Monday, July 27, 2015

Concert review: Phish fry at the Fabulous Forum

This is an extended version of my concert review originally posted on The Orange County Register Web site on Sunday, July 26, 2015. A special "thank you" to Kelly A. Swift for the use of her photos taken at the performance at The Forum on Saturday, July 25, 2015…

Trey Anastasio of Phish performing at The Forum on July 25, 2015. Photo: Kelly A. Swift 
Where: The Forum in Inglewood
When: July 25, 2015

Much was made of a recent trio of high-profile "Fare Thee Well" shows where the surviving core members of the Grateful Dead joined Trey Anastasio of Phish and singer-pianist Bruce Hornsby to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead. But watching Phish perform Saturday night (July 25, 2015) before a near-capacity Forum that clocked in at nearly three hours was to confirm that the late Jerry Garcia's wide-ranging spirit has long thrived in the capable genre-blending hands of the Dead's most noteworthy musical descendants. 
Trey Anastasio, left, and Mike Gordon on July 25,
2015. Photo: Kelly A. Swift

Formed back in 1983, the Burlington, Vermont-spawned Phish has long secured its staying power. The enduring line-up of the aforementioned Anastasio (guitars, lead vocals), Mike Gordon (bass, lead and backing vocals), Jon Fishman (drums, backing vocals) and Page McConnell (keyboards, backing vocals) offered up a winning brew of rock, funk, jazz-rock, psychedelia, Celtic, jam rock and folk rock in what often felt like a Dead show (including the ancillary add-ons such as tie dye and '60s-styled attire).

No mere Dead impersonator, Phish-heads were treated to a long night of original material that touched on all periods of the band's two-part run (the group was on hiatus from August 2004 to March 2009) while the hazy skies above the floor were filled with floating beach balls and a parade of thrown glow sticks. A dazzling range of multi-colored lights emanated from above and behind the stage further adding to the experience.

Phish was on fire most of the night, notably with the 10-minute "Down With Disease" that started with heavy bass but soon morphed into an extended sortie allowing for intricate interplay between all four instruments and some sweet three-part vocal harmonies. At one point during his virtuoso-worthy guitar solo, Anastasio began jumping up and down in excitement as the multi-generation crowd cheered.

After the relatively hard-rocking "Down With Disease," Phish shifted sonic gears and performed the lovely "Waiting All Night," a jazz-tinged song that was nuanced throughout.
The first half of the show ended with a dazzling one-two punch of the jam rock-powered title track off the band's latest studio disc (2014's wonderful "Fuego") and subsequent 2002 gem "Walls of the Cave."

The second half of the concert was even more intense, with Phish performing forceful versions of a new song "No Men in No Man's Land" (complete with an expansive psychedelic-minded guitar solo), as well as classics such as the hard-rocking "Carini" (bolstered by a dueling guitar and keyboard solo), funky "Tweezer" and "Slave to the Traffic Light" (a song that somehow blended a myriad of subtle styles during its prolonged run).

The band's 20-minute encore included the crowd favorite "You Enjoy Yourself" complete with the winning live attraction known as "The Rotation Jam" where each member would briefly perform another member's instrument. And, yes, Gordon and Anastasio used the live standout to astound with their ability to complete intricate choreography while jumping on their mini-trampolines.

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