Phish in Mansfield MA by Dave Vann taken from the website

Phish in Mansfield MA by Dave Vann taken from the website

Phish in Mansfield MA by Dave Vann sourced from the website

Phish at Xfinity Center

Mansfield MA –

01 July 2014

by Jimm O’D

Sorry, I was underwhelmed.  They just didn’t do it for me.  I posted a minimal remark on FaceBook, “…so Phish is a pretty good band I guess…” and a comment came in, “Hot and cold with them,” so I feel better now.  Seriously, I was in conflict about this.  They’re supposed to be such a great band; all my friends were so excited that I was going to my first-ever Phish show… and I can’t give a raging review.  It wasn’t worth what I paid, that’s for sure- I’m just glad nobody sprang for me; I’d really feel bad then…

When Phish first came to my attention in the middle 80’s, I tried to give ’em a listen but the recording quality killed it for me.  Whatever I listened to sounded like old Hendrix albums- muddy in the mix and indistinguishable instrumentation, excepting solos, and the vocals… well, I began to formulate the theory, since multiplied and variously validated, that jam bands tend to come up short in the singing department.  It’s like they’re so highly virtuosic in all their playing and arranging, that this one area escapes their attention.

Are you more of a Phan than Jimm?  Check out John Duval’s review of the Saratoga show on July 4th here.

Happily, the vocals were good.  They/Trey have learned to sing.  With thirty years in the business, they must have paid some attention to that.  The lights were great, too… the feller next to me told me that Phish is known for their lights being “the fifth band member.”  (Did Brian Epstein design ’em?)  Most of the shows I go to are quite a bit below the thirty-thousand level,so it was nice to see a real professional light show, with the many positions and colors arranged sensibly and changing in time with the music and in keeping with the mood.

My friend on my other side gave an occasional commentary.  I guess Clapton has been reported as, when asked, “What does it feel like to be the best guitarist alive?” responding with: “I don’t know.  Ask Trey Anastasio.”  I can’t help but wonder who would ask him that… I mean, he’s one of the greats for sure; absolutely, hands-down, 100% GREAT and irreplaceable and essential to rock/guitar history, but nobody would accuse ol’ Slowhand of being ‘The Best Alive’ any more than they would call would call David Gilmore “Lightnin’ Fingers.”  Just ask either of them- they would defer to someone like Trey, I’m sure.  But, whether that interview actually happened… the evidence is inconclusive so far.

So… how did I like the show?  They were good.  They were very good: tight, clean, professional.  About like any veteran band that has broken up and come back together for whatever reasons.  If I hadn’t been apprised of their status, I might have wondered why they were so blasé.  The first set was, as my two compadres observed, somewhat lacking.  The second set picked up some, until we observed so, then it settled down again.  One friend started to get excited when a guitar solo almost took off; he turned to me and said, “Watch this- he raises it a level, and then up another level, and then…” and he stopped talking.  The song, however, dragged on. Another friend, upon hearing my lukewarm response, suggested “Well, it IS the first night of the tour…”  This gives me pause to consider.  They’re warming up to new material and all.  I still believe that this is a great band; I have seen substantial evidence for myself and I can go with the idea that I just need to see them a few more times.  But not at eighty bucks a pop!

Anybody wanna further the cause?  I’ll be glad to give it a shot on your dime!

Set 1:
Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
Back on the Train
Halfway to the Moon
The Wedge
Bouncing Around the Room
Birds of a Feather
(Mike on power drill at end)
Set 2:
Mike’s Song
Waiting All Night
Weekapaug Groove
Harry Hood

Are you more of a Phan than Jimm?  Check out John Duval’s review of the Saratoga show on July 4th here.