Today is Pi day and the last night of our Colorado run. A soundboard recording circulates of this show, but unfortunately it’s one of the worst soundboards I have heard so far on this tour because of a constant tape hiss throughout the first set. Thankfully it cleans up a lot by the second. An incomplete recording of the soundcheck of this also show circulates. During this soundcheck we can hear the band working on “Loving Cup,” “Lifeboy,” and having some fun with a brief “Tales of Brave Ulysses -> Sunshine of Your Love” jam. This isn’t essential listening by any means but the “Ulysses > Sunshine” segment is neat and a sequence I haven’t heard the band play before.
The intent behind the soundchecking of “Loving Cup” becomes apparent as the band opens the show with this song, a slot I like for this song. Despite “Loving Cup” being the first song played of tour, celebrating Page’s new piano, this is the first time we have heard the song played in March. The song sounds decent despite the absence in appearance. The ending of “Loving Cup” fades into “Foam.” “Foam” sounds good for the most part though Trey botches the transition out of his solo near the end of the song. He recovers for the following “Guelah” and “Sparkle,” both of which are spot-on performances.
“Stash” anchors the middle of the set and the band uses the song as an opportunity to experiment. The composed part of the song is okay but a little spotty with the timing in places. The jam starts at 4:50 and gets dissonant quickly. Shortly after 7:00 the jam goes type-II (!!!) with a subterranean sounding passage led by dark riffing from Trey and good comping from Page. Type-II “Stash” jams have been few and far between so far on this tour, automatically making this an interesting performance of this song. Trey starts holding his notes for an eerie segment around 8:30. Shortly after this he plays a blistering run of notes to build back up to the traditional end of the jam shortly after 9:00. This isn’t a “Stash” for the history books or even necessarily a ‘great jam,’ but it’s certainly an interesting one to hear and it’s great to hear the band push at the edges of this song for a change.
A quick “Paul and Silas” leads into “Sample in a Jar,” which the band thankfully has locked down at this point. “Reba” makes an appearance in the first set after a number of second set-appearances. There’s a very pleasant and mellow passage in this “Reba” early on in the jam around 7:00. After this section Trey quickly builds the song up to its peak. There’s particularly good soloing from Trey during the last thirty seconds of the jam, from 9:30-10:00. During the pause in the song, before the whistling segment, Trey announces that someone from the crowd (merch person, perhaps?) will be playing the “Indian War Dance” on Page’s piano. Putting aside the potentially problematic implications of a bunch of white dudes playing a song titled “Indian War Dance” the segment is actually pretty funny; the person plays a simple piano riff for about 20 seconds and manages to make a few mistakes in this short period of time before quickly leaving the stage again. There’s some other shenanigans here too; it sounds like a kid joins the stage for the “bag it, tag it” refrain at the end of the song. Whether or not the kid was on the stage his vocals are as audible as the band’s, and since this is a soundboard recording, it seems like a reasonable inference to make. A strong, if un-noteworthy pairing of “Punch You in the Eye > Runaway Jim” closes out the first set. This is a strong first set; both “Stash” and “Reba” have some good jamming and the “Stash” in particular is one of the most experimental performances of this song on this tour. There are a few flubs here and there, but for the most part the playing is solid. While it’s not my favorite setlist there’s also no notable lulls in energy.
Set 2 opens with one of the biggest bust-outs of the tour so far: “Halley’s Comet.” This song has not been seen since 1989 – over four hundred shows prior! As might be expected with an absence this long, the band doesn’t quite nail all of the transitions in the song. It sounds reasonably good though for the time spent on the shelf and the back half of the song sounds more or less spot-on to my ears. There’s a quick transition into “Bowie” at the end of Halley’s. I’m sure there’s been a couple exceptions I’m forgetting but it seems on this tour that “Bowie” has almost exclusively been used as a first-set closer, so I’m excited to see the song in this slot. Despite the placement they don’t do anything too unusual with this “Bowie.” The jam starts at 4:20 (really!) with a too brief segment of cool syncopation between Page and Trey. After that passage it’s a Trey-led venture. There’s a good tension/release segment around 7:30 and interesting descending lines from Trey at the end of the jam. Mike gets a little lost in the transition to the ending but this is made up for by a really cool and unique scratching riff that Trey pulls off during the breakdowns at the end of the composition. While there’s not much notable improvisation during this opening sequence of songs it’s nevertheless a very fun one-two punch to start off the set and I hope to see “Bowie” appear again the early second set.
The fun only continues from there with another massive bust-out in the form of “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” (last seen 300+ shows ago). I’m not a fan of this song (nor any Lynyrd Skynyrd for that matter) but any song played after that long an absence is fun for the novelty factor. After “Loew” we get treated to the longest “You Enjoy Myself” of the tour so far, and the wildest in recent memory. The intro is still a little off (a problem they had the last time out as well), but they quickly recover and the sloppiness is forgotten with a better than usual bliss segment. There is some teasing from Trey before the first verse at 5:30 that I can’t quite place; judging by the Phish.net notes I’m guessing it’s “Oye Como Va.” Page’s solo is very good, and things get progressively sillier from there. There’s another tease I can’t quite place from Trey at 10:30 (maybe this is the “Spooky Jam” notated by Phish.net?) while Page just keeps ripping through his solo on top. There are some added lyrics I couldn’t quite make out before the band slides into a full on “Low Rider” jam that goes from about 11:15 to 14:15. The bass and drums section begins at 17:30 but both Page and Trey join back in at various points. Mike’s solo is a bit less predictable than normal; less funky perhaps but with more technically impressive lines that I wasn’t expecting. After so much craziness throughout the song it should be no surprise that the vocal jam is wild tonight as well. It includes a full verse and chorus of “We Will Rock You” at 21:30 and a “Welcome to the Machine” quote a minute later. This “YEM” clocks in at over 24 minutes, making it the single longest song of tour so far. It’s a trip from beginning to end and fun the whole way through.
After all these antics “Lifeboy” is a welcome and deserved breather and well-placed. “Rift” follows up in a somewhat unusual mid-set position and is unfortunately all over the place tonight. It never comes close to falling apart entirely but there are certainly some rough patches. “Big Ball Jam” is up next and the band follows it with one more big surprise: the debut of “Great Gig in the Sky!” I have never actually heard Phish perform this one before and they actually get the musical side of it down quite well, or at least the beginning of it. Fish’s “I’m not afraid of dying” narration is funny and his vocal solo, well, goes about as well as you would expect. It’s certainly a nice change of pace from the normal Henrietta segment though. After a quick “Hold Your Head Up” refrain a pleasant “Squirming Coil” closes the set. The two barbershop numbers that begin the encore are unfortunately not present on this recording, so a well-played “Golgi Apparatus” is all I heard from tonight’s encore.
I bounced back and forth a bit between giving this show a 4 or a 5 but ultimately went with a 5 because it’s one of the most fun nights of tour; big bust-outs, good jams, and maybe the best “YEM” of tour. Yes, there’s some sloppiness, but as Trey says in Bittersweet Motel “it’s all about the energy, man!” I’ve always been part of the “it doesn’t matter how many notes they miss” crowd as long as they put on a fun show, and they certainly do so tonight. A quick glance at the list of highlights below shows that there is a lot of good stuff packed into this show, and the “YEM” is about as must-hear as anything has been on this tour. This is a great end to a great Colorado run. Tomorrow it’s back on the road again as we travel southwest; I’ll talk to you again from Arizona on the 16th!
- Show rating: 5/5
- Highlights: “Stash,” “Reba,” “Halley’s Comet > David Bowie,” “You Enjoy Myself”
- Phish.net setlist
- Debuts: “The Great Gig in the Sky” (Waters/Wright)
- Soundcheck length: ~10 mins.
- First set length: 69 mins.
- Second set length: ~79 mins.
- This is the second and last time Phish performed at the Paul Wright Gym.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Halley’s Comet,” returning after a four hundred and seventy five show absence (8/17/89).
- The best represented studio album is Junta (4 songs).