HENRY DILTZ, AFP/Getty Images When Rhode Island's Newport Jazz Festival…
- Posted on Jun 18th 2012 6:35PM by Benjy Eisen
Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images
After an opening night whose merits were hotly debated among fans, Phish played their strongest show on Saturday night when they were able to let loose and let the jams lead them to some interesting corners of the improvisational rock universe. They opened up the second set with a cover of the Talking Heads' "Crosseyed and Painless," and then spontaneously weaved its chorus into jams during several songs that followed. At one point, they even stacked bits of "Crosseyed" on top of their original tune, "Light," after first taking the song through an impromptu detour that included their rare take on Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca."
And while no brand new songs were busted out for the start of the summer season, Phish did offer standout versions of several of their classic improvisational vehicles at various points throughout the run, including "Birds of a Feather," "Piper" and "Sand," all of which were different from any version they've ever performed before, reinforcing their newly re-energized dedication to reinterpreting songs -- even often played ones -- differently every time, as they became widely known for in the 1990s.
They also dipped liberally into their canon of cover material, running through selections by the Beatles ("A Day in the Life"), Bob Dylan ("Quinn the Eskimo"), Led Zeppelin ("Good Times, Bad Times"), Ween ("Roses Are Free"), the Who ("Drowned") and Stevie Wonder ("Boogie on Reggae Woman") among others.
On Sunday night, after pointing out that three Phish songs all end with an unsettling high-pitched laugh, frontman Trey Anastasio suggested that when Metallica take over the same field next week, they should add the same laugh to the ending of "Master of Puppets." If the audience could get a petition going, Anastasio joked, maybe Metallica would actually do it. Of course, it's probably not going to happen but that didn't stop a field full of Phish fans from entertaining the possibility.