Feb. 5th, 1993: Roseland Ballroom, New York NY

This show kicks off the first multi-night run of tour and features Phish playing in the heart of New York City, a city that will become a second home for the band by the end of the decade as they claim Madison Square Garden as their own. For now, we find ourselves in the more humble domain of the Roseland Ballroom. “Llama” kicks off the affair and is well executed with the band sounding together from the beginning. There are not many songs that can start a night with more energy than a fast “Llama” can. “Guelah” follows and makes for a good 1-2 punch, providing a more mellow counterpoint to the frantic “Llama.” “Rift” is nothing remarkable and rounds out the opening trio of well-played compositions.

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Nothing gets me off quite like a dark and wild, psychedelic “Split Open and Melt,” so I’m thrilled to see the first “Melt” of tour up next. Unfortunately, this one is kept on a very tight leash. Trey takes a solo that starts by 4:50 but it hews close to the composition. There’s a few thrilling passages but it’s wrapped up by 7:30. Not much improvisation to speak of in this rendition, though it’s still a welcome addition to the setlist. “Sparkle” does what “Sparkle” does and is followed by the first “Punch You in the Eye” since 1989! During “Punch” Trey asks the rest of the band to quiet down at 4:00, and he begins to talk to the audience. He explains that the last time Phish played at the Roseland they tried to teach the crowd the “Landlady” dance, and that the “Punch You in the Eye” dance is the same except much faster. Trey proceeds to re-teach the dance, and as he signals the band to continue on with the song he humorously tries to quickly describe what is happening at this point of the Gamehendge story and mumbles something about “kayaking,” “dark clouds,” and “a bitchy landlady.”

“I Didn’t Know” is a particularly weird one tonight, Trey mentions something about Fishman “playing a portrait of Otis Redding” and then there’s a minute of weird noises on the tape (other than Fishman’s vaccuum) before the band drops into the ending of the song. Not sure what happened here. Two heavy-hitters, “Reba” and “David Bowie,” close out the set. The “Reba” jam has a nice trajectory; the band quiets to a whisper shortly after 7:00 and then slowly builds back up with a very driving bass line from Mike and repetitive riffing from Trey. Eventually Trey takes back the reigns and drives things to a close with a strong and cathartic solo. This is a good “Reba.” “David Bowie” begins with dissonant bass chords from Mike during the intro. Trey uses this to segue into a “Vibration of Life” segment that comes across as just ambient drone on tape, but the crowd seems to love it. After a couple Secret Language signals the intro to “Bowie” finally ends by about 4:20. The jam of the song proper gets nicely dissonant around 8:40 and has some really cool ascending lines from Page on his new baby grand. By 11:00 it sounds like they’re heading towards the peak but they tightly break things back down into another quiet segment for a final build and a strong ending. This is a fun and adventurous “Bowie” and the clear highlight of the set to me.

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If there’s one remark I would make about this first set is that it’s fast. Everything during this period is played at a brisk tempo, but when you have “Llama,” “Rift,” and “Sparkle” all within the first five songs of the night the set can sound at times like being on a train that’s hurtling faster and faster out of control, but the band is playing tight enough to (mostly) pull it off. Except for the huge bustout of “Punch You in the Eye” there’s nothing too remarkable about the first three quarters of the first set, but a strong “Reba” and a “Bowie” with Phishy weirdness in the intro and good improvisation inject a lot of life back into show.

“The Curtain” opens set 2, and even sans the “With” segment it’s one of my favorite Phish compositions so I like the song’s placement here. It serves as a nice prelude to “Tweezer” which “The Curtain” drops into without missing a beat. “Tweezer” lacks the mini-vocal jam they added to it in Portland, so maybe that was a one-off addition. The jam gets going by 4:30 and starts subdued but by 6:00 features a ripping solo from Trey. It takes a turn for the dark shortly thereafter as they modulate away from “Tweezer’s” tonal center (at least my somewhat lacking music theory education tells me this might be what they’re doing), and the “Tweezer” structure is almost completely abandoned by 8:30. In today’s fan parlance you could say they almost-but-maybe-not-100% go ‘type II’ here. The jam breaks down and becomes very sparse, with good interplay between Page and Trey. By 10:00 they’re focusing heavily on syncopation in a section that sounds like the famed “hey hole” practice exercised by the band during this period. Mike starts teasing the “Funkytown” riff and the rest of the group follows for a manic end to the jam. They re-enter the composed ending by 12:30, with Mike playing some extra “Funkytown” quotes during the outro for good measure. Overall this is a messy “Tweezer” that runs quickly through a lot of different ideas that don’t always flow super organically into each other. There isn’t a thrilling peak or emotional catharsis that pushes a “Tweezer” jam into ‘great’ territory, but the experimentation here is interesting nonetheless.

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Anything goes in this “Tweezer.” ANYTHING.

“The Horse > Silent” cools things down while “Paul and Silas” picks the tempo back up again. I like all of Phish’s bluegrass covers, but particularly “Paul and Silas,” which I would rank among my favorites of their bluegrass tunes (along with “Rocky Top” and “Uncle Pen” probably). Hearing it here serves as a nice mid-set treat. The final quarter of the show begins with “It’s Ice” which is played well. “You Enjoy Myself” follows, much to the crowd’s audible delight. The “YEM” jam begins with a great Page organ solo before Trey takes over at 10:15. This leads into a cool and subdued passage with a jazzy inflection, accompanied by light Fishman drumming. At 12:45 Fishman takes a brief solo (really!) and they head back into more typical “YEM” territory and a high-energy Trey solo. Bass and drums segment begins at 13:40 and is actually given some time to develop (it was cut off almost immediately in Portland). Mike delivers his usual-great funkiness and Fishman is feeling it after being in the spotlight a moment earlier. Vocal jam begins at 15:00. I really like each individual part of this “YEM” but I also wish they had spent more time exploring each of those parts; the discrete jam segments come and go quickly.

No “Big Ball Jam” tonight, for whatever reason. Tonight’s Henrietta segment features the Syd Barrett classic “Love You.” Fishman introduces the song as being a standard from “1921 or something…written by Syd Barrett” and laments that no one dances anymore before urging the crowd to “swing! swing swing swing!” “The Squirming Coil” is dedicated to a Sophie and is the first version performed with Page’s new baby grand. As such he takes his time with the outro solo. The Coil outro is almost always beautiful, but this one has some extra sauce to it. Fans of the song should check it out. “Tweezer Reprise” brings this set home like only “Reprise” can. Tonight might have the best recording of “Amazing Grace” of tour to date, though also perhaps the loudest crowd. “Loving Cup” makes its first appearance in the encore slot, a position it will become very familiar in.

Phish plays well tonight and there are some great segments sprinkled throughout, like the “Reba” and “David Bowie” in the first set and “YEM” in the second, but the show also keeps the improvisation tight and confined to small doses. Only “David Bowie” and “Tweezer” start to get ‘out there,’ but “Tweezer” does so in a messy and erratic fashion. Night one at the Roseland is a good listen but far from essential. Let’s see if a night off from traveling lets the band settle in and push further during night 2.

  •  Show rating: 3/5
  • Highlights: “Reba,” “David Bowie,” “You Enjoy Myself”

Show stats:

  • Phish.net setlist
  • First set length: 72 mins.
  • Second set length: 91 mins.
  • This was the second time Phish performed at the Roseland Ballroom. The band returns on the following night.
  • The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Punch You in the Eye,” returning after a four hundred and fifteen show absence (11/9/89).
  • The best represented studio albums are A Picture of Nectar and Rift (5 songs).
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This entry was posted in 1993, Review, Winter/Spring 1993 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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