Tonight’s show is the first of this tour that I have been able to find a soundcheck recording of. There’s a February ’93 soundcheck collection floating around on eTree that has about a half hour of this night’s soundcheck as well as soundchecks from a few other shows later in the month. The first track is a nice, reggae-like take on “Dog Log.” It begins with a couple Page-led minutes as he plays with his new baby grand. Trey takes a lengthy solo after the verses. Unsurprisingly, this “Dog Log” sounds a lot looser than what we’re used to hearing during the shows and the recording cuts out at 9:00 before they’re finished playing. After that we hear them working on “Sample in a Jar,” which had a rough debut and hasn’t been heard in a number of shows, and “My Friend, My Friend,” which we’ll hear them play proper later tonight.
The actual show begins with a run through “Buried Alive > Possum > Weigh > All Things Reconsidered.” The band sounds tight on “Possum” and show some patience during the solo segment, making this one of the longer takes of this song so far this tour. The transition from “Weigh” to “All Things Reconsidered” is also very smooth. Overall this is a solid opening run of songs that are not in super-heavy rotation. “Sloth” is “The Sloth” and leads to a mid-set “Runaway Jim.” The beginning of “Jim” is a little off but they quickly lock it in. This song has been typically great on this tour but Trey brings the heat to this version nonetheless. There’s a thrilling end to his solo that makes this a mid-set highlight and is encouraging to hear after some relatively uninspiring playing from him at the last show.
After a quick round of thanks for the venue staff the band launches into a well-played “It’s Ice” that features yet another cool segue, this time into “Bouncing.” They eerily jam out the ending of “Ice” over the opening beat of “Bouncing,” which is a nice effect. “Fluffhead” pops up for what I think is only the second time of tour and is fun to hear, though it’s not the tightest run through of the song I’ve heard. This one could probably use a little practice if they’re not going to play it frequently. Once again the first set ends with a pairing of “Maze” and “Golgi.” I have to give the edge to Trey tonight in “Maze”: Page sounds good but Trey is on tonight, as “Jim” showed, and he delivers a furious ending to “Maze.” “Golgi” sounds good and wraps up a solid first set that has good playing, some fun segues, and great soloing from Trey. Things bode well for the second half.
Set número dos opens with “Axilla > The Landlady,” continuing the trend of opening the second half with a couple of shorter compositions before diving into deeper territory. This is the first “Axilla” since Providence and I like it in this slot; I saw “Axilla” open a second set once and it seemed to instantly feel the arena with energy. “Landlady” sounds fine and leads us into a mid-set “David Bowie.” Once again the band layers a few Secret Language signals over a cool mini-jam in the intro. I forgot to check the exact timing but the intro lasts a good solid couple minutes. The jam of the song begins at 6:20 and quickly settles into some nice, muted riffing from Trey. This builds a to good peak around a repeating Trey riff by 10:30. There’s some really great tension and release work after this, particularly between 11:00 and 11:45 before they lead the song back to its composed ending. This “Bowie” is fairly par for the course as far as this tour has gone but Trey is having an “on” night and as this is a largely Trey-driven jam it’s a solid outing. Both the following “Glide” and “My Friend, My Friend” sound good and a quick “My Sweet One > Horn” brings us to the second centerpiece of the set, “You Enjoy Myself” (“My Sweet One” is usually quick but this one clocks in at under two minutes: “Blaze On” indeed).
Perhaps tired of playing second fiddle to Trey tonight, Page delivers a great solo from 9:00 to 10:45 to kick off the jam segment of “YEM.” As he has done often lately, Trey brings down the volume of the jam drastically at the beginning of his solo though he uses a “Sunshine of Your Love” jam to quickly build it back up at 12:30. Between Trey reprising that song’s iconic riff a few more times during his solo, Mike teasing it during a relatively lengthy bass and drums segment, and the whole band riffing on it during the vocal jam, tonight’s “YEM” has a bit of a one-note quality to it. Unless you’re a huge “Sunshine of Your Love” fan this “YEM” is probably not one you’ll return to often, if at all. There’s not much banter in tonight’s Henrietta segment of “HYHU > Lengthwise > HYHU” but it’s still notable for a couple reasons. First is that Fishman starts singing “Lengthwise” over “Hold Your Head Up” before the rest of the band drops out and leaves him singing solo. After a little while of solo Fishman the band builds up a reggae-esque backing track for the rest of the song and Fishman’s vacuum solo. These little touches are fun and give the segment a bit more continuity than it usually has (at least on tape). “Coil” brings the set to a close. Unfortunately, while the tape tonight sounded good, the encore is missing from the recording. Hopefully this isn’t the only show at which they played “Carolina” this tour or it may be a while before I have another chance to hear that song.
Tonight is definitely an improvement over the show on the 15th. While Trey sounded a bit tired and unexciting at the last show he is definitely on tonight and delivers a lot of great soloing. There’s also some encouraging little developments, like the creative segues in the first set (“Weigh > All Things Reconsidered,” “It’s Ice > Boucning”) and overall solid playing throughout the night. While this isn’t a great Phish show, it definitely sounds like the groundwork has been laid for some peak performances in the days and weeks to come. With the legendary three-night run at the Roxy right around the corner, they might come sooner than later.
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Runaway Jim,” “David Bowie”
- Phish.net setlist
- Soundcheck length: ~26 mins.
- First set length: 74 mins.
- Second set length: ~83 mins.
- This was the first and last time Phish performed at the Benton Convention Center.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Carolina,” returning after a twelve show absence (12/31/92) (soundcheck excluded).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (8 songs).