[Thank you Dianna Hank user @Dianna_2Ns for recapping last night's tour-opening show. -Ed.]
Last night, Phish returned to The Wharf Amphitheater in Orange Beach, Alabama, to kick off their 2022 Summer Tour. This was the band’s second ever visit to The Wharf Amphitheater (the first being for a one-night stand at the venue, eight years ago on 8/1/2014), and only the 13th time the band has ever played in the state. Lights went down shortly after 8 PM and for the first time in the song’s history, “Twist” took the show-opening slot, getting right into the meat of the tune within three minutes and leading into 10+ more minutes of exploratory playing. While the jam felt to have been cut slightly shorter than it could’ve been, the band returned back to the "Twist" lyrics cleanly and finished the tune. “Halley’s Comet” followed and the band showed that perhaps they were a little overeager with that choice, forgetting almost an entire verse before cutting the diddy even shorter than usual with less than one minute of “jam” before segueing into “Sand.” Hopes again rose for a nice 1st-set jam out of this consistent jam vehicle, and the band delivered: Again, within three minutes, we found ourselves in a nice groovy pocket, and the four then continued to interplay with one another for another seven minutes of interesting and efficient playing, before sticking the landing and returning to the outro together.
Trey thanked the audience before Page came out from behind the piano to speak with Trey, presumably to request the following number. Trey told the audience how lovely we all looked, before introducing his friend, Page McConnell, and then the band launced into “The Old Home Place.” More forgotten lyrics occurred but to no one’s concern, as this uncommon tune felt appropriate for our current locale.
“Martian Monster” showed up for the first time this year and the crowd went wild. Page laid pretty heavily on the samples in this one but in a tasteful way, working with Trey and his new effects to create a genuinely spooky space place that gained some traction before dissolving shortly thereafter. “Dog Stole Things” came next, its first appearance since “the animals show” in Vegas on 10/30/21. This gritty, bluesy rarity also felt appropriate for Alabama. A standard “Halfway to The Moon” then gave way to a dark and dirty “Stash,” definitely a highlight of the set, and probably even the show. The band appeared to be quite tight and connected as they worked their way through it, returning to the outro together and culminating as one. “Shade” provided us with a delicate breather after the heat that “Stash” had brought, and then the band got right back into it with “I Never Needed You Like This Before.” Often relatively short and sweet, this number still packs a punch with no-frills intensity, and this version was no different. While some may have thought the set would be over after it, some of us knew better, sensing “Bathtub Gin” before it even arrived. Closing the 1st set for the 1st time since Sunday night of Dick’s last year, this Phish classic delivered the goods, as always. Trey left space in the jam for both Mike and Page to step up to the plate and shine for a bit, and a blissful-but-driving groove transpired. Beautifully jubilant peaks were hit as well, as Trey attempted to wrangle the band back to the outro of the song, only somewhat successfully. Nonetheless, this crowd-favorite closed the set well, leaving folks with smiles on their faces, grateful for the band’s return while simultaneously anxiously awaiting what was in store for us in set two.
The second set opened with “Llama,” the first time the tune had served as a Set Two opener since 7/13/2003 at The Gorge. Presented in the "slow and funky style," this groove got booties shaking and hips moving, before another show highlight and the longest jam of the night occurred: “Soul Planet.” Ridiculous lyrics aside, this song has become quite the dependable jam vehicle in recent history, so its appearance so early in the second set got folks hopeful for something BIG, and they were rewarded with a 17+ minute rollercoaster ride of a jam. Page and Trey played together in the darkness, as Fish and Mike drove the groove onward. Fish sprinkled “Ha, Ha!” samples throughout the jam as well, along with what sounded possibly like inverted narration samples from “Chilling, Thrilling” from Page, before Trey began repeating “Quadrophonic Toppling” and yodeling. [Editor's Note: The Siket Disc version of "Quadrophonic Toppling" has never been performed on stage by Phish. It should never have been noted formally in the Big Cypress setlist.] Trey's vocal repetition of "Quadrophonic Toppling" and yodeling over improvisation by all lasted for a little over a minute, before the band returned to finish “Soul Planet.”
An at-times hauntingly beautiful while simultaneously funky-and-dancey “Ghost” followed, which is definitely worth revisiting. It packed a lot of good stuff into just under 14 minutes. The jam then dissolved into the “Scents and Subtle Sounds” intro, much to the crowd’s delight. This gorgeously ethereal song provided a gentle tenderness before seguing very smoothly into the much more energetic “Chalk Dust Torture.” Its jam launched off into space. took some unexpected twists and turns, and kept the crowd on their toes. Bringing more to the table than most probably expected, this Chalk Dust clocked-in at just over 17 minutes of weird, fast-paced rock and roll, and was surprisingly energetic given the point in the night in which it was performed. The band returned to finish the song before launching into Phish’s cover of crowd sing-along “Loving Cup” to close the second set, giving folks some time to revel in the delight of what they had just heard – a great set from start to finish.
The band returned to the stage and broke into the sweet and pretty “Waste,” before sending folks off with a bang as “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” ended the show. Overall, a very solid showing for the first night of tour. Several jams to revisit, a few rarities, and generally tight and clean playing from everyone involved. Very much looking forward to what’s in store for these next two nights down in Alabama!