Compared to their leisurely stroll down the east coast in February, Phish is positively blazing across the United States on their quest west, covering at least a 1000 miles in a week (just an educated guess on my part, but New Orleans to Colorado, hitting New Mexico in between, is no small jaunt). The band will get a momentary respite from travel for the next few days, however, with a couple nights off after this show and three more shows to come in Colorado. Tonight’s recording is a soundboard, and while not as crisp as an official release, it’s still a marked step up over an audience recording. The night opens with a strong “Runaway Jim” that builds to a good peak around 7:40. Paired with a tight “Foam” to follow this is a strong start to the night. Unlike the Austin show where I thought it took the band a few songs to get warmed up they sound locked in out of the gate tonight. A quick “Bouncing” brings us to “Maze.” Page’s solo in “Maze” is much stronger than the one in Austin and builds to fun and exhilarating peak. Trey responds in kind with a strong solo himself but it doesn’t quite bring the same amount of heat as Page’s did, IMO, so Page wins the “Maze” duel tonight. Either way, it’s a solid “Maze.”
After “Maze” we get treated to the first “Esther” in over two weeks. Despite the absence there’s no signs of rust and as with everything else in this set it sounds great. “Esther” leads right into “Divided Sky.” I really like this placement; anchoring the first set around two compositional heavyweights work well during this era. There’s a much better flow/set construction to this set than the first set in Austin. Unfortunately there’s a tape split during the quiet part of “Divided Sky” that upsets the flow for the listener, but that’s obviously not the band’s fault. “Glide” and “Punch You in the Eye” follows this sequence, and “I Didn’t Know” (featuring Fish on trombone) and “Run Like an Antelope” occupy their familiar positions at the end of the set. This “Antelope” is one of the strongest and most experimental of the tour so far; there’s a key change around 3:15 that sounds cool and is definitely unusual for the time. I couldn’t quite catch when they shift back to the normal “Antelope” key, but Trey goes into full-on trilling mode shortly after 4:00. The band really embellishes the reggae breakdown of the jam, and throw in multiple full-band stops starting at 8:20. The return to the composed ending at the end of the song is a bit messy, but this is nevertheless a very fun “Antelope” that concludes a strong first set.
“Axilla” kicks off set 2. I’m always happy to hear this song in the set-opening role because I feel it always bumps the energy level straight from 0 to 10. “Rift” carries the momentum well. Both of these set-openers sound tight and well-practiced. “Tweezer” follows and is a big step-up from the previous performance. Right at the beginning of the jam, at 4:45, Trey latches on to a funky and infectious riff. He sticks with this for a while before the jam opens up into a more traditional solo around 6:00. The song gets more subdued at 7:00 and a dissonant build begins at 7:45 that leads into a darker sounding passage. This section is very dynamic with the song shifting between soft and loud quickly. I really like the great jazzy playing from Page during this passage. The song starts to peak at 10:00, and the next couple minutes are filled with triumphant soloing to close out the jam. The composed ending begins at 12:15. There’s a lot of interesting playing in the first half of this jam, and unlike the last performance, there’s a good amount of celebrating at the end of the experimentation. This is a very good “Tweezer” by the standards of this tour!
“Tweezer” is once again followed by “Reba,”for the second time in a row, which seems a little strange since I don’t think I have ever seen these two songs paired before (not that I’m complaining). This “Reba” didn’t stand out to me very much except for a very long note held by Trey at one point in the jam. This long note may explain why we can hear Trey laughing on the recording before the whistling segment (or perhaps it was some shenanigans occurring among the crowd). Either way this is a good “Reba” that is perhaps overshadowed a bit by the previous “Tweezer.” “Lawn Boy” provides a breather for the crowd, and is followed by Mike’s Groove! Between the “Tweezer,” “Reba,” and now Mike’s, this set is non-stop action! There’s a lot of additional vocals during this “Mike’s” with Trey taunting Mike with “he’s singing his song!” and “cactus is singing his song!” lyrics. The jam starts at 3:00 with odd playing from Mike. Trey joins shortly later at 3:20 with similarly weird/dissonant playing. I like Page’s comping on the organ during this segment; his playing seems greatly improved over his slightly lackluster performance on the 6th. The end chords start at 4:50 and the F-key jam begins at 5:15. This segment is longer than it usually has been as of late. There’s more good work from Page here though Trey still sounds like he’s just kind of making noise during this part. Thankfully he does coalesce around an intense build from 6:50-7:40 that leads to the closing chords. This “Mike’s” sounds a little less messy than it often has and more purposefully dissonant. The F-key segment is also longer and more interesting than normal. I still wouldn’t call this a great jam, but it’s a few small steps in the right direction for this song.
“Hydrogen” follows and oof, it’s a bad one tonight. The song basically falls apart at 1:40 and they don’t really recover until “Weekapaug.” Thankfully, “Weekapaug” is once again excellent. There’s a lot of “Mike!” shouts from the rest of the band during the first verse, perhaps their way of placing blame for the screw-up in “Hydrogen.” The jam begins at 1:25 and is initially very sparse. Trey jumps in quickly with some quick riffing but Page takes the spotlight at 2:00. And he keeps it for a while! Trey provides some cool backing drones to Page’s soloing, somewhat reminiscent of the ‘bliss’ segment of “YEM.” This segment lasts for at least a minute until 3:20 where Trey transitions into some choppy chordal playing. And Page just keeps at it and belts his heart out on his baby grand! I particularly like his soloing between 4:30 and 5:00 at which point Trey finally gets bored of taking the backseat and the jam transitions to his solo. This builds to some Trey Trilling™ at 6:45 and a peak at 7:00. This “Weekapaug” is really all about Page, with Trey just providing a nice cherry on top at the end. Another great “Weekapaug!”
“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” cools things off after this exciting segment (Trey is on his acoustic for “The Horse), and a “Big Ball Jam” leads us to the Henrietta segment. Fishman comments that “this room was made for vacuum cleaners” before “Terrapin.” There’s not a ton of banter but between Trey’s audible laughing in “Reba,” the many additional lyrics and shouting throughout the show, and the fun in this segment it sounds like the band is in high spirits tonight. Perhaps they’re looking forward to a couple nights off and several more shows in the same state? “I Walk the Line” follows the Henrietta segment, and unfortunately that’s it for the circulating tape of this show. Phish.net tells us that “Squirming Coil” and “Tweeprise” closed out the set, and “Amazing Grace” and “Rocky Top” comprised the encore. Overall, this is an great show! Both sets are filled with tight playing. The first set is a return to the well constructed first sets of the recent past, anchored by a strong “Esther > Divided Sky” segment. The second set is action packed with a really great “Tweezer,” a solid “Reba,” an interesting (at the very least) “Mike’s Song,” and another superb “Weekapaug Groove.” All of this combined with a crisp soundboard recording of the show makes this one an easy recommendation.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Run Like an Antelope,” “Tweezer,” “Weekapaug Groove”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 82 mins.
- Second set length: ~89 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at Pike’s Peak Center.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “I Walk the Line,” returning after a twenty show absence (2/10/93).
- The best represented studio album is Lawn Boy (5 songs).