Concert Review: Phish

The host of Jam Sandwich reviews the recent Phish concert in Kansas City

When Phish announced that they would be returning to Kansas City on August 22 for the first time since they reunited in 2009 there was a very split response from their enormously dedicated fan base.  Phans from the KC area were ecstatic to be able to see a hometown show for the first time since 2004, however followers from elsewhere in the country were not so enthused.  Complaints appeared rapidly on Facebook and fan message boards when the second leg of Phish’s summer tour was announced, and it included two nights in Missouri and one in Oklahoma. The Kansas City show was at Starlight Theater, and these complaints did not keep fans from swarming Swope Park in masses, partying and carrying on in true pre-Phish concert tradition.  The relaxed atmosphere at Swope allowed vendors to set up shop, selling everything from jewelry to pizza, without being hassled at all by the police.  By the time 8:00 p.m. came around, the crowd was in good spirits, and headed to the theatre to watch the first Phish concert in KC in eight years.

The first set opened with “Chalk Dust Torture” a song that has been in heavy rotation since its first appearance in 1991. Many people complain that it is used as an opener too often, but no one seemed to mind at Starlight.  The energy was high from the beginning to the end of the song, ending with the crowd singing along with the band, shouting out “Can I live while I’m young?” in unison.

“Chalk Dust Torture” was followed by a cover of Little Feat’s “Skin It Back”, a song that had been covered one time previously on this tour, but had since not been played by Phish since 1987.  Many fans were confused as to what they were playing, but the cover was well executed, with guitarist Trey Anastasio taking the reins during the jam section.

“Moma Dance” and “Rift” followed, both keeping the audience engaged, but the energy at Starlight truly rose once the opening notes of “Bathtub Gin” came out of the speakers.  The crowd erupted when keyboardist Page McConnell began smashing on the keys of his baby grand piano, while Anastasio sang the first verse.

“Stash” was up next, featuring some of Anastasio’s most impressive guitar work of the evening.  The energy of the crowd continued on an upward stream as the sun went down to Anastasio’s creeping guitar riff, which exploded into the crowd chanting along, “maybe so, maybe not.”

Following “Stash” was a Lynard Skynard Cover: “The Ballad of Curtis Loewe” in which Page McConnell took control of lead vocals.  The intensity felt by the crowd during “Stash” died down due to the campy sing-along that is “The Ballad of Curtis Loewe”, but good times were still being had by all.

Once “Curtis Loewe” ended, the band increased the pace with their newer song, “Kill Devil Falls”, followed by “Funky Bitch”, but the set closer “Run Like an Antelope” proved itself to be the highlight of the evening.

Phish’s second set was certainly no match for the first.  The opening string of songs (Tweezer>Piper>Mike’s Song) was segued well, and featured some interesting jamming, seemingly centered around bassist Mike Gordon. However, the intensity felt during the first set was nowhere to be found.  Mike’s song ended, instead of segueing into “Simple” or “I Am Hydrogen”, which left the crowd hoping for something epic to come next. Instead, they were served easily the worst segment of the evening. “Bouncing Around the Room” was executed well, but it was simply too slow-paced of a song to perpetuate the fire that was lit during the first set.  By the time they had reached “Farm House”, the feeling could not be shook that they were simply going through the motions; playing some sort of pseudo-greatest hits show.

After “Farm House” came “Weekapauk Groove”, a normally fast paced, high energy song.  This rendition was played much slower than usual, though.  It was indeed on a level with the slow pace of this entire set, lacking the vigor of the entire first set.

The band redeemed themselves with the final segment of the second set (“Harry Hood”>”Suzy Greenberg”).  “Harry Hood” featured some of Anastasio’s best soloing of the evening, ending in a beautiful peak as per usual.  “Suzy Greenberg” was a perfect way to end the second set, matching the energy that was felt during the first.

The encore, which began with “Loving Cup”, arguably the best Rolling Stones cover in Phish’s repertoire, left the crowd in good spirits, which was followed by “Tweezer Reprise”, a song that is to be expected in any Phish encore if they have played “Tweezer” earlier in the night (not to say that it is not enjoyed by the masses).

By the time the crowd was exiting the theatre, the boredom felt during parts of the second set was nowhere to be found.  The party continued at Swope Park until the wee hours of the morning, a phenomenon rarely experienced by Phish fans, due to police being savvy to their shenanigans. Perhaps this was a bi-product of Phish’s prolonged absence in Kansas City, or maybe, they simply did not care.

from jimmy keegan


Phish set list from Aug. 22 show at Starlight Theater:

Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, Skin It Back, The Moma Dance, Rift, Bathtub Gin, Stash, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Kill Devil Falls, Funky Bitch, Run Like An Antelope

Set 2: Tweezer > Piper > Mike’s Song, Bouncing Around the Room > Backwards Down The Number Line > Heavy Things, If I Could, Weekapaug Groove, Harry Hood > Suzy Greenberg

Encore: Loving Cup, Tweezer Reprise



Jimmy Keegan is the host of Jam Sandwich, which airs every Thursday night at 8 p.m.
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