For a pretty accurate song by song (or thereabouts) account of the show, check out Mr. Miner’s thoughts or check out this review from Jambase. I think they are pretty on target, which is not always the case with reviews of Phish. One either gets the “this show changed my life!!!” to “this show totally sucked! Phish completely let me down, I deserved better for all of my devotion. See you at the next show.” I’ll mention a song or two, sure, but it’s about much more than the set list.
First, not only my first concert at Toyota Park, but first time for anything and I’ll gladly go back. Looking at the seating and how it shapes up for a soccer match, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Some are better than others but the viewer is so close to the action that one gets a fair seat no matter what. For the concert I had general admission which put me on the field and I managed to get pretty close by the second set. It’s not only the seating that is appealing about the part, however. The food was AWESOME! It may rival US Cellular Field, with fewer choices. I was famished by the time I got to the show and as I walked in I was greeted with the sweet smell of peppers and onions frying on a grill. And not just green peppers dear reader, oh no, but a beautiful mix of red, green and yellow with onions giving a fantastic presentation at a venue where you wouldn’t expect it. This lovely mélange of peppers and onions was used on top of hot links, bratwursts, hot dogs, and steak sandwiches. I couldn’t pass up the hot link and was not disappointed. The bun was soft, peppers as you’d expect delicious, and the link was well grilled with just enough “snap” left to make it really satisfying. The first set of the show actually started but I was enjoying my snack so much I just took my time and moseyed down to the floor a little later. I did not partake in all of the food I saw, (though the Templeton song from Charlotte’s Web was going through my mind) but the choices were bountiful. A wonderful looking barbeque area, a burrito and fajita station, and soft serve ice cream. They also had pretty normal fare, dogs, nachos, pretzels, and the ubiquitous Connie’s Pizza. I’m not a fan of their stadium pizza, but whatever.
As far as the rest of the Toyota Park experience, plenty of bathrooms, great walk ways (except for up and down from the field) and security was pretty good. I did see a pretty vicious of take down by security, but other than that they were very cool and for all I know the guy (it’s always a guy isn’t it) was doing something he shouldn’t. Also for a stadium, the sound was quite good, Hell it was better than the lawn at Alpine Valley which bills itself as a music theatre. Only two complaints: location and ticket office. Toyota Park is far, FAR from home. If I drove it wouldn’t have quite so bad but it’s still way the hell out there and by the look of it a pain to park at. The second complaint is about the ticket office which really is just one person in particular. To put it bluntly, the guy was a prick. Because of FedEx screwing up my ticket order, I had to use will call at the show. The service rep wasn’t just uninformed, but a smart ass and rude. The minute I showed up at the window the guy started giving me attitude and did nothing to help solve the mystery of the location of my ticket. After I told him how unhelpful he was, the twenty year old supervisor, which probably made the 50-something prick a bit resentful, was extremely helpful, understood the situation and produced my ticket in a matter of minutes.
Oh, yeah the show. A good, solid show but nothing to write home about I’m afraid. The opening song often portends things to come and in this case, a middling number, Kill Devil Falls. It’s an ok song, but compared to the Punch You In The Eye of Alpine earlier in the summer, it was just blah. Overall, the first set was quite tame with no real jam song, which is usually the high point of any set, especially if you go with the set=suite model of looking at a show. It was nice to hear Paul and Silas and The Curtain With but the attempts to make Ocelot a “jump off” song don’t seem to be going well. I think there are times when the band wants a song to turn into an exploratory song, a jam song, but they crowd just isn’t buying it. Time Turns Elastic also fits in this sort of dichotomy as well. It is a well composed song, but the fans just don’t seem that into it. I was amazed at how many people were heading to the bathroom the minute this song started.
The second set started with a catchy new song and it’s nice to see it getting stretched out. Though the band might not feel the same way, Backwards Down the Number Line might be the breakout song of 2009. Unfortunately, much like the first set, the second set felt very shoehorned all things considered. Backwards was cruising along in a great groove, when almost inexplicably Trey busts out Carini. Huh? I was in a great spot for the second set and could see the band just cracking up during this song, so I’m guessing there was some kind of inside joke going on, fun to see but not much to listen to, especially when I was getting my schwerve on during Backward. Sadly, nothing else really let loose the rest of the set, Gotta Jibboo, which I love, was jettisoned rather quickly for Theme from the Bottom and the Harry Hood was very, VERY average. That’s probably the best way to sum up the show, very average. It’s obvious we got the “filler show” of the tour, as others have stated, but hey, that happens. They can’t all melt my face off