Another night in Colorado, and another soundboard recording! Tonight’s show starts with a “Buried Alive > Poor Heart > Cavern” sequence that also opened the Dallas show just a week ago. Once again I think it forms a fun and snappy opening sequence, and the band sounds good. “Possum” follows and quiets way down at the beginning of the solo at 2:45. Trey seems to struggle with his first solo of the night and sounds like he’s searching for notes during the first minute of his solo. Thankfully he finds some momentum around 3:45 and the song builds to a nice (though slightly messy) peak at 8:00. “Guelah Papyrus” and “Rift” both sound good tonight, and indeed, I think this is one of the better sounding “Rifts” of tour (besides for a couple missed notes from Trey). This is one of their harder songs to perform and its constant presence on setlists seems to be paying off.
“Stash” provides an opportunity for experimentation, and the jam does start off at 5:30 with a rather wild dissonant passage initiated by Trey. However, after about 30 seconds or so the song morphs back into a more traditional “Stash” jam. While nothing out of the ordinary the jam does have a solid peak at 8:00 before they quickly wrap up the song by 9:00. After “Stash” we get treated to the first “Fluffhead” since Florida, and the song sounds very good except for a couple rough spots near the end. The outro of the song features Trey on acoustic guitar, lending this “Fluffhead” some uniqueness, and this outro segues into “The Horse.” This is a rough “Horse” with what sounds like a lot of false starts from Trey. After “Silent in the Morning” the band starts up the set-closing “David Bowie.” The “Bowie” jam starts with some teases at 6:15, and Trey lands on a cool hammer-on/pull-off phrase at 7:55 that he will reprise about a minute later. The end of the jam and the song sounds relatively sharp, and the “Bowie” probably offers the most interesting and entertaining improv of the set.
I have mixed feelings about this first set. On one hand I like the setlist; the opening sequence is fun, “Fluffhead” is a nice treat, and “Stash” and “David Bowie” are always welcome. However, Trey seems to have some issues in this set. Most of the songs sound tight, but there are issues at the end of “Fluffhead” and throughout “The Horse,” and he struggles at times in his solos (most noticeably at the beginning of “Possum”). There are still some strong peaks (the ends of “Possum,” “Stash,” and “David Bowie”) but the band and particularly Trey sound messier than they have the last few nights. Hopefully they can refocus during setbreak.
Set 2 opens with only the second “AC/DC Bag” of tour. The end solo is very short (short solos will be a theme of this set), but the song sounds good despite only recently being taken off the shelf earlier this tour. “Bag” is followed by a “My Friend, My Friend” that has an extended outro full of screaming and a “Careful with that axe, Eugene!” quote. “Sparkle” serves as a quick bridge to “You Enjoy Myself.” The timing of the beginning arpeggios is a bit off but the band recovers quickly and the rest of the song sounds very tight. Page’s solo is the highlight of this one; he crushes it and delivers a lot of thrills. Trey’s solo is only a couple of minutes tonight and fairly standard; it’s over by 13:15 or so. The bass and drum segment is also only a couple minutes but is very funky again (this segment definitely seems to have improved over the course of the tour, I remember the first few of tour being slightly awkward). This is one of those “YEMs” where I enjoyed each part thoroughly but I wish they had stretched their legs more; each solo segment is only a couple minutes long so there’s nothing very out of the ordinary. Nevertheless it is very well played from start to finish (excluding the arpeggios I mentioned).
“Mound, “Big Ball Jam,” and “Chalk Dust Torture” bring us to the Henrietta segment. I don’t have much to say about this sequence except that everything this set has sounded very good. The slight sloppiness of the first set is definitely nowhere to be seen here in the second. That being said there has been very little improvisation to speak of in this set as the band seems to be keeping all of the solos in this set on a short leash. Fishman comments after the first “Hold Your Head Up” refrain that there is a “footwear contest” between himself and Mike tonight. The “Lengthwise” reaches seven minutes (!) tonight and features an extended vacuum solo. There’s no other instrumentation; it’s otherwise just Fishman singing about sleeping sideways in his bed.
After the Henrietta segment we get treated to a rare “Harry Hood.” I have to say, absence does make the heart grow fonder. They have kept this song as a rare treat on this tour and as such it’s great to hear every time it’s played. The jam starts at 5:30 and is initially very quiet and sparse, though Trey quickly starts to build up the song to its traditional peak. Starting around 8:00 and through the rest of the song is, in my mind, Trey’s best playing and phrasing of the night. It’s not a very patient or unusual build and the jam stays within the lines of a ‘standard’ “Hood” jam, but it is nevertheless joyous in a way that only a “Hood” jam can be. This is certainly the most notable improvisation of the set and a great way to cap off the night. “Golgi Apparatus” closes out the set. We get a dual shot of a capella in the encore tonight: both “Sweet Adeline” and “Caroline” (I guess “Amazing Grace” has fallen out of favor?). Someone from the crowd requests “Danny Boy” and Trey says “it’s a great request” and promises to perform it the next time they are in Vail. A personal favorite of mine, “Rocky Top,” sends the crowd home.
I’m giving this show a 3, but it’s a very strong 3. The only thing keeping this show from a 4 is a true improvisational highlight. Indeed. this show feels unusually devoid of notable improvisation, even for the era. This isn’t too much of a knock though; the playing throughout the entire second set is tight and I enjoyed the setlist quite a bit. Between “AC/DC Bag,” “Fluffhead,” and “Harry Hood” the setlist also feels fresh tonight. There is some sloppiness in the first set, mostly from Trey, but he recovers well for the second set. Throw in the sound quality of the soundboard recording and this show is more than a decent listen.
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Fluffhead,” “Harry Hood”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 75 mins.
- Second set length: 88 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Dobson Arena.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Carolina,” returning after a sixteen show absence (2/17/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (8 songs).