On Sunday night, following a week and a half on the road featuring a two-night stand in Seattle, a three-show stint in Berkeley, and Friday and Saturday evening shows in Los Angeles, Phish returned to the Hollywood Bowl one last time to round out the band’s brief West Coast spring tour.
The light waning from the Hollywood sky following the show’s earlier-than-usual 7:00 p.m. start time seemed to guide the band’s initial Sunday song selections. “Birds of a Feather” flocked in first and rose above some Trey Anastasio vocal octave issues, thanks in large part to the untouchable rhythmic creativity of Jon Fishman on the kit. A lighter-than-air “Roggae” floated in through a circus of colored light next, and a regal expanse of “Divided Sky” followed.
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— Phish: From The Road (@Phish_FTR) April 24, 2023
The stars had been out at the Bowl all weekend, and not just up above: Fans have spotted a string of celebrities in the audience during the run, from Aaron Paul on Friday to Abbi Jacobson and Paul Dano on Saturday to Tenacious D‘s Kyle Gass on Sunday, adding a layer of characteristically “Hollywood” allure to the proceedings. As sunset gave way to the night sky in the City of Angels on Sunday, however, it was a song about London, Birmingham, and Memphis by a band from New York that stole the show: The standout, 19-minute rendition of Talking Heads‘ “Cities” that anchored the set was a perfect example of the coloring-outside-the-lines textural approach that has defined Phish’s free-flowing spring 2023 improvisations. Making tasteful use of the negative space around Mike Gordon‘s tight, funky bedrock, the band drizzled moody watercolor embellishments and machine drones over the groove before untethering from meter and drifting into an amorphous exploration of the dark and the light (think “Beneath a Sea of Stars“, with a little extra oomph).
The agile “Tube” that followed didn’t last long, but thanks to some impressive high-speed connection between Mike and Fish, some “Jungle Boogie”-like elements from Page McConnell, and a swirl of reverb effects from Trey—not to mention the audible cheers from the crowd for the “Freeway in Los Angeles” line—this unique version is surely worth revisiting. [Dear @TubeJamUpdate, I respectfully disagree].
Once again displaying the dichotomy of light and dark at the core of the band’s contemporary sound, Phish went on to close Sunday’s strong first set with a joyous taste of “Taste” and a snarling “About To Run”.
The year’s first “Mr. Completely” kicked off the final set of the tour, and this perennial jam vehicle delivered the goods. The band has spent much of this spring stretch sculpting soundscapes, exploring the corners and crannies of texture and atmosphere.
On this enthralling “Mr. Completely”, the band dispensed with setting the mood and opted to tell a story, instead. Trey treated his soothing leads like lullabies throughout more than 18 gorgeous minutes, and the rest of the band fell in behind him in kind. A perfect jam for a Sunday tour closer, this was a performance tailor-made for hugging friends, smiling wide, and giving thanks for another fantastic stretch of cruising the land of the brave and free with the Phish from Vermont.
An aqueous transition into “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” plunged the band back to the shadowy depths for a few engaging minutes of echolocation improv under ominous red lights. A smooth segue back into “Mr. Completely” late in the game seemed to portend one of “those” kinds of evenings, but the band brought the “Completely” reprise to a conclusion after one more run through the lyrics and shifted gears into the plodding funk-rock of “Wolfman’s Brother”.
The “Ruby Waves” > “Gotta Jiboo” that followed were solid, if relatively unremarkable, the band once again digging deep in its bag arsenal of effects and synths throughout. Chris Kuroda, Andrew Giffin, and company cast alternating panels of color over the tiered arches of the bandshell yet again here, reaffirming the incredible adaptability of this new lighting setup. Even when a venue can’t support the full, moving apparatus, the location-specific lighting motifs have been spot-on—from highlighting the antiquity of the Greek to making creative use of their vortex-like canvas at Hollywood Bowl. Thanks to their work, this stage has looked like everything from a warp-speed rocket to the Looney Tunes backdrop and everything in between. We can’t wait to see them turn it loose at Madison Square Garden this summer.
With time winding down, an always-welcome (and always invigorating) cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “No Quarter” provided some late-set fireworks and a lively “Possum” brought the set to a close. For the encore, the band ushered in a chorus of “Wilson” chants before signing its name on a top-notch tour with a striking “Slave To The Traffic Light”.
In the words of Porky Pig—who I haven’t been able to stop imagining all weekend whenever the arches went red—”That’s all, folks.” Travel home safely and lick those wounds. Summer tour is less than three months away…
For a complete list of upcoming Phish tour dates, head here. You can re-watch the entire tour on-demand, in HD or 4K via LivePhish. Click below for a selection of videos from the Sunday Phish tour closer at Hollywood Bowl and scroll down for the full setlist.
Phish – “Birds of a Feather” [Pro-Shot] – 4/23/23
Phish – “Taste” – 4/23/22
Phish – “Mr. Completely” [Pro-Shot] – 4/23/23
Phish – “No Quarter” (Led Zeppelin) – 4/23/22
View More Videos
Setlist [via Phish.net]: Phish | Hollywood Bowl | Los Angeles, CA | 4/23/22
Set One: Birds of a Feather, Roggae > Divided Sky, Cities > Tube > Taste, About to Run
Set Two: Mr. Completely > A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing -> Mr. Completely, Wolfman’s Brother > Ruby Waves > Gotta Jibboo > No Quarter > Possum
Encore: Wilson > Slave to the Traffic Light