Remember those sweet, innocent days before oil blackened the dangerously fragmenting sea floor? When parodying arena rock seemed edgy? When the economy boomed? Before adulthood had plied its tender hands around your free time, robbing you of the endless, blank vistas to be filled with long car rides to red states, tall lemonades on the porch and 6-foot bong hits from a tube your roommate named "Schwagzilla"? Phish might be the time machine to turn an evening at Walnut Creek into one of the more lovely of the summer, then—well, that or drugs.
Since their return early last year, Phish's playing has evoked freshly cut glass, or the chemical version of it, with guitarist Trey Anastasio's 20-year-old set pieces unfolding with the careful, dense playfulness with which they were written. The quartet's improvisation comes anchored by close, warm listening. There are new songs, some fresh gimmicks (maybe Page'll play a keytar), a few surprising covers (so far this tour: Rita Clark and the Naturals, Tom Waits), craziness (in Hartford and Saratoga Springs, four "Tweezer reprises") and at least three hours spent roaming the green, rolling hills of the mind, alive. —Jesse Jarnow