ATLANTIC CITY — The Vermont-based quartet Phish made their concert debut Friday at Boardwalk Hall and demonstrated all the qualities that made them the most popular jam band to come onto the scene since the 1980s.
Their concert lasted two-and-a-half hours, with breaks between the first and second sets, and the second set and encore.
They give their fans twice as much music compared to most groups for a ticket price less than $100, and their eclectic blend of folk, jazz, pop, country, bluegrass and rock would be difficult for others to duplicate, and most of it has a groove behind it to keep people dancing all night long.
Their concert featured epic jamming, especially on second set closer "Fluffhead," from 1989. The solos from lead guitarist Trey Anastasio range from rocking on "46 Days" to the spacey on the tune "Ocelot," from their newest studio "Joy," released last year.
Most bands couldn't play a Rolling Stones song better than the legendary band, but Phish has made the Stones tune "Loving Cup," the encore song that closed the Friday concert, their own. Their fans sing along as lustily as if it were one of their own classics.
Phish is the first band to sell out Boardwalk Hall for three nights since the arena reopened after its renovation in 2001. Friday's show was the first of a three-night engagement at the hall. Each night, which includes tonight and Sunday, more than 14,000 people will be packed into the hall.
Based on opening night, it looks as if everyone is out to have a good time, possibly mellowed out by the marijuana smoke. Even lines are long to go to the bathroom and to buy refreshments during the breaks in the music. Giant balloons bounced above the heads of people on the floor, and glow sticks flew in every direction.
Fans stood and danced on the floor from beginning to end.
Keyboardist Page McConnell, Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman were situated straight across the stage from left to right, and all members took turns singing lead with Anastasio handling most of them.
For people who never saw the group until it played here, the devotion of their fans was apparent right from the start.
When Anastasio sang the line, "Let's get this show on the road," during "AC/DC Bag," the concert's second song, the crowd let out a big cheer. Fans danced up a storm during this early concert highlight that featured an Anastasio solo with the lights matching the intensity by increasingly flashing as the song reached its crescendo.
Phish also is known for doing cover versions of other songs, and they went straight from one of their better known songs, "The Moma Dance," into "Cities" by the New York New Wave group the Talking Heads from 1979.
If composer David Byrne himself had walked into the hall, he wouldn't have recognized the spacey keyboard-led section that the band added to the song at the end.
For people who live locally and waited to see the band in their backyard, Friday was a day that almost never came. After forming in 1983, Phish took a break in 2000. After a two-year hiatus, they regrouped in 2002 and carried on for another two years until they broke up in 2004.
Phish reunited last year.
"It was awesome. Phish has been killing it every single time since they have been back. This is a perfect example of what happens," said Taraleigh Weathers, 33, of Burlington, Vt., who has seen the group live about 100 times since 1995.
Phish made their concert debut here Friday, but Anastasio played previously in the resort on Dec. 30 and 31, 2006 at the House of Blues in Showboat Casino-Hotel.
The band started its fall tour Oct. 10 in Colorado. The shows here are the final three concerts of a 15-date tour.
Phish will do a New Year's run of five shows from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1 in Massachusetts and New York, which ends with three shows at Madison Square Garden, including performances on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
Prior to the shows this weekend, the closest Phish came to Atlantic, Cape and Cumberland counties was the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, where the group played two shows in June on its summer tour.
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