Show #3 in Colorado brings us to the beautiful small city of Boulder, a city I have had the pleasure of visiting myself and which is located not far from Denver. The band opens with “The Landlady” tonight, a fun and unusual choice for show opener. From the first note the band sounds sharp, and they will sound very tight throughout the whole first frame. “Funky Bitch” fills the two spot and appears for the first time since Atlanta. This is a very quick “Bitch” with short but energetic solos. Both Trey and Page sound excellent here, which bodes well for “Maze.” Page wins the “Maze” duel tonight but only slightly; both solos are exciting and well-played, but Page’s feels a tad less standard than Trey’s does. After “Maze” Trey busts out the megaphone for a fun “Fee” that blends into “All Things Reconsidered.”
“Split Open and Melt” kicks off the second half of the set and threatens to go to unusual territory at 7:15 with hints of a key change that never develops. Otherwise this is the same “Split,” more or less, that we have been hearing all tour. “Split” is followed by the first “Contact” in a month and an always-fiery reading of “Llama.” The somewhat elusive “Wilson” makes an appearance as the penultimate song of the set and it’s a doozy tonight. A unique minor-key jam opens up the song based around a simple but memorable Trey melody, and the band sticks with it for at least a minute. The first verse doesn’t start until after 2:00. This improvised theme is revisited briefly again at 4:20 before the song really opens up at 5:45. There’s a brief Mike-led jam here that gives way to a mellow, “I Am Hydrogen”-esque passage from 6:30-7:10 that gradually builds in volume and intensity. This mini-jam builds right into the “blat! boom!” ending of the song. This is a very unique and experimental “Wilson” with a lot of interesting mini-jams spread throughout. Definitely check this one out! “Antelope” closes out the set and while not as experimental as “Wilson” it’s a very solid reading of the song. The jam starts out strongly around 3:20 with a driving Trey riff. The jam gets dissonant and tense at 5:00, and the final build of the jam before the composed ending is wild.
All things considered this is a great first set. The setlist flows well and is fresh; between “Funky Bitch,” “Contact,” and “Wilson” (as well as good song choices last night), Colorado seems to be inspiring the band to dig deep through their repertoire. There are great solos in “Maze” and “Funky Bitch,” really interesting experimentation in “Wilson,” and a very fiery “Antelope” to close the set. You can’t really ask more of a first set from this era.
“See you in about fifteen minutes!”
Set 2 begins with a standard “Suzy Greenberg,” a song which seems to be popping up less in setlists than it did at the very beginning of the tour. No particularly memorable banter during this version. “Tweezer” is up next and there’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary with this one; it’s more or less a straight-up rock star solo from Trey throughout. There are a couple cool, dissonant builds during the last couple minutes. The composed end of the song kicks in at 10:00. “Tweezer” is followed by a good sounding “Lizards” and a pairing of “It’s Ice > Glide.” I think those two songs work well together; they’re both quite quirky (even by Phish’s standards). A quick and energetic “Uncle Pen > Big Ball Jam” rounds out the first half off the set.
Up next is Mike’s Groove. “Mike’s Song” starts off very humorously tonight thanks to the usually quiet Mike. Right before the song starts he pronounces that “this one is my song!” and dedicates the performance to someone named Cilla. He then proceeds to twist those words around throughout the first verse of the song by pronouncing “My song! For Cilla! Song! Cilla!” loudly. The “Mike’s” jam is similar to the one we have been hearing of late, though as I noted the last time they played “Mike’s,” the jam does seem to be tightening up as of late. That trend continues here tonight. The F-key jam never really fully develops tonight and instead they fall into a different-sounding dissonant jam around 5:55 before the end chords kick in at 7:35. It’s not a bad “Mike’s,” but again, very much along the lines of how this song has been played all tour.
“Hydrogen” doesn’t fall apart tonight, so that’s an improvement, and “Weekapaug” continues its hot streak. The “Weekapaug” jam starts out very much led by Trey but around 5:30 the whole band drops out leaving Page playing by himself “Squirming Coil” style! It’s a very cool segment and they give him room to breathe. The rest of the band doesn’t start coming back in until around 6:30. Trey picks up on a riff that Page had been playing during his solo segment and continues to build on it. This leads to a brief start/stop segment with Fishman. This whole jam shows some wonderful band chemistry. A more traditional Trey solo starts at 8:00 to bring the affair to a rousing peak. At a risk of sounding repetitive I have to say: this is another wonderful and unique “Weekapaug” jam. This has quickly become my favorite song to hear during this tour, topping even “Tweezer” and “YEM” at this point.
“Fast Enough for You” continues in its role as a late-set breather, and continues to be well-placed in the setlist. Tonight’s Hernietta sequence features “Love You” and a lengthy band introduction courtesy of Fishman. “Tweeprise” is the lone post-Henrietta song and is super quick, clocking in at less than 2:30. We get treated to a triple encore tonight of “My Sweet One,” the triumphant return of “Amazing Grace,” and a show-closing “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars.” Ending the evening with that song baffles me, but so it goes. There’s a funny, lounge music-esque interlude led by Page during one of the pauses of “BBFCFM” starting around 3:00 on the recording that lasts for a good 30-45 seconds or so before a quick clear of the throat and the harshly yelled “1, 2, 3,4!” return to the song proper.
I was honestly expecting a little more out of this second set after such a fire first half. Besides for another excellent “Weekapaug” it felt like a fairly standard setlist without much notable improv (even “Tweezer” didn’t do a whole lot for me this evening). The very tight and snappy playing from the first frame carries over though; this is an exceptionally clean sounding and flub-free show. And while the second half perhaps left me a little wanting, the first frame is excellent and the show as a whole has a number of highlights that are worth checking out.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Wilson,” “Run Like an Antelope,” “Weekapaug Groove”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 70 mins.
- Second set length: 97 mins.
- This is the second and last time Phish performed at the Balch Fieldhouse.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Contact,” returning after an eighteen show absence (2/15/93).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).