding down. With only five shows remaining, most fans were looking ahead to Oklahoma – as it would be the first show to take place in that state over the band’s storied career. Phish has proved many times before that they always strike when least expected…similar to a thief in the night. On this unassuming Tuesday in the Midwest, they would achieve real musical genius within the confines of the intimate, indoor Chaifez Arena.
Andrew Vastagh

It was obvious from the opening one-two hit of “PYITE” into a rigid, “Runaway Jim”, that this show would be anything but predictable. Even when Phish delivers a noteworthy performance, it usually follows a similar formula in this era. They’ll play a safe first set to warm up the audience, with a straightforward approach to beloved staples. A few songs may stray from their usual musical passage. Then, they let the improvisation explode in the second set. This formula was not only aborted tonight, it never reared its head amongst the pandemonium that was this first set of true legend.
They immediately started flexing their improvisation muscles with the most adventurous, “Ocelot” to date, before erupting into the ever-elusive, “Reba”. Chris Kuroda proved why he is considered a fifth member of the band as his colossal light arrangement danced perfectly with the beloved jam that took the frenzied crowd on a mystical journey. The show was only four songs in and the energy was beyond electric. Thanks in large part to the indoor confines, and the band firing on all cylinders, it would never be relinquished. The set never stopped for a breather, as rarities that most fans spend years chasing were delivered in spades and played to perfection. “The Curtain” segued into “Peaches En Regalia” as the boys were dialed in and playing as a perfect circle. Following an intense “Mound”, the arena exploded as Trey led the band into “The Sloth”. This mighty first half seemingly went on for hours as everyone danced until it came to an epic conclusion with a rousing version of, “Quinn the Eskimo”. As the band stopped for a much-deserved break, the arena rewarded their achievement with a roar akin to the Cardinals winning the World Series.
As the boys took the stage, everyone expected that Vermont’s finest were destined to weave another momentous stanza of music. This immaculate second half commenced with the jam vehicle, “Chalk Dust Torture”. Trey continued his patient-but-effective approach on the guitar as Fishman’s incendiary method on drums drove each jam to the stratosphere. Over the course of the following hour and a half, Phish managed to play a sequence of songs that would usually have no business being played together, yet were executed to fervent perfection. This was no more evident than the seldom-played tandem, “Frankie Says”, which bled into a reworked, “Undermind”. The segue was flawless as the latter song grew wings and blossomed into a psychedelic rollercoaster with Gordan firmly steering the band through the peaks and valleys. Again, the frenzied crowd was in the palm of the bands’ hands and never had a chance to catch their breath. Following an inspired sing-a-long version of, “Walk Away”, arguably the highlight of the night came in the form of a fourteen-minute, “Limb by Limb” that oozed of creativity. Since the band started touring again, this song has been (for the most part) predictable. Not on this night, where seemingly a wormhole opened up and transported the arena back to the nineties. A show this utopian could only end with one song. So when “2001” crumpled into, “You Enjoy Myself”, complete with trampolines and a vocal jam, the vehemence in the Chaifez Arena reached unparalleled heights. With thousands of jaws firmly planted on the ground, the band took a bow with marvelous grins embossed on their faces.
Phish returned to the stage for the encore and delivered a felicitous cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Shine a Light”. On a night when every song they played was our favorite tune, this gem sent everyone onto their next destination, altered by easily one of the best shows of the 3.0 era. After such a bravura tour, and now the infamous first night of Dick’s, Phish sits comfortably on the throne as kings of the scene they helped define almost thirty years ago.

Words: Kevin Long

 © Phish and The Dead - a Grateful Music Publication