It has often been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
This was certainly the case at the Pepsi Center in Denver Tuesday night, as the band Phish came back rejuvenated and refreshed after more than a two-and-a-half year hiatus. The band maintained a high energy level throughout the show and managed to create a nice balance between older crowd favorites and new songs from its December release, “Round Room.”
The show attendees also were in good spirits, as most of the sold-out crowd arrived early and stayed for the entire three-and-a-half hour performance.
The highlight of the show was the performance of what many would consider Phish’s signature song, “You Enjoy Myself.” The song was played with a looseness and excitement that wasn’t present in September 2000, the last time Phish came to Denver. It ended with an extravagant light show and segued into an a cappella version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” an early 1960s hit for the Tokens.
Other strong parts of the show included the upbeat funk of “Birds of a Feather” and the structured commotion of “The Divided Sky,” but the band at times seemed hesitant to fully explore the full musical pallet its obvious talent would allow. The set opener, “Runaway Jim,” is often used as a start-off for wild musical exploration, yet it seemed somewhat restrained on Tuesday.
Still, the band showed little rust after the long hiatus. The members, bassist Mike Gordon, guitarist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman and keyboardist Page McConnell, stepped right back into their roles after pursuing other projects during the break.
A bonus for Tuesday’s attendees was the first two-song encore of the winter tour. The band concluded the show with the fast reggae of “NICU” and the goofy “Mexican Cousin,” a song from the new album. While both are solid songs and were played well, the concert’s ending was somewhat anti-climatic, as neither song had the bang with which the band usually ends its shows.
Another bonus for fans is that the band is offering fans a chance to download entire performances from the winter tour, all of which would be available within 48 hours of the performance. The songs can be downloaded from www.livephish.com at a price of $12 for MP3s and $15 for Shorten, a higher-quality format.
Phish has, since the band’s beginning, allowed the audience to tape and trade its shows for free. The downloaded performances will be better quality than bootlegged copies, and the idea is another example of Phish’s dedication to its fans.
Tuesday’s show, while not the most inventive show to date, was filled with energy and strong performances. Most fans left with the feeling that a long lost friend had finally come home.