Concert review: Phish at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Last year, when I reviewed Phish's show at Merriweather Post Pavilion, a commenter named Matthew Pugh said he could write a better review than me. Instead of telling him to buzz off, I told him to prove it, and recruited him to review Phish this time around. Here is his review of Saturday's show:

Make no mistake about it. When Phish arrived last night at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia for the first show of a two-night stand, they brought not peace, but a sword to remove any lingering doubt about them being one of the most dangerous bands alive ...

The Vermont quartet played for nearly four hours, ripping through 23 songs in two sets. They launched the first with "Crowd Control" and "Kill Devil Falls," the same two songs they opened with last August at Merriweather — a show that met with much criticism from fans new and old. Phish, therefore, meant one of two things with this identical start: We're going to try this again OR maybe you didn't hear us the first time. ...

A steady roar from the 17,000-plus in attendance made it clear that ears were wide open as the band jammed a variety of classic, new, and obscure tunes under a June full moon.

"AC/DC Bag" and "Tube" got the booty juice flowing in the muggy Maryland air, while "Sugar Shack," "Stash," and "NICU" pleased listeners with a penchant for Caribbean and other ethnic-flavored rhythms. Fans were also treated to a rare cover of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel.

Guitarist Trey Anastasio displayed mastery of his instrument by rarely looking at his Languedoc six-string or effects when soloing. Likewise, Page McConnell, gave the audience an education in keyboard dominance, navigating brilliantly over his Hohner clavinet and grand piano.

Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman threw a combination of heavy-weight bass and drums punches that hit you squarely in the sternum. At times, Fishman drove into his Zildjian crash with rage that lifted him off his throne.

The second set blasted off no less aggressively than the first with "Rock and Roll" and "Free." Phish's light designer, Chris Kuroda, matched the band with a syncopated tapestry of both cool, mellow hues and intense, seizure-inducing flashes.

Phish, staying true to their improvisational DNA, captivated the crowd with a deep, dark, raunchy rendition of "Tweezer," before bringing them back to earth with a fine version of "Silent in the Morning." The band would close the second set with a trio of Phishhead favorites:  "Wolfman's Brother," "Slave to the Traffic Light," and a deafening "Tweezer Reprise."

The band encored with a new ballad called "Show of Life" and the Led Zeppelin rocker "Good Times Bad Times." This juxtaposition of soft and hard coming-of-age tunes perfectly represented this latest iteration of Phish: an older, wiser band whose music and abilities have been forged and refined by fire into sharp and deadly forces.

Set I

Crowd Control
Kill Devil Falls
Sugar Shack
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Backwards Down The Number Line
46 Days
Suzy Greenberg

Set II
Rock & Roll
Fast Enough For You
The Horse
Silent In The Morning
Wolfman's Brother
Slave to The Traffic Light
Tweezer Reprise

Show of life
Good Times Bad Times

Matthew Pugh is a public relations specialist by day. By night, he drums for the Baltimore-based jam band Willies Light.

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