When Phish took the stage Friday night for the first of a three-night run at Bridgestone Arena, it marked the first time the band had visited Music City since 2021’s return summer tour. This show was also notable as Phish’s 2,000th, a factoid bassist Mike Gordon acknowledged in an Instagram story.
“Thanks for coming along that ride,” said the bassist, who with guitarist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman and chairman of the (key)board Page McConnell, formed the quartet in 1983 in Burlington, Vermont.
And what a ride it’s been.
The crowd met the fall tour opener with notably jubilant energy as the band launched into a rollicking “Julius,” which was last played as an opener almost a year ago at MGM Grand. McConnell played the keys with enough energy to match the crowd.
The band next took “Back on the Train” for a 10-minute ride before pausing for a breath, eventually settling on a sloppily started “Moma Dance.” The band eventually settled into a groove and further got it together for “Axilla I.” Anastasio also looped in elements of “Axilla II.” “It’s like the best of both worlds,” the frontman joked. “You know this one and the other one.”
The song moved into an always-welcome weird territory with some spacey keyboard work from McConnell. Fishman soon tapped out the intro to “Maze,” which was appropriately dark but marked by raspy vocals from Anastasio, who had plenty of energy to rip through the song at an aggressive pace. The band further found its groove during a nearly 11-minute “Wolfman’s Brother.” Next came a punchy “My Soul,” followed by a somewhat meandering journey through the once-rare but always-fun “Destiny Unbound.” Reliable closer “Character Zero” wrapped up set one.
Phish came out swinging for set two with a super-psychedelic but pretty “Gotta Jibboo,” which they drew into a terrific jam that effortlessly flowed into “Oblivion,” a song Phish first launched this summer at Orion Amphitheater. “Oblivion” would serve as the night’s longest song at 22 minutes, and featured patient beats from Fishman and trippy synth from McConnell.
The band eased out of “Oblivion” into the first “Torn and Frayed” since it was played at the Gorge in 2021 to mark the passing of Stones drummer Charlie Watts. The crowd cheered at the lyrics “They’re a bag of nerves on first nights,” perhaps acknowledging (and forgiving) a few kerfuffles throughout the night that only the band’s obsessive fan base would notice. A lovely version of “Light” bled into a deep, dark “Fuego,” which led flawlessly into “S.A.N.T.O.S.” to close the second set.
The band wasn’t done with the crowd yet and returned for a more than 20-minute, three-song encore that started with “Bouncing,” followed by “46 Days.” The band capped off the night with a first patient, then rocking, “Antelope.” Fishman’s aggressive drum and cymbal work drove Anastasio to dust off his best metal impression. It was a fine end to the first show of what should be an exciting three-night run.
Is it too on the nose to predict “2001” for the band’s 2,001st show?