Phish kicked off a run of spring West Coast tour dates on Friday with the first of two shows at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, WA. With only eight shows at three venues on the run, the band got right down to business, opening a jam-heavy first set with a monster “Blaze On” -> “Plasma” -> “Blaze On” totaling 20 minutes of sonic exploration.
Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Jon Fishman, and Page McConnell arrived on the West Coast ready to hit the ground running on their first proper tour since last summer. Since then, Phish has played its annual runs at Madison Square Garden and in Mexico, but this was the first time the band returned to the road since wrapping its summer tour at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. It was also the first time Phish has toured the West Coast since fall 2021 and the band’s first show in Seattle since 2014.
The newly renovated arena, which is home to Seattle’s new hockey team, the Kraken, was bursting with anticipation as Trey calmly strummed the opening of “Blaze On”. The rest of the band quickly joined in, building a groove around him. Mike, who was using a new bass for the first time, could be seen messing with his in-ear monitors, which has become a common occurrence since the band started using them during its YEMSG New Year’s run. Mike’s fidgeting was insignificant compared to Fishman, though, who had a member of the band’s crew tampering with his earphones for at least a minute of the opening song. You wouldn’t know it from the audio, though, because he remained locked in to the groove like the true professional he is.
As soon as the drummer’s monitors were sorted, the band dove straight into the first extended jam of the night. Chris Kuroda‘s light rig was in full effect—it always looks better at an indoor arena. The crowd cheered as the colorful display descended toward the band, mobilizing for the first time of the night. Trey, Mike, Page, and Fish stayed patient as they developed the jam, almost seeming to forget that this was only the first set.
Trey subtly introduced the rhythm of “Plasma” at around the 14-minute mark, and the rest of the band followed into the Trey Anastasio Band favorite, with the audience cheering in recognition of the smooth-as-silk transition. After a verse, the band went back to instrumental improvisation with a spontaneous change of key initiated by Page on the Rhodes. Fish was in fine form as he built a flowing latin-style groove that would take a five-man percussion section to reproduce. The four band members played interlocking rhythms as they continued to develop the jam, gaining steam before finally returning to the original key to finish “Blaze On”. The crowd roared in approval of the grand opening—this was Phish at its phinest.
Phish – “Blaze On” -> “Plasma” – 4/14/23
Next came the flowing poetry of “Vultures”, played for the first time since July 2022. The group remained tight as Fish played with the rhythm, fluctuating between a triplet- and four-based feel. The crowd woos were especially strong during a brief call and response, but the highlight was an impressive drum feature that brought the jam to a dramatic close before the start of “Sample in a Jar”.
Phish kept “Sample” pretty straightforward, adding a guitar-driven jam with a pretty linear trajectory. The audience was audibly happy to hear the opening of “Ya Mar”, and who wouldn’t be? It’s impossible to listen to the upbeat Cyril Ferguson track without letting it bring a smile to your face. An impassioned, “Play it, Leo, do it!” from Trey summoned an organ solo that evoked a big grin from the guitarist as Page expertly built tension with repetitive lines before releasing it with a melodic resolution. The band’s volume dropped down as Trey played a sweet and gentle guitar solo, followed by a bass solo from Mike. The rest of the band then dropped out as Trey and Mike turned and walked toward each other. At first Mike soloed as trey comped around him, then the two traded roles, Trey taking the lead while Mike comped. Page meanwhile came back in, adding a foundation of organ as they both soloed together, followed by Fish, who reentered with the drum groove. Finally back at full strength, the band brought the song to a close.
“Thanks everybody. Thanks for having us here,” Trey said, addressing the crowd. “It’s so good to be in the corner. From the Northeast corner to the Northwest, we love you. If you’re ever in our corner just come on up.” He then added, “And congratulations on the Kraken. Everybody needs a hockey team. We want one in Vermont. We need a professional hockey team so.”
The greeting from Trey seemed to indicate the set was nearly done, but Phish still had some “Steam” left in the tank. “Steam” featured some nice harmonized wooing from Trey and Page, as well as ample guitar shreddery from Trey, which was matched in intensity by the rest of the band. An abrupt transition back to the verse at the end of the jam would have sounded sloppy if the four musicians didn’t hit it perfectly in sync.
The crowd cheered as the song came to a close, but Phish wasn’t done yet. Out of nowhere came the opening of one of the band’s darker inventions, the demented opus “My Friend, My Friend”. At the end of the song, Trey turned around and said something into a microphone that let’s the other band members (and presumably sound crew) but no one else hear him. He must have called “Walls of the Cave” at that point because Page started playing the opening piano part before the final notes of “My Friend, My Friend” finished ringing.
The audience cheered again as the lights sparkled purple, matching the splashy sound of Fish’s rapid hihat. The band’s pitch was particular on point during the a cappella section, which is the main upside of using the in-ear monitors to hear each other and themselves better. The energy remained high until the end, and with the final note, Trey launched into the actual set closer, “Ghost”.
The band couldn’t help but explore one more jam in “Ghost”. The lights appeared to spin rapidly, a new development in the ongoing evolution of CK5’s revolutionary light design. Some confusion about the ending made it a little rough compared to the overall spectacular opening set.
Set two opened with the smooth groove of “A Wave of Hope”. The second set opener stayed straightforward at first with a relatively static groove that stuck to the feel of the song, but that wouldn’t last. The lights began to spin and sparkle as Phish descended into a textural jam that was either airy or aquatic—or both, but it seems like you shouldn’t be able to mix the two. Upbeat snare accents from Fish added an off-kilter feel that helped build tension that ultimately resolved as he returned to a regular backbeat and Trey took the lead.
The lights continued to dazzle through the jam, flashing, spinning, and moving up and down—it was truly something to behold. The jam hit an energetic climax at the 20 minute mark before a kind of rough transition back to the ending of the song, but it was clear the crowd didn’t mind after the monster set opener.
Phish – “A Wave of Hope” – 4/14/23
“Bouncing Around the Room” then offered a singalong respite from the instrumental improv before the band moved on to “No Man In No Man’s Land”. The crowd offered a genuine if predictable cheer in response to the lyric, “You’re happy that we’re here,” and the band gave Mike some room to stretch out at the start of the jam before a spontaneous key change. Things got ethereal as Page introduced some unique synth sounds, but soon Trey faded in with TV On The Radio‘s “Golden Age”. The band responded by quickly fading out and then back in to the new song—not the smoothest transition, but a unique approach from the defacto band leader.
“Golden Age” elicited another big cheer with the lyric, “Clap your hands if you feel you’re in the right place.” The song would mark the last long jam of the night, clocking in at 17 minutes. Phish explored some new and interesting territory early in the jam, with Trey playing low bass tones on his guitar as Mike experimented with spacey synth sounds and different bass effects including one that made his bass sound like the revving motor of a drill (not to be confused with when he uses a drill to play his bass). The band was rocking by the end of the jam, which concluded with a smooth transition back to the main groove of “Golden Age”.
The prerecorded intro from Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House then introduced “Martian Monster”, which would be the briefest song of the set at just four minutes. “The Wedge” came next, with a couple minor awkward moments from Fish, whose unique drum groove makes the song. After a short jam, the band moved on to “Bug”, a song that has taken on additional sentimentality since Trey welcomed a young fan to sing it with him in a heart-warming duet.
“Back on the Train” brought the set to a close, perhaps a nod to the fact that the band was back on tour for the first time in several months. The upbeat country rock tune ended the set on a high note, with Trey belting out the final notes before telling the crowd, “Thank you everybody. What a fun night. We’ll see you tomorrow night.”
After Phish returned to the stage for an encore, the crowd cheered in recognition of the opening notes of “Fluffhead”. The composed epic brought the jam-heavy tour opener to a satisfying conclusion. Fish’s vocals on the descending “Bundle of Joy” section were even more demented-sounding than usual before ultimately giving way to the songs triumphant “Fullhead!” climax. And with that, the band bid farewell, until tonight.
Phish returns Climate Pledge Arena for a second round tonight, Saturday, April 14th. From there the band will head down to Berkeley, CA for a two-night stand at Greek Theatre, followed by three nights at Hollywood Bowl. Stream the shows live via LivePhish, or visit the band’s website for tickets.
Setlist [via Phish.net]: Phish | Climate Pledge Arena | Seattle, WA | 4/14/2023
Set 1: Blaze On -> Plasma -> Blaze On, Vultures, Sample in a Jar, Ya Mar (Cyril Ferguson), Steam > My Friend, My Friend > Walls of the Cave > Ghost
Set 2: A Wave of Hope, Bouncing Around the Room, No Men In No Man’s Land -> Golden Age (TV on the Radio), Martian Monster, The Wedge, Bug > Back on the Train
My Friend My Friend did not contain the “Myfe” ending.