Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA
Words/Photos/Videos by Reverend Justito/concertconfessions.com
Note: Reason #81 SF is better than LA. I was able to write most of this review on BART on the way home from the show :)
At the very moment the fog rolled across the bay and reached Berkeley, Phish took the stage for the first of three over-sold nights at the Greek Theatre. With grins from ear to ear on everyone inside the historic venue the band kicked off leg two of their lengthy summer tour with the long time crowd favorite “Possum.” The energy in the crowd was unmeasurable and along side the bands playing would only increase over the next few hours (and one must assume days).
The bands first set was what one would expect from a multi-night run by the Vermont vets – some serious warm up songs. “Wolfman’s Brother” got the masses dancing while “Divided Sky” reminded everyone how special these three nights were and how lucky we were to witness it.
It took me 18 shows to get my first “Funky Bitch,” but it was by this time that I could confirm what I had heard all summer long via the Internet was indeed true. Bassist Mike Gordon is the hands down front runner for MVP of the tour. His tone is rich, deep and at times so heavy you can feel your spine shake and stomach sink deep down into your intestine. Other notable first set highlights included a sweet “Haley’s Comet>Sample in a Jar,” “NICU” (I get the feeling guitarist/lead singer Trey Anastasio will forever giggle when he sings “back in the day when my life was a haze”) and the set closer “Run Like an Antelope.”
As the day finally lost it’s battle to night, the band took to the stage for set two. MVP Gordon took the lead slapping out the opening notes of “Down With Disease.”. The jam out of Disease was rocking and about nine minutes later (after what I can only describe as a shoe-gaze duel by Anastasio/Gordon) Anastasio lead the band straight into a ferocious version of “Free.”. Give Anastasio a BOSS Metal Zone guitar pedal, and this version of “Free” goes from jam band rocker to Mayhem Festival madness it was that heavy.
After my first live version of “Alaska” and an above average “Back On The Train”, the band went back to smashing us upside the head with their tight grooves. ”Maze” once again was a pedal away from medal. However it is important to note that keyboardist Page McConnell’s solo section kicked Anastasio’s ass to Blondie’s Pizza and back. The one head scratcher I can’t make my mind up on was”Joy.” I really enjoy the song and in fact as I type this it is stuck in my head. However energy wise it caused many to take a seat on the cold stone steps of the theatre. Perhaps just where they felt the music needed to go/a breather by design, the energy went right back up within moments of the songs final chords.
Set II wrapped with a nasty 1-2 punch of “Tweezer>Fluffhead.”. Once again one must note that “Tweezer” was all Gordon. Massive bass bombs all over the place on this one. This of course lead to the nights biggest jam, which while lead by Anastasio, allowed all four members of the band to show off their chops. “Fluffhead” was wonderful for many reasons. When Phish called it quits in 2004, this was one of the songs I was devastated over the fact I was never able to see one go down in person. This was my second live “Fluffhead” in less than a year (is it safe to say Fluffhead is the new Guyute?). While the Festival 8 version was amazing, this one was way tighter and at times it felt as if the venue was about to be split in two. A gasp went over the crowd at the end of the song when Anastasio said they would see us tomorrow night. With many lucky just to have a ticket for this first show, it was clear they were not ready to say goodbye.
Despite a very strict/early curfew, the band had enough time to sneak out for a few more. A fan (who turns out to be my Twitter pal Ando Pando) in the front row had a double sided sign he had flashed all night. One sign said “Prep School Hippie” and the other said “Stage Banter.” Anastasio grabbed the sign from the fan and proceeded to fill the request for stage banter. He took a few minutes to explain his new guitar made by former Phish sound man Paul Languedoc. Click below to hear the entire rant.
The show closed with two Phish strongholds. The first (in honor of the bad guitar line) was a cover of “Loving Cup” by the Rolling Stones. While I doubt nothing will musically top the Festival 8 performance of this song, the energy inside the Greek for this one was off the hook. Perhaps those who only have Thursday tickets getting down one last time, but wow it’s scary to think what Saturday night is going to be like. The band closed with the hands down heaviest “Tweezer Reprise” of all time. Gordon made this version his bitch, with notes so low most lo-riders stereo systems couldn’t handle this low end. The song was so beefy, it froze my digital camera in the middle of taping. No Joke.
From the Cal Football team feeding fans in line for free to the fine folks who took this solo concert goer under their arm it was just a mind blowing rip roaring perfect day by the Bay. I can’t wait to see what Friday and Saturday have in store.