Phish Tour 2021 – Setlist, Recap & The Skinny: Phoenix

Phish Tour 2021 – Setlist, Recap & The Skinny: Phoenix

Phish continued their Fall Tour 2021 with a Friday night concert at Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix, Arizona. It was the Grand Canyon State’s first Phish show in over 18 years: the first post-hiatus summer tour kicked off in the same venue in July 2003 and featured the debut of 2.0 fan-favorite “Scents and Subtle Sounds.”

A couple years before (and exactly 20 years prior to tonight’s show), drummer Jon Fishman joined Widespread Panic’s Todd Nance and Sunny Ortiz for the drums segment of their show. And finally, in July 1998, Phish debuted “Bittersweet Motel” and unleashed one of the biggest bust-outs ever (and biggest at the time): Taj Mahal’s “She Caught the Katy,” played for the first time in 1,039 shows.

As the freshly waning Hunter’s Moon rose in the warm desert sky, the lights dimmed inside the Desert Sky Pavilion (recently renamed after the Ak-Chin Native American community), and the band kicked things off with a spirited strut through the first “Julius” since before the dreaded COVID-19 struck. This tried-and-true show opener gave the fans a chance to get their sea legs, particularly those who’d followed the lines going south for more than 1,200 miles from the previous stop on tour Eugene, Oregon. The second of seven consecutive tour debuts, “Martian Monster,” blasted off on a less-than-short trip, complete with call-and-response samples (“Your trip is short,” “Yeah”) that gave way to an elated stretch through space.

But because of the incredible speed of their rocket, they arrived at “Soul Planet” a bit prematurely, but wasted no time in finding a steadfast trajectory to follow. Fugal interplay between Trey Anastasio’s bright guitar and Page McConnell’s grand piano twisted and turned atop the ever-concise rhythmic clip. A concise change of course into a minor key with Bowie-esque energy (the song, not the man) led to a middling peak of synthesized sonance before dipping below the surface of the “ocean of love.” Like strange creatures from fathoms below, synth and guitar called to one another amongst harmonious bubbles of bass from Mike Gordon’s rig. Fishman’s never-faltering undulations were lush with fills, steadily lifting the jam to another triumphant plateau of sound.

From the settling dust of the night’s first notable jam rose “My Friend My Friend,” knife in hand, followed by the ever-bouyant “Bouncing Around The Room.” Mike then stepped up for his first lead vocal of the night with “Scent of a Mule.” Page eschewed the typical decrescendo for an interval of hard-driving classical piano flair before Trey’s klezmer phrasing beckoned the final verse. A perfunctory “More” in an unusual setlist slot was quickly followed by only the third repeat of tour, five and a half shows in.

“Ghost” exhibited a subtle yet strong tempo increase from the get-go that’s been heard at least once or twice this year, in addition to the continued experiments with new vocal inflections and consonance from all four members of the band. Maintaining smooth and steady passage through a shimmering plain of sound, Page’s grand piano continued its first set MVP run. Gradually building on Mike’s tenacious cadence, Trey carried the remarkable jam towards a triumphant summit. The “Story” concluded with the slinking ghost of “Julius,” and Phish took a well-deserved “15-minute” break.

Read on after The Skinny for the rest of the recap and more.

The Skinny

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The Setlist

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The Venue

Ak-Chin Pavilion [See upcoming shows]

20,106

4 shows
7/07/2003, 7/29/1997, 7/21/1998, 10/01/2000

The Music

8 songs / 8:05 pm to 9:19 pm (74 minutes)

10 songs / 9:53 pm to 11:29 pm (96 minutes)

18 songs
16 originals / 2 covers

1997

11.39 [Gap chart]

None

All but Ghost, Everything’s Right, Harry Hood

Julius LTP 12/04/2019 (38 Show Gap)

Everything’s Right 26:03

I Am Hydrogen 3:03

Lawn Boy – 1, A Picture of Nectar – 1, Rift – 1, Hoist – 2, The Story of the Ghost – 1, Big Boat – 1, Chilling Thrilling Sounds – 1, Sigma Oasis – 2, Misc. – 6, Covers – 2

The Rest

75° and Mostly Clear at Showtime

Koa 4 [Set One], Ocelot (Koa 3) [Set Two]

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Most commonly heard as a standalone encore, the beautiful buzz of The Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup” opened the second set for the first time since the night of the legendary Bomb Factory “Tweezer” in May 1994. That particular classic (conspicuously absent from fall setlists thus far) would have to wait for another night, as another time-honored tune queued up. “Mike’s Song” featured glistening guitar that traversed through a stew of greasy clavinet and swampy bass for a spell. Trey found a brief bit of shred before quickly wrapping up the theme and segueing into “I Am Hydrogen,” a sweet interlude that has become less common in the post-“Mike’s” position than it once was.

Wrapping up the trio of vintage tunes, “Weekapaug Groove” kept its danceable groove gyrating along for just long enough to break a sweat before giving in to “Everything’s Right.” The 3.0-era life affirmation has been a steady vehicle for improvisation since its inception with Trey’s solo band in 2017, and while tonight’s reading may not have quite the distinction of the esteemed Alpharetta and Deer Creek takes from this past summer, there’s certainly some relisten value.

Euphoric Type I phrasing that followed the final chorus of “Everything’s Right” seemed to tease “Waves” before transitioning into a weird and wonderful helping of double-octave guitar, manic synth, fluid drums, and outer-space bass. Yet another hint of “Manteca,” seemingly the 100th of 2021, was followed by a “Third Stone from the Sun” quote from Trey. Each of the four found celestial spaces to explore before a quick burst of speed from Fishman propelled the dance motif forward at breakneck pace. The drummer seemed to gain full control of the jam for an extended moment, effortlessly guiding three separate yet perfectly entwined melodies from his Trey, Mike, and Page. One would have thought that they’d been playing together for almost 40 years.

A slow, deeply-textured dissolve gave way to a brief, almost bluesy interlude that would find itself at home in a Pink Floyd song before the band eased into the gentle Ghosts of the Forest ballad, “A Life Beyond a Dream.” Trey gave his closing solo a little extra emphasis, took a beat, and led the band through a cursory cover of the Talking Heads’ “Cities.”

And finally, “Harry Hood” found itself in its usual second set closer slot, unlike its last performance a week earlier, when it appeared early in the first set. Awash in spacey cymbals and sparse piano, the “Hood” jam was both patient and persistent. Octave bass notes bounced betwixt dazzling guitar runs, while tinsel arpeggios from the grand piano gave way to lavish, heavily-textured chords and the band emerged to one last apex of the evening. You can feel good about this Hood. The encore saw a spirited “Suzy Greenberg” segue into the musty grime of “Cavern,” replete with plenty smiles and silliness.

Phish Fall Tour 2021 continues tonight in Chula Vista, California. A livestream can be purchased via LivePhish.com

Phish From The Road Photos

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Poster

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