Phish's show in Portsmouth was full of surprises

Bruce SpringsteenClearwater (Pinellas, Florida)Father's DayTrey AnastasioPhish (music group)

It looks like Portsmouth is gaining a reputation as a great place to see a Phish show.

The band's return to the nTelos Pavilion at Harbor Center on Sunday, June 19, was described as something special by Phish heads, who traveled from far and near to dance and sway to epic guitar jams and funky grooves.

Sunday's show started with a surprise. After the band ambled on stage and guitarist Trey Anastasio started the spoken intro to the song "Harpua," the fathers of all four band members stepped into the spotlight, each delivering a line from the song. The crowd loved it.

After that Father's Day treat, the band shifted into the tune "Brother" during which young children of the band members were planted in tub at the front of the stage -- all outfitted with ear-protecting headphones.

Elsewhere, the band's first set was packed with upbeat blues-inflected grooves ("Down with Disease," "Back on the Train") and some hard-hitting funk ("The Moma Dance," "Tube").

Another surprise was a tribute to Bruce Springsteen sax man Clarence Clemons, who died Saturday. Phish played a fairly straightforward (and somewhat sloppy) version of Springteen's classic "Thunder Road" with Anastasio mirroring Clemons dramatic horn lines on guitar.

As the first set drew to a close, several Phish fans told me the band was flying high. "Their musicianship is out of this world," said Gabe Gilbert, a 26-year-old fan from Hampton. "The way they can play off each other endlessly."

Rob Landry, 33, of Clearwater, Fla., told me the show had been more than worth the trip. "Seeing their dads come out, you don't get more special than that," Landry said. Hearing "Harpua" was particularly great, he said. Landry has been seeing Phish shows since 1995 and over about 60 concerts, he'd never heard the band play that song. "I've been chasing that song for years," he said. "It's been incredible."

Chris Flores, a Phish fan and former Daily Press reporter, said that Sunday's first set was truly unusual.

"It's been really weird in a really good way," Flores said.

Here's the night's setlist courtesy of the official Phish website.

Set One:

Harpua

Brother

Down with Disease

Back on the Train

Funky Bitch

Timber

The Wedge

The Moma Dance

Thunder Road

Tube

Alaska

David Bowie

Set Two:

Crosseyed and Painless

Walls of the Cave >

Slave to the Traffic Light

Fluffhead

Sand

Sneakin’ Sally Thru the Alley >

Light >

Backwards Down The Number Line

Suzy Greenberg

 ENCORE

Julius

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