"Phish is on fire!" someone (who is acutely able to rate such things far better than myself) told me prior to the band's takeover of the Hollywood Bowl on Monday night.
And while the band may not have scorched the Bowl during Monday's summer tour pseudo wrap-up (Phish will return to the stage for three shows near Denver at the end of the month), the guys presented a very solid - albeit somewhat-reserved - musical offering to the exuberant Los Angeles crowd.
Not to be undersold, the band - who was coming off of three straight epic-by-all-accounts nights at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco -- was upbeat and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their second trip to the famed Hollywood venue (their first coming in August 2011) right from the start.
The "AC/DC Bag" > "The Moma Dance" opening combo served as a solid foundation for the show's pre-sunset launch, with the first set also including a handful of Phish standards like "Lawn Boy," "Wolfman's Brother" and "Roses Are Free."
The highlight of the first set came during a rockin' "Scent of a Mule," with an all-band drum solo, featuring drummer Jon Fishman playing Mike Gordon's bass with a pair of mallets, while keyboardist Page McConnell and frontman Trey Anastasio took over the drum kit in Fishman's stead.
The show's lone tour debut came with a first-set-closing cover of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," much to the delight of the nearly 20,000 fans in attendance.
Trey's opening riff to "Chalk Dust Torture" always serves as an energized get-back-to-your-seat-announcement out of any set break. Consensus seems to be that usual fan favorites "Birds of a Feather" and "Down With Disease" felt a bit abbreviated, though the band certainly made up for it with a 23-minute spirited "Harry Hood," the show's definitive high point.
"Character Zero" is rarely my song of choice, but it's loud enough to close out a second set the right way, before the band departed and then quickly returned to the stage for a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup" as the encore.
Any hopes for a not-so-out-of-the-ordinary double encore were squashed, perhaps thanks to the Hollywood Bowl's notorious curfew.
As the capper to their 22-shows-in-34-nights summer tour run, no one would blame the band if fatigue had set in a bit prior to their show at the Hollywood Bowl. But while it may not have been one of their most memorable concerts, as the lights came on, there were smiles a plenty from the throngs of fans as they made their way to the exit.
Overall, it was a solid performance from the band, reciprocated with an outpouring of appreciation from the boisterous Bowl crowd. And with the show marking the band's third straight August trip to Los Angeles, here's looking forward to Phish's "HollyHood" invasion in 2014!
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