Review by Patrick Daley
Originally published in The Glens Falls Chronicle
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
In the opinion of this concert-goer, who attended his 10th Phish show on Wednesday, Oct. 23, here at the Glens Falls Civic Center, the whole feel of that evening was one of contentedness, gratitude, support and deﬁnitely intimacy.
This Glens Falls show was something special for the band, for the Phish community and for Glens Falls.
You could feel it in the buzz before the show.
It was apparent in the thoughtfulness of the songs they chose to play.
Guitarist and singer Trey Anastasio conﬁrmed it in a personal address to the Glens Falls Civic Center audience.
You could even hear it in the musicians’ nerves at the beginning of the concert.
Phish didn’t have to play here.
They typically play arenas three and four times the size of the Civic Center.
But Glens Falls proved that community, care and gratefulness can outweigh ticket sales and bring top-tier artists to town. There’s no place like home.
In a very rare gesture, Mr. Anastasio took the stage at the end of the concert for what appeared to be an impromptu nod to Glens Falls and the Civic Center crowd.
“There are a lot of places we really like to play, but this…,” he started then stopped, clearly speaking off-the-cuff.
Mr. Anastasio held his hands to his heart and thanked the audience.
He spoke of the many friends and family who came out, and how the Civic Center was special to the band because of its proximity to Burlington and because of the time Mr. Anastasio and the band have spent here in upstate New York.
“We were all talking about it backstage,” he said. “Thank you so much, from the depths of our hearts, for having us.”
To be honest, this wasn’t the best concert I’ve heard Phish play, musically speaking. You could hear it especially in the vocals.
They had just played in Rochester the night before. As a musician, I know it can take a little while to warm up during a gig, and I know sometimes you just can’t say what you want to at the time.
It doesn’t mean you don’t try, and that’s what I like about Phish. They make mistakes.
But there was an energy in the room that was special on Wednesday.
It was surreal to walk out of my front door and down Glen Street to the show.
A calm, happy buzz pervaded downtown in anticipation of Phish’s long-awaited return. Live music, food and drink ﬂowed during the overcast, slightly chilly afternoon.
Some 7,500 people lined the Glens Falls Civic Center to witness Phish’s ﬁrst return to Glens Falls since their Halloween night concert here in 1994. Everywhere I looked I found friends I’ve known for 20 years and friends I’ve known for one year, all in synchronicity on this particular night.
Our group headed for the Civic Center around 7:10 p.m., hoping to secure a good viewing point among the 2,000 standing-room-only “seats” ringing the top of the arena.
We quickly realized there were no bad seats. It’s a much smaller venue than most of those that Phish has come to frequent, such as Saratoga Performing Arts Center, with its crowd capacity of 25,000.
Scheduled for 7:30 p.m, the Burlington-bred quartet took the stage around 8:15.
In a nod to the “musical costume” Phish donned here in 1994 (a performance of the Beatles’ White Album in its entirety), the band opened with “Back to the U.S.S.R.,” accompanied by a veritable unanimous scream from the hyped-up audience.
In the Phish community’s pre-concert chatter, many fans had hoped for and correctly predicted a taste of the White Album on Wednesday.
Many moments stood out, but the band took a little while to get rid of the nerves and settle into a comfortable musical interaction. Mr. Anastasio seemed to ﬁnd his ﬁngers during a spot-on rendition of the
The band riddled out a string of favorites including “David Bowie” and “Golgi Apparatus,” the only two non-Beatles songs Phish repeated from their 1994 performance in Glens Falls.
The ﬁrst-set highlight had to have been Mr. Anastasio and fellow members Jon Fishman (drums), Mike Gordon (bass) and Page McConnell (keyboards) singing Richard “Nancy” Wright’s barbershop composition “I Didn’t Know.”
Mr. Anastasio asked, “Is he going to do it?,” referencing Mr. Fishman’s naked romp around the Civic Center stage in 1994.
“They don’t want that,” Mr. Fishman answered.
Instead, the group swung into a trade-mark vacuum solo by Mr. Fishman (yes, on a vacuum cleaner).
Mr. Fishman quickly transitioned then to a perfect drum set introduction to the ﬁery, spooky, rock-barbershop song “Split Open and Melt,” closing the ﬁrst 80-minute set of the night.
The band returned after intermission with a nod to another album they’ve covered on Halloween, the Velvet Underground’s Loaded. Lou Reed’s “Rock & Roll” extended into a 10-minute jam, transitioning into the band’s own “Seven Below.”
They looked comfortable as the jamming kept on with spirited, drawn-out versions of their tunes “Alaska” and “Twist.”
This was certainly a tale of two sets, with songs averaging just over six minutes in the ﬁrst set, and 11 and a half minutes in the second.
The laid-back “Wading in the Velvet Sea” (arguably my least favorite Phish song) occupied the calmest point in the night, before the crowd was snapped out of its trance by the reggae-inﬂected favorite “Harry Hood.”
The band ripped it up on this one, with intense solos on the anthem-like chorus.
“Harry Hood” was what I woke up singing on Thursday morning.
A real surprise — and more evidence of how exceptional this concert was — the band closed their second set with “Chalk Dust Torture.”
The song has all but reserved opening spots in Phish’s sets over recent years. They very rarely use it to close a show. Listening through the band’s archives recently, I caught it as a closer during a 1991
concert and was stirred by the way the song’s impact has changed over the years.
It’s fast, upbeat, danceable, with a chorus that the crowd loves to sing (“Can’t I live while I’m young?”).
Perhaps this was a signal for more from Phish at the Civic Center. Pausing before the last note sounded, Mr. Anastasio called out, “Thanks, everybody! We’ll see you next time!”
This, the band followed with a raucous and intense ﬁnal chord that had the Civic Center fans collectively losing their voices from all of the cheering.
After Mr. Anastasio’s remarks on behalf of the band, Phish nodded once again to the Beatles’ White Album when they ended the night with the George Harrison song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
The evening was a ﬁtting way to mark the 19th anniversary of Phish’s 1994 Halloween concert here, but I truly wonder what I’ll be doing on the 20th…