Show #4 of California tour begins the band’s slow crawl northwards. Tonight’s show is a long one, reaching over 3 hours with a 115-minute-plus second set/encore. “Maze” opens the show for perhaps the first time in the song’s history and features good but standard solos from both Page and Trey. Page’s solo feels much longer than Trey’s, so I’m going to give the master of the boards the edge tonight in the “Maze” duel. “Sparkle” is “Sparkle” and leads into the a fine reading of the somewhat sparsely-performed “Sloth.” “Divided Sky” makes an appearance earlier in the set than it typically does and is a nice treat in this slot. The band keeps the compositional heavyweights coming with an “Esther” that sounds fine for the most part though has a few messy spots near the end.
A quick “All Things Reconsidered” leads to the first real highlight of the night, an experimental “Split Open and Melt” that is easily the most exciting “Melt” we have heard on this tour. The jam begins at 4:15 and the first couple minutes features some real good riffing from Trey. At around 7:00 it sounds like Trey is trying to head towards the end of the song, but the rest of the band doesn’t let up with the intensity of their playing and Trey decides to abandon the return to the composed ending at 7:40. This leads to the jam breaking down to nothing except the bare chordal structure of the song. Trey begins to riff again at 9:00 and this second build leads to a strong, cathartic lead from Trey from 10:30-11:45 that is a very strong peak for the jam. From there they head back into the end of the song (for real this time). This is a very good “Split” that continues a strong week for the song. Good readings of “Poor Heart” and “Punch You in the Eye” follow.
Trey announces before “Lawn Boy” that yesterday was his “first day surfing.” He comments that Vermont “doesn’t have an ocean” but does “have a lot of lawns,” and proceeds to dedicate “Lawn Boy” to some surfer dude he met that taught him how to surf. After Page is done crooning to the audience the band closes out the set with “Possum.” There’s a brief passage of dissonant riffing I liked at 4:15 that sounds like it may have been a tease of something. This quickly gives way to more traditional “Possum” soloing that builds to a strong Trey-led peak shortly after 8:00. This is a good “Possum,” a good set-closer, and a good set overall that I would rate as above-average for the tour due to the strong “Divided Sky,” excellent “Split” jam, and the fun set-closer.
“Loving Cup” occupies its usual set-opening role to begin the second set and sounds very good tonight. A pair of Rift tunes follows. “My Friend, My Friend” has another experimental outro tonight, consisting of about 90 seconds of mellow, minor key jamming that eschews the typical “Myfe” ending. A very solid outing of “Rift” is next which drops into an excellent “Tweezer.” The “Tweezer” jam starts at 4:25, and the first several minutes alternate between tight sounding dissonant funk and ascending Trey riffs. Eventually this starts to build over the course of a couple minutes to a strong Trey peak at 9:15 which quickly works towards the composed ending at 10:00. There’s nothing too out-of-the-box about this “Tweezer” but the funk is dirty, the playing is tight, and the peak is full of energy, all of which makes for a fun “Tweezer.”
The exaggerated ending of “Tweezer” leads into the first “Ya Mar” of March. Despite the absence “Ya Mar” is solidly executed and its appearance lends some freshness to the setlist. A typically-great “Llama” is followed by a big mid-set “You Enjoy Myself.” The ‘bliss’ segment is unique again tonight because of a great bass melody from Mike. Page’s solo starts good and it initially seems like we’re in for a solid “YEM,” but audio issues unfortunately start to become very noticeable at 11:30 as the song starts to transition to Trey’s solo. It sounds like someone’s amp is blowing. This unpleasant noise persists until about 13:00. The rest of “YEM” is standard, but the audio issues definitely took some steam out of what otherwise might have been another highlight of the show.
“My Sweet One” and “Big Ball Jam” bring us to a very abbreviated Henreitta segment which features only a couple minutes of “Cracklin’ Rosie,” minimal banter, and no vacuum solo! Perhaps they kept this segment short so they could fit in the following “Harry Hood.” Maybe “Hood” is a consolation of sorts for the issues during “YEM?” Unfortunately audio issues of a different kind appear during “Hood”; Trey’s guitar is noticeably out of tune. This is most apparent from 2:00-2:45. The jam begins at 5:15 and is very subdued for the first couple minutes, probably because Trey realizes he’s not in tune. This leads Page to take the lead at 7:30 as Trey starts to slowly build-up a drone in the background; likely the most unusual passage we’ve heard in a “Hood” on this tour. This leads to a euphoric build over the next several minutes that doesn’t peak quite as hard as I was hoping (again, perhaps due to Trey’s tuning issues). Nevertheless, this is a very interesting and unusual “Hood” (for the time) that fans of the song should find worth hearing. “Cavern” closes out the set. “Sleeping Monkey,” a barely audible “Sweet Adeline,” and a ripping “Reprise” comprise the encore.
Like the last show, I have mixed feelings about tonight’s performance. The first set is well-played, has a good setlist, and features the best “Split” of tour so far. Besides for a strong “Tweezer,” however, the second set is more problematic. Audio issues kill the momentum in what otherwise may have been a strong “YEM” and while the consolatory “Hood” at the end of the set has a strong and unusual build in the jam the song has issues of its own. The rest of the set is fine but mostly consists of standard performances of songs we have heard many, many times at this point (besides “Ya Mar,” which is a nice treat). A silver lining, however, is that the band definitely seemed to make some bold improvisational statements tonight between the “Split,” “Tweezer,”” and “Hood.” If they keep up this experimentation, work out the kinks in their equipment, and keep Trey in tune we could be in for some strong shows in the days to come.
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Split Open and Melt,” “Tweezer,” “Harry Hood”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 82 mins.
- Second set length: 116 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Ventura Theatre. Trey Anastasio Band performed here on 12/09/06.
- The longest gaps in this night’s setlist are “Ya Mar” and “Sleeping Monkey,” both returning after a fourteen show absence (2/27/93).
- The best represented studio albums are Rift and A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).