Google Maps tells me that the Smith Opera House, the site of tonight’s show, is only an hour away from the venue of last night’s performance. Did they use the light travel day to rest or to party hard? Perhaps listening to this show will offer some hints. “Loving Cup” kicks things off and it’s still fun to hear this song opening a show. The transition into and beginning of “Foam” is rough, though the band mostly pulls it together by about 1:00. Mike still sounds a bit lost at times though. This less-than-perfect reading of “Foam” is disappointing considering they have all ready performed a couple excellent renditions of this song this tour. The following “Guelah” sounds better. “Reba” makes a welcome appearance and is well-played, but it lacks an unusual or notable jam segment like the previous performance had and the jam is kept relatively short (over by ~10:00).
This set has a number of tour debuts, and “The Sloth” is the first one. This song doesn’t do a whole lot for me and I feel like if you have heard one, you have heard them all. “Divided Sky” anchors the middle of the set, as it has at all of its other appearances this tour. “Tela” is the second tour debt, and always a welcome treat at any show. Fishman is introduced as the man “who will never be late for the bus” during “I Didn’t Know,” with Fishman responding that he absolutely will not be late (and that there is an $800 bet on whether or not he will be). I wonder if we will hear more about this bet during banter at a later show? Vocal silliness at the end of “I Didn’t Know” segues into an a capella “Catapult” (third tour debut, if you’re keeping count). The bust-out of “Catapult” and silliness of “I Didn’t Know” honestly makes for the most memorable part of this set so far (well, except “Tela”). “Run Like an Antelope” closes out the set, and Trey starts up evil sounding riffs around 4:00 that the rest of the band locks into, providing the most impressive improvisational segment of the night so far. Trey manages to sound increasingly demented over the next couple of minutes and builds the jam into an impressive peak at ~6:00. This song has not particularly impressed me so far on this tour, but this rendition definitely raises the bar and stands out.
When I run quickly through a list of songs during these reviews that usually indicates that not much on the recording is jumping out to me compared to other recent performances of the songs, and that’s the case for most of this set. Both “Reba” and “Divided Sky” are usually highlights for me but these renditions sound below-average to me compared to their counterparts from earlier in tour. The end of the set does provide a bit of redemption though; “Tela” is a treat, the silliness of “I Didn’t Know > Catapult” is fun, and it ends with my favorite “Antelope” of the tour to date. Everything up to that is unremarkable though, and at times, roughly played.
Set 2 begins with “Runaway Jim.” I think this song works much better as a set opener than as a set closer, which is the slot it filled the last time it was played. Like the last performance, Trey’s solo near the end of the song includes a couple minutes of really ripping guitar playing. Mike is still struggling in spots but this is a solid start to the set. The “It’s Ice” and “Squirming Coil” that follow are also solid, though unremarkable. “Tweezer” lights an improvisational spark, with the jam starting around 4:45. Trey initially plays some blissful chords and it sounds like he’s building to an early peak, but he suddenly cuts out and the band enters a cool, sparse segment. They eventually start to build this up to a thrilling peak, but Mike basically drops out at 8:45 as if he’s lost. The band struggles to find a direction after that and the jam is cut off at 9:45, before the composed ending, with an abrupt segue into “I Walk the Line.” This threatened to become the most interesting “Tweezer” of tour with a great couple minutes of jamming, but the last minute clearly finds the band adrift as Mike gets lost and it’s a bad end to the jam. The segue is also a bit jarring, making this a hard “Tweezer” to recommend.
“Sparkle” serves to refocus the band before they drop into “You Enjoy Myself” in its familiar mid-second set role. Once again, the ‘bliss’ section is excellent and features great interplay between Mike and Trey, though the segment isn’t quite as extended as some others from this tour have been. There’s a bad flub at 5:00 where the whole band actually stops playing. Not sure whose fault it is this time. They sound a bit off for the next minute as well. Page’s solo didn’t stand out to me tonight, but Trey sounds good. He’s definitely the star of the show tonight. Mike’s solo is just weird, reflecting his playing tonight. Perhaps he was on psychedelics? Maybe just sick? Hard to tell, but definitely a bad night for him. A “Horse > Silent” interlude brings us to the Henrietta segment of the night, which consists of “Cracklin’ Rosie” and no banter to speak of. “Possum” ends the set on a straightforward but well-played note. We get a double a capella encore tonight of both “Sweet Adeline” and “Amazing Grace” but unfortunately both are near inaudible on my recording. “Reprise” wraps up the affair.
Overall this is a rough show. Mike has a real off night and it’s noticeable from the beginning to the end. A lot of the songs are performed sub-par compared to other performances from this tour. There’s still some bright spots; particularly the end of the first and the beginning of the second sets and my favorite “Antelope” of the tour so far, but for the most part I find little to recommend here. Hopefully the band will shake it off and make a speedy recovery for tomorrow night’s show.
- Show rating: 2/5
- Highlights: “Run Like an Antelope”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 79 mins.
- Second set length: 92 mins.
- This was the first and last time Phish performed at the Smith Opera House. John Fishman performed here as part of the Jazz Mandolin Project on 2/19/00.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Catapult,” returning after a ninety-six show absence (4/21/92).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).