Review: Phish’s U-Turn in Holmdel
Tuesday, Phish made their way to Holmdel, NJ for the band’s first performance at the venue since 2000. The intimate, ball-park style venue is a throwback classic summer shed (as oppose to Bethel’s state of the art design that spoiled us this weekend) with terrific sound and a cool flying-saucer like roof in the pavilion. But none of these factors helped to energize last night’s performance, which at times seemed uninspired and choppy. After the final night in Bethel remained somewhat standard, many had expected PNC to “blow up.” But this was not the case at all.
The first set kicked off with a charging version of “Chalkdust” but then quickly changed pace with “Roggae.” This choppy flow continued to run through the first set and prevented the music from fully taking flight. For much of the set, Trey appeared to hijack the jams from his band mates leading them through guitar-driven type I as oppose to the exploratory, group-led improv we witnessed in Bethel.
When Mike would make an attempt to depart from the structure, Trey would lasso the music back into place. This resulted in Mike seeming noticeably frustrated following “Sand,” and I couldn’t blame him. The playing was far from tight at points, and even suffered from a massive flub from Trey at the beginning of “Divided.” This was not the tight group that we saw jamming as a unit in Bethel, and many of us were left scratching our heads at setbreak.
Set two, while inhibited by an early curfew, also failed to fully take off. Aside from a seemingly forced jam on “After Midnight” and a patch of ambient type II following “Drowned,” the set had few highlights worthy of mention. Page’s solo on “Maze” is worth your time—his playing has been downright nasty this tour. But aside from that, let this one slip between the cracks. Let’s just hope the band has its landing gear working tonight.
PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ
Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, Roggae, Punch You In the Eye, The Moma Dance > Rock and Roll, Sand, Tube > The Divided Sky, Character Zero
Set 2: After Midnight > Possum, Drowned > Maze, Dirt, Alaska, You Enjoy Myself
Notes: Trey dedicated Sand to “Max.” Fire contained alternate lyrics “move on over, let Cactus take over!”