California tour continues with night #2 at The Palace in Hollywood. Appropriately, given the location of the venue, tonight’s show will get more than a little theatrical. On first listen, tonight’s recording sounds excellent with a better mix and clarity than last night’s. However, after the first song, one can notice a slight digital distortion on the guitar and keyboard lines throughout the show. It’s unfortunate, but not the band’s fault. “Chalk Dust” kicks off the show and I think this song works perfectly in the set/show opener role. The band sounds tight from the first note and it’s a solid, rocking performance of the song that sets the energy level high. “Guelah” follows and sounds fine, as does “Rift” (though there is some nasty tape distortion at one point during the song). A neat staccato riff from both Trey and Page bridges the transition between “Fee” and “Maze.” Both solos in “Maze” felt pretty standard tonight, so I can’t really give an edge to either Page or Trey here.
After a solid run of opening songs the theatrics begin with the first real highlight of the night: a “Colonel Forbin’s > Mockingbird” with a lot of narration. Trey’s story begins with him telling the audience that “we’re not actually standing up here playing this music for you” but that they’re actually “holographic images” sent to the venue and that the band is “playing from Vermont.” There’s an appropriate and subtle tease of the “Star Trek” theme from Page here. Trey goes on to say that the audience members are in fact holographic images at well. Somehow this segues into the (holographic) audience members getting dragged by a shark deeper and deeper into the ocean towards the center of the Earth. The air gets hotter, the water gets stickier, and then they find themselves floating down through the air towards…you guessed it, Gamehendge! It’s a fun narration that deviates quite a bit from the ‘standard’ Forbin’s story.
Following “Forbin’s > Mockingbird” is a duo of well-played Rift songs: “Sparkle” and “Horn.” Fishman busts out the trombone for “I Didn’t Know,” which brings us to the set-closing “David Bowie” and the first passage of somewhat open-ended improvisation of the night. The intro to this “Bowie” reaches three minutes and features some banter from Trey, a couple Secret Language signals, and (I think) a tease or two. The jam begins around 6:45 and breaks down with some nice, jazzy playing from Trey. The jam starts to build around 8:30 with a good, driving riff and gets dissonant around 10:15, leading to a real neat “Dave’s Energy Guide”-esque jam from 11:00-11:30. There’s a good peak a minute later that transitions cleanly into the composed ending of the song. This is a dynamic jam with a really intense dissonant part near the end, making this one of the better “Bowies” we have heard recently.
The audio issues with the tape are unfortunate because this is otherwise a strong first set. The opening string of songs sounds good, “Forbin’s > Mockingbird” is a lot of fun, and the “Bowie” ends the set on an improvisational high note.
Set 2 opens with “My Friend, My Friend,” and the creative exploration of the song’s outro continues with the band’s boldest experimentation with the song yet. Tonight they take the outro of the song into a full-band “Little Drummer Boy” jam which quickly becomes a demented take on that song’s melody. The ending “my friend, my friend, he’s got a knife” lyrics are sung to the “Little Drummer Boy” tune. It is simultaneously a creepy and humorous take on “My Friend, My Friend” that is a fun way to begin the set. A quick “Poor Heart” bridges into what is perhaps the most impressive “Split Open and Melt” of the tour so far. Trey takes the “Split” jam into a “Stayin’ Alive” segment almost immediately at 4:40. This goes for about a minute until the jam becomes a wild Trey shred-fest from 6:00 until a wild peak at 8:00. The playing during this segment is what I want from a good “Split” jam! “Little Drummer Boy” teases pop up after the return to the composed ending at around 9:15.
After this strong opening to the set we get treated to the first “Tela” since the first week of tour. It’s not the strongest reading of “Tela” that I’ve heard but it’s still a nice treat to hear nonetheless. “Tela” runs into a big, mid-set “You Enjoy Myself.” I like the beginning of Page’s solo in this “YEM,” he plays some long, drawn-out organ drones over a sparse backing arrangement from the rest of the band. Page backs off almost entirely for an early, mini bass and drums segment at 11:00 as Mike and Fish establish a chunky groove that dominates the rest of the song. After some full-band riffing Trey takes the lead with his solo at 11:40. There’s great comping from Page during Trey’s solo that leads into some really great co-led passages worked into Trey’s solo. Trey brings his solo to a peak at 15:00. The bass and drums segment is largely based around the chunky riff established earlier in the jam and fades away into a solo drum solo from 17:30-19:00! Hearing Fish bang on the drums by himself is a rare event at a Phish show. No single part of this “YEM” is incredibly unique or memorable (except maybe the drum solo) but as a whole it’s a very strong outing of the song with great moments from each member of the band.
“Uncle Pen” and “Big Ball Jam” give way to the Henrietta segment of the evening. There’s some banter after the first “Hold Your Head Up” refrain but it’s hard to hear on the tape. Fishman mentions something about “farting into a microphone.” Lovely imagery. The somewhat rare “If I Only Had a Brain” is the Henrietta song of the evening. “Squirming Coil” and “Cavern” close the set; “Squirming Coil” has a longer Page solo than normal, more in line with the length we would expect at a modern-day show. The solo is its typically-lovely self. A rocking and well-played “Good Times Bad Times” is the sole encore of the night and ends The Palace run.
This is a very good show from start to finish with many clear highlights; the crazy narration of “Forbin’s > Mockingbird,” the strongest “Bowie” in recent memory, perhaps the best “Split” of tour, and a very solid “YEM” anchoring the middle of the second set. As good as this is I felt the show lacked enough transcendent moments (outside perhaps Trey’s narration) or truly mind-blowing improvisation to push it to a 5, but that should not dissuade you from listening to what is otherwise a fine exemplar of Winter/Spring ’93 Phish.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird,” “David Bowie,” “Split Open and Melt,” “You Enjoy Myself”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 81 mins.
- Second set length: 87 mins.
- This is the second and last time Phish performed at The Palace.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Tela,” returning after a twenty-six show absence (2/10/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).