Earlier this week, Rolling Stone listed the 50 Greatest Live Acts performing today. While a number of entries weren’t even close to shocking (e.g. the Boss, McCartney, and U2), one surprise was how many others beat out Phish. Now because I a.) adore Phish and b.) have a crunchy New England background, you might say my opinion is slightly biased. Im not trying to claim Phish is a better band than, say, the Black Keys, or Rage Against the Machine, or Dave Mathews Band, but I certainly thought their live show surpassed a number of entries. For those who agree, thanks. For those rolling their eyes, allow me to explain my stance.
Phish have been around for roughly 30 years now, and show no signs of slowing down. Five-year breakup aside, they still take the stage with a sense of musicianship and charisma that a lot of bands just dont have anymore. Trey Anastasios guitar solos soar like a hawk in the Vermont Mountains and Page McConnells piano work sounds more majestic than ever. Their song choices are always so left field that you never know what they’ll play; its not like your modern rock band’s set list that remains stagnant with a curveball here and there. Phishs sets are far less rehearsed, but simultaneously better performed. Its a weird sort of paradox that can only be explained in the live setting.
Last night the band kicked off their three-night run at San Franciscos Bill Graham Civic Center, and they started things off fantastically. To try and get this across those outside of fandom, here are five reasons any Phish show you’ll see will immediately outrank the majority of shows from your past.