Phish @ Alpine Valley June 20-21, 2009
Fresh off the heels of their first Bonnaroo performance, and still rolling on the steam from their Fenway Park debut, the unrivaled kings of the jam scene brought the first leg of their summer tour to a dramatic close with two nights of spectacular performances at Alpine Valley this weekend. There were some signs of rust during the earlier shows of this tour, their first in five years, but as their playing got tighter, they developed a newfound sense of swagger that left these Alpine shows virtually flawless.
Opening Saturday night's first set with the tightly composed "Punch You in the Eye," followed by the sing-along friendly "Runaway Jim," while showcasing their onstage chemistry, the band made it clear early on they intended the weekend to be special. Sporting a grin from ear to ear, guitarist Trey Anastasio instructed the sold-out crowd of 40,000 to "set the gearshift for the high gear of your soul!" before launching into the climax of "Run Like an Antelope."
Saturday night also marked the return of the infamous trampolines to Alpine, as Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon got the crowd fired up with their synchronized dance moves during "You Enjoy Myself."
A few special guests took the stage during Sunday's surprise show opener "Brother," which the band hadn't played live since 2003. All seven of the band's children were placed in a tub at the front of the stage in honor of Father's Day, as a nod to the lyrics "Somebody is jumping in the tub with your brother." A tenacious fan in the first few rows had his sign request honored, when Anastasio acknowledged him and said, "You've been holding that up for two days now; your arms must be tired," before launching into the Son Seals jam "Funky Bitch."
Sunday's cover-heavy second set kicked off with a long-overdue version of the Talking Heads' "Crosseyed & Painless," a song that many were hoping to catch at last week's Bonnaroo festival, where hopes of a David Byrne collaboration failed to materialize.
The encore of Edgar Winter's iconic 1972 instrumental, "Frankenstein," killed any remaining doubts fans might have had about the reunion. Featuring Anastasio on a five-necked guitar, Page McConnell on Keytar, and Gordon on his brand-new "inferno" bass, this showstopper confirmed that the band is once again firing on all cylinders.