Welcome back to tour! After our first day off we find ourselves in the familiar confines of New York state, after a brief sojourn south to the border of the Mason-Dixon line on the 7th. The last couple shows began with a run of shorter songs to warm up the crowd but this show opens up immediately with a rare, show-opening “David Bowie.” There’s lots of weird stuff happening in the intro that doesn’t really cohere into anything particularly memorable before the song proper starts around 1:20 on my recording. The jam begins with some cool riffing at 6:00 and uses lots of dissonant playing to create and build tension throughout. The band moves quickly through ideas here and there isn’t a dull moment to be found. The song doesn’t go too far afield but it’s a solid “Bowie” nonetheless and a great opener. The band sounds rested after the night off and Trey in particular sounds on.
“Bouncing Around the Room” and “Poor Heart” cool things off before the Rift portion of the show starts with “My Friend, My Friend.” I just realized this while listening to this show, but the studio album Rift was released the day before this tour started. I thought it was sometime in the spring ’93 range, but it didn’t quite hit me until this moment how much of a Rift promotional tour this really was. Trey continues to use his acoustic guitar during the beginning of “My Friend,” which continues to be awesome, and they add some dissonant flourishes underneath the “myfe” ending of the song. “Rift” follows, and I would just like to take this opportunity to mention, as someone that has mostly heard these songs through 3.0 performances of them, that these two songs sound way more fluid and tight than they do today. I don’t say that as a knock against the current incarnation of Phish, because the band can still play these songs well today, but as praise for how well they sound on this tour. “The Wedge” appears as Rift song #3, and the band sounds a little more comfortable with the song than they did during the occasionally disjointed (but still great) first three appearances of the song. Page is still using this song as a showcase for his new baby grand, and his tasty solo in the middle of the song turns this into a mid-set highlight.
“Chalk Dust” pops up next after opening the second set at its last two appearances and you can tell immediately around 4:00 that this performance is going to be more stretched out than either of the earlier two were. Trey takes his time building the jam up and does a lot of cool riffing before taking a solo proper, similar to the earlier “Bowie.” It makes for a decent “Chalk Dust” after unremarkable performances earlier on tour. “Esther” makes its first appearance of tour and is well-played, and I really like the transition into “Maze” at the end. The haunting intro of “Maze” fits well with the tense end of “Esther.” This is a good “Maze” with a downright evil Page solo that Trey isn’t quite able to match, though the last minute or so of his is great as well. “Golgi” ends what might be my favorite first set of this tour so far. Great playing and flow throughout this whole set.
“Don’t do anything we wouldn’t do…we’ll see you next set…”
Set 2 opens with “Punch You in the Eye,” which is a slot a lot of fans (including me) like to see this song in. The song sounds tight, which is impressive considering they just took it off the shelf for the first time in years a few nights ago. The set heats up quick after that with an early-set Mike’s Groove. The jam out of “Mike’s Song” starts around 2:50 and has a cool and unique half-time breakdown at around 5:20. It gets real wild after that with a healthy dose of the controlled chaos the band was great at creating onstage at this time. There’s no ‘second jam’ in the key of F tonight that they sometimes dropped into at this time. They work into the closing chords at 6:50 and transition straight into “Hydrogen” after that. The “Weekapaug” jam is cooking by by 4:45 and heads into a deliberately disjointed sounding section reminiscent of the earlier “Mike’s Song.” At 6:00 they snap back into the “Weekapaug” structure and head into a good build for the end of the jam. The final verse features a cool little vocal jam and an atypical musical arrangement underneath. Overall, this is an interesting and definitely experimental Mike’s Groove but not the most memorable.
After Mike’s Groove we run through a series of shorter songs. First is “Weigh,” which is always a nice little treat due to its truly bizarre lyrics, followed by the second-ever performance of “Sample in a Jar.” Fishman flubbed the build in this one badly at its debut but it sounds fine tonight. A quick “Big Ball Jam” leads us into “Stash.” The jam begins ~5:45 with some weird bass slapping from Mike and a good tension/release build. This peaks nicely ~9:00 and there’s a really great minute or so of improvisation after that that crescendos into a wall of noise and segues unfinished into “Lizards.” These few minutes of jamming are probably my highlight of an otherwise uneven set. “The Lizards” is well-played but the set kind of peters out after that. The Henrietta segment ends abruptly with Fishman exclaiming “Fuck that” during his vacuum solo, ending “Bike.” After that the band just sings an a capella, unamplified rendition of “Amazing Grace” (okay recording tonight) before walking off the stage. Maybe there were some weird vibes or something tonight? An odd end to the set, either way. The encore is solid at least: “Cavern > Rocky Top” is a good pair of songs to send a crowd home.
I had high hopes for this show after an excellent first set that might be my favorite first half of the tour so far. The show-opening “Bowie” is great, as are the performances of the Rift songs and the ripping “Chalk Dust.” The second set doesn’t fill its end of the bargain though; there’s some good experimentation in the Mike’s Groove but it doesn’t amount to anything truly memorable. The only other highlight is a good “Stash” with a few minutes of very solid jamming. The set limps to an end from there. Hopefully tomorrow night’s second set will be better constructed!
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “David Bowie,” “The Wedge,” “Chalk Dust Torture,” “Stash”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 71 mins.
- Second set length: 82 mins.
- This was the first and last time Phish performed at the Auditorium Theatre.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Weigh,” returning after a twenty-six show absence (11/23/92).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).