Phish makes triumphant return to Colorado
The Denver Post,Staff
A nostalgic and unhurried Phish meandered through a trove of classics Thursday at Red Rocks Amphitheatre as a jubilant crowd celebrated the return of the jam giants to the nation’s most fabled stage.
The Vermont-spawned quartet launched its triumphant return with the classic “The Divided Sky,” the same bouncing tune it played to open its Red Rocks debut in 1993.
During a brief interlude in the song, guitarist Trey Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon stood motionless as the crowd exploded into already hoarse bellowing.
Phish ambled through a library of genres in its 10-song first set. The brand new “Ocelot,” off its upcoming album, “Joy,” is destined to become a jam vehicle with near infinite possibilities.
It is syrupy funk, allowing both Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell to couple in a tremendous storm of keys and strings.
The Phish resurrection after a five-year hiatus that was supposed to be permanent is being heralded by the band’s fervent fans as “Phish 3.0” – the third iteration of a band that was born in a Vermont dorm room in 1983.
Although the band’s renewed vigor and purpose is evident, it has carefully preserved the elements that earned it the gilded throne of jam bands.
The fifth member, Chris Kuroda, still has a magician’s touch on the lights. The multi-hued master sprayed the red fins flanking the crowd with an array of lights, seemingly to inspire both his bandmates and the crowd. The man is an integral part of Phish.
With a massive catalog, Phish dug deep, pulling heartily from its early days. “It’s Ice” saw drummer Jon Fishman’s furious pounding spooned perfectly with his old college pals’ three-way harmony.
“Poor Heart” stomped through a honky-tonked bluegrass riff that poured into a funky “The Moma Dance.” The pairing of bluegrass and deep funk is typical Phish, a marriage of seemingly opposing forces. Anastasio’s wah-wah pedal led the band into “Moma,” which fueled an eruption in the sold-out venue.
Surprisingly, it took Phish seven songs to reach its trademark ambient, 15-minute jam – and even more surprising was the tune.
“Stash” is typically rowdy, but Thursday’s version saw Anastasio leading band and fans into an increasingly roiling gorge of frenzied jamming.
The ballad-lullaby “The Horse” led to a stirring and mellow “Silent in the Morning.”
A twangy, countrified “Possum” closed the first set with a surprisingly reserved Anastasio teasing darker riffs and eventually gliding into his eruptive ways.
Phish fans are adoring, and they show their appreciation with fanatical dancing. During the deepest grooves of “Stash,” just about the only sound coming from the crowd was the rustle of clothing.
The second set opened with a particularly ebullient “Mike’s Song,” which ran headlong into a “Weekapaug Groove” that filled the venue with dancing bodies and grins as wide as the Morrison Slide.
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374 or firstname.lastname@example.org