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Phish Break Out Rarities, Free-Form Improv at Second Hampton Gig

March 8, 2009 2:57 PM ET

If Phish's first show of their three-night reunion run at Hampton Coliseum was all about getting back into the swing of things, then the band's second night was all about doing what they do best: cutting loose with some exploratory free-form improvisation. Phish's four-hour Saturday set was dappled with killer stretched-out jams, including a soaring "Reba," an amped-up "Birds of a Feather" and lots of rarities ("It's Ice," "Halley's Comet" and "Gumbo"). It's a testament to Phish's ability to get a crowd whipped into a frenzy (not to mention their talents as songwriters) when one of their best live tunes — the slow-building "Piper" — is simply six chords repeated over and over.

Phish's second set was easily the best one out of their three-night run so far (some of us unfortunately had jobs to go back to on Monday.) After kicking things off with a cover of the Velvet Underground's "Rock & Roll" — complete with guitarist Trey Anastasio's anthemic guitar soloing and, later, a quieter, impressionistic groove — Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon, drummer Jon Fishman and keyboardist Page McConnell brought the heat with the future-funk number "Ghost," "Piper" and "Birds of a Feather." But "Wolfman's Brother" was the best of the night: a slow-dripping acid-funk groove that featured Anastasio, Gordon and McConnell playing so many perfectly intertwined staccato notes, you couldn't tell who was playing what. This was Phish at their finest. (Check out photos of the Vermont jam legends' long career.)

Other highlights included a smiling McConnell stepping out from behind his rig to croon the cocktail-lounge number "Lawn Boy" and the closing cover of the Beatles' "A Day In The Life," which built into a cacaphanous explosion of noise that would rival, say, a My Bloody Valentine concert.

Hampton Coliseum — referred to by fans as "the mothership," since its design eerily resembles some sort of weird unidentified flying object — is a general admission venue. So fans lined up hours beforehand to get first dibs at the best seats. But it didn't really matter: the venue still had an intimate vibe to it. As one fan remarked to a pal during set break: "There isn't a bad seat in the house."

Set One
"Back On The Train"
"Runaway Jim"
"Brian & Robert"
"Split Open and Melt"
"Heavy Things"
"Punch You In The Eye"
"Gumbo"
"Reba"
"Mexican Cousin"
"It's Ice"
"Halley's Comet"
"Beauty of a Broken Heart"
"Guelah Papyrus"
"Lawn Boy"
"Run Like An Antelope"

Set Two
"Rock & Roll"
"Limb by Limb"
"Story of the Ghost"
"Piper"
"Birds of a Feather"
"Wolfman's Brother"
"Prince Caspian"
"Mike's Song"
"I Am Hydrogen"
"Weekapaug Groove"
"Character Zero"

Encore
"A Day in the Life"

Related Stories:

Phish Rip Through Fan Favorites at First Hampton Reunion Show
Phish Fans Furious As Live Nation Fails First Major Ticketing Test
Video: Phish Perform "Fluffhead" At Clifford Ball

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Song Stories

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

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