Phish returned to the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA on Wednesday to round out a three-night run as the band’s West Coast spring tour continues.
The band got things going with Trey Anastasio quarantine rocker “I Never Needed You Like This Before”, further cementing its role as an emphatic opener/closer (seven of its eleven Phish performances have started or ended a set).
Phish – “I Never Needed You Like This Before” [Pro-Shot] – 4/19/23
After bringing “I Never Needed You Like This Before” to a howling peak, Anastasio launched the band into “AC/DC Bag”, yet another time-tested set one staple: Let’s get this show on the road. Phish had some cool-headed creativity hiding in this “Bag” and pulled it out to furnish a patient, spacious Type II jam that used sonic contrast to its advantage—jagged, distorted teeth on the low end and a luminous shimmer on the high notes.
Set one MVP Page McConnell gave the ensuing “Rift” a boost with his always-impressive piano solo, then tastefully hung back as Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman—clad once again in a hoodie and beanie under his dress (a dapper green with yellow donuts)—pushed “Runaway Jim” down the road via an extended stretch of subtle bass/drums interplay. Anastasio hit the gas as the joy ride passed the ten-minute mark, prompting a rapid unscheduled disassembly of the groove that sent the runaway hound barreling into darkness with chaotic momentum.
The “Lawn Boy” that followed was highlighted by Page McConnell on the croons, Michael Eliot Gordon on the bass, Ernest Anastasio III on the mile-wide grin, and a nimble stage tech on giant yellow balloon removal.
#LawnBoy #Phish @LivePhish pic.twitter.com/wuKF23nbKY
— Live For Live Music (@L4LM) April 20, 2023
As the sun dipped behind the Berkeley horizon, a brief but spirited “Halley’s Comet” called fans to sing along, a rolling, rumbling “Timber (Jerry the Mule)” reached some unusual spaces, a delicate “Winterqueen” floated beautifully in stasis but never quite got moving, and a high-voltage “46 Days” offered some classic Anastasio fireworks to bring the first set to a close.
Phish opted for “Mike’s Song” to begin the second set. The band continued its free-form, textural M.O. here, weaving through atmospheric motifs and experimenting with a slew of sludgy low-end effects en route to the tune’s climactic conclusion.
Rather than slipping into the go-to “I Am Hydrogen” or any other time-tested “Mike’s Groove” meat, Phish launched into the wide-eyed psychedelia of Ghosts of the Forest holdover “Beneath A Sea of Stars Part 1” next for its first-ever appearance as part of the ever-evolving suite. Perhaps the placement was the result of some nostalgia for Trey: The last performance on Ghosts of the Forest’s one-off tour back in 2019 took place at this very venue four years ago, nearly to the day.
This song is amorphous by design, and I have to admit that I’ve lost interest during certain renditions, but this one channeled that free-form aesthetic with an engaging sense of purpose. Chris Kuroda, Andrew Giffin, and the rest of the magicians in charge of Phish’s live visuals made impressive use of their new toys throughout the segment, casting gobo stripes along the stone pillars that line the Greek’s stage and conjuring reflections of the night sky with twinkling LED stars.
Watching the lights during the tour’s first two runs—Seattle, where the venue allowed for the full-scale, moving-truss rig, and Berkeley, where the trusses have remained fixed in place—has shown just how adaptable the latest updates can be, and you can bet we’ve only just scratched the surface of what that new behemoth can do. The “Sea of Stars” ambiance pooled into the ensuing “Weekapaug Groove”, which bubbled through watery effects before exploding with a white-light peak (there’s nothing quite like the sound of Trey’s sustain over Page’s grand piano).
After a welcome cover of The Velvet Underground‘s “Cool It Down”, the band embarked on the most ambitious improvisational outing of the night, a nimble “Set Your Soul Free” that charted a similar course to the deeper jams of the tour so far, from wandering to walking to running to flying. Low-register effects and pitch-shifted grime gave way to metallic tones and pulsing drones as this “Set Your Soul Free” grew increasingly dark and maddening. A flute-like guitar synth eventually cut through the noise at the 20-minute mark, heralding a transition into flowing “What’s The Use?” that reliably put the band’s dynamic mastery on display. An energetic “Loving Cup” finally brought the non-stop set to a close.
With time for just a couple more, Phish returned to the stage at the Berkeley Greek Theatre for a well-played (and well-placed) run through slacker ballad “Waste” before tying a bow on the run with the “Tweezer Reprise” that had gone missing on the Berkeley run’s opening night.
Following a day off on Thursday, Phish’s 2023 spring tour will conclude this weekend with a three-night run at Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Safe travels, everybody!
For a complete list of upcoming Phish tour dates, head here. Watch the remaining dates on the West Coast run live or on-demand, in HD or 4K, and get 48 hours of unlimited playback via LivePhish.
Click below to check out a selection of photos from the third and final 2023 Phish show at Berkeley, CA’s Greek Theatre via YouTube user Todd Silverman.
Phish – “Mike’s Song” > “Beneath A Sea Of Stars Part 1” > “Weekapaug Groove” – 4/19/23
Phish – “Cool It Down” (The Velvet Underground) > “Set Your Soul Free” – 4/19/23
Phish – “Loving Cup” (The Rolling Stones) – 4/19/23
Phish – “Waste”, “Tweezer Reprise” – 4/19/23
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Setlist [via Phish.net]: Phish | William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre | Berkeley, CA | 4/19/23
Set One: I Never Needed You Like This Before, AC/DC Bag > Rift, Runaway Jim, Lawn Boy, Halley’s Comet > Timber (Jerry the Mule), Winterqueen > 46 Days
Set Two: Mike’s Song > Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1 > Weekapaug Groove > Cool It Down > Set Your Soul Free > What’s the Use? > Loving Cup
Encore: Waste > Tweezer Reprise, Unfinished.