Phish spring tour continued on Monday evening with the band’s first of three shows at the historic William Randolph Hearst Theatre in Berkeley, CA. The band’s early start time (just a hair ahead of 6:40 p.m. Pacific Time) paid dividends for attendees and streamers alike, providing attendees ample time to experience the grandeur of the palatial, 120-year-old amphitheater in the evening light and giving the East Coast crowd a fighting chance of making it past set break without dozing off on the couch. Those who did were rewarded with improvisational riches: a four-song second set featuring a “Tweezer” > “Simple” combo that stretched to over an hour in length.
Phish’s first trip back to Berkeley’s Greek Theatre in nearly 13 years started strong with perennial opener “The Curtain With” before the band opted for a rare daylight-hours rendition of utility jam vehicle “Carini”. While the textured rendition would hold up based on musical merits alone, it served a more poignant purpose as an homage to the late Tim “Frenchie” Gazaille, who passed away this week after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Phish – “The Curtain With” [Pro-Shot] – 4/17/23
While his name may be new to many fans, Gazaille lore has been tied to Phish’s last three “Carinis”. During last summer’s Dick’s run, Frenchie made an impression on the band and its fans when he remained on the field—in just his boots—long after the area was temporarily evacuated due to inclement weather, prompting cheers from thousands in the stands as he let the rain wash over him. The following night, Trey Anastasio altered the lyrics to a show-opening “Carini” to “I saw you with Carini and that naked dude, at least he had some boots.”
Then, on New Year’s Eve at Madison Square Garden, an army of Frenchie-inspired “Naked Dudes” popped out of the band’s 40th birthday cake as a roaring “Carini” took the crowd into the first moments of 2023. In a post-show note about the #Phish40 New Year’s gag, Anastasio sent the band’s love to Gazaille: “Lastly, we want to thank the star of the show Frenchie (aka The Naked Guy) from Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Frenchie, we heard that you are going through a serious health journey, and we want to send our love and best wishes to you.”
Related: Beloved Phish Fan Tim “Frenchie” Gazaille, A.K.A. Naked Guy, Has Died
At the Greek, following the news of Frenchie’s passing, Trey slipped in a somber nod to the late Naked Guy as the song got going: “One for Frenchie here,” he noted. “One for Frenchie.” Rest easy, Frenchie. Thank you for the memories.
📸 Rene Huemer pic.twitter.com/Pa1NuVDslv
— Phish: From The Road (@Phish_FTR) April 18, 2023
Set one moved on in solid if relatively uneventful fashion with “All of These Dreams”, “Stash”, and “Halfway To The Moon” before Mike Gordon led a take on his new(ish) solo tune, “Mull”. While Phish has been playing the tune since 2021, Gordon’s studio single for the track was just released, and that take’s fuzz-rock energy seemed to rub off here. A plucky “Undermind” and an always-welcome “Theme From The Bottom” finally ushered in the intermission as the final rays of sun faded from the Berkeley sky.
Phish – “My Soul” [Pro-Shot] – 4/17/23
After returning to the stage with a quick shot of “My Soul”, Phish dove into “Tweezer” and never looked back. There’s plenty you could say about this behemoth trip into the freezer. You could talk about its length—its 44-minute runtime makes it the longest “Tweezer” since the summer of 1995 and among the lengthiest jams in the band’s career overall. You could talk about the Greek-appropriate Monty Python’s Life of Brian Julius Caesar vocal samples Jon Fishman peppered in throughout the voyage (“Stwike him, Centuwion, vewy woughly“). You could mention that strange, balancing-bars percussion instrument Gordon used to add waves and wobbles to the deep, percolating sounds after a late pass back through the “Tweezer” theme (what is that thing?), or Jon Fishman‘s textural contributions on the Marimba Lumina, or any of the other novel low-end effects laced through the pulsing melodies.
You could fill scrolls with descriptive language about groupthink and telepathy, darkness and light, meditation and exploration, but you couldn’t sum up the aura of the Greek “Tweezer” better than Trey himself did during a pre-tour interview with Ari Fink on SiriusXM‘s Phish Radio: During a conversation about improvising, the guitarist explained, “I think, from my experience playing improvisational music, that 100% of the goal is to not use your mind. It’s like, your mind is a tool. Are you capable of putting it down?” For three-quarters of an hour on a Monday evening at the Greek, these four longtime cohorts put their minds aside, listened closely, and delivered an astounding feat of collective creativity.
The band’s eagerness to surrender to the flow poured over into the nearly 20-minute “Simple” that followed, the high-tech “Charlie Brown t-shirt” squiggle of the fixed-truss lighting setup providing enthralling contrast to the architectural antiquity of the stage. Page McConnell asserted himself here to push the narrative into full “evil” territory before locking in with an unrelenting Fishman on an electric piano groove. Trey grabbed the baton next, employing a shower of melodic phrases and pretty, major motifs before the darkness gurgled and glitched in once again en route to a cavernous, echoing rock climax. The “Rock and Roll” landing pad was the icing on this Emperor-sized cake, one last blast of ferocity to round out this monumental Monday night.
Phish – “Tweezer” (partial) > “Simple” – 4/17/23
[Video: Chris Connelly]
A sweet, sincere “Miss You”—perhaps another nod to Frenchie—and a snarling “Sand” finally brought the evening to a close. With two more nights at the Greek this week and a three-night stand at Hollywood Bowl set for this weekend, Phish seems poised to ride this momentum to untold heights on this brief Spring tour.
Check out a gallery of photos from the show below via Peter Wallace. Phish returns to the Greek on Tuesday and Wednesday to complete the three-night stint in Berkeley. 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.
Setlist [via Phish.net]: Phish | William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre | Berkeley, CA | 4/17/23
Set One: The Curtain With, Carini -> All of These Dreams, Stash, Halfway to the Moon, Mull > Undermind, Theme From the Bottom
Set Two: My Soul > Tweezer > Simple > Rock and Roll (The Velvet Underground)
Encore: Miss You, Sand
The Curtain With was performed for the first time since June 30, 2019 (117 shows). During Carini, Trey mentioned Frenchie (Tim Gazaille), a fan who had passed away the previous day.
Phish | William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre | Berkeley, CA | 4/17/23 | Photos: Peter Wallace