After a day off, and a light travel day for the band, we arrive at California show #6. Looking only at their length it looks like we have a tale of two sets tonight; the first half is brisk and clocks in at under an hour while the second set/encore is double that and comes in at about 110 minutes. A fine “Llama” opens up the evening and is followed by a more dynamic than usual “Foam.” Between the added dynamism last night and now tonight it would seem that the Redlands show made a somewhat lasting effect on the band. The band quiets down during Page’s solo to really let him shine and the beginning of Trey’s solo (~5:00) is very quiet as well. The song builds from there over the next several minutes. “Foam” is followed by a solid pairing of “Fee” and “Poor Heart.”
Recently it seems that Page is more willing than Trey to experiment with his “Maze” solo, and that trend continues tonight. Both solos are fairly standard but Page once again sounds a bit livelier so he gets my nod again tonight. The next three songs after “Maze” form a bit of a mid-set lull in my mind. “I Didn’t Know” features a real sparse trombone solo from Fishman while “Sample in a Jar” is briefly introduced by Trey as a “new song.” “All Things Reconsidered” rounds out this mid-set segment. Each of these songs is performed fine but they don’t do much to build momentum for the set. Thankfully, the energy starts to pick up again with “Runaway Jim.” There’s some good shredding from Trey around the 6:00 mark that injects a lot of life into the song (and the set). This is easily the most exciting song of the evening so far. In a somewhat odd setlist call, after just creating some momentum with “Jim,” the band then begins “Amazing Grace.” “Cavern” closes out what has become a rather tepid first set. None of the songs are performed poorly, but as someone who has listened to the whole tour up to this point the set just feels a little lifeless. Outside of a strong solo in “Jim” and the standard dueling of “Maze” there’s not really any improvisation to speak of.
Set 2 opens with a decent rendition of “The Landlady” that drops into “Split Open and Melt.” While the last performance of “Split” broke the song’s structure (briefly) and yielded some great jamming this one is played close to the vest and does not even crack the 9 minute mark. It’s a solid rendition of the song but there’s nothing too memorable about it. A quick “Sparkle” gives way to “Tweezer,” which contains the best improvisation of the night. The first couple minutes of the jam, which begins at 4:30, contains unusually bright major-key jamming that has been unusual for the song on this tour. This transitions to a dissonant build at 7:20 that peaks at about 9:30 before transitioning into the composed ending of the song a minute later. Again, like “Split,” there’s nothing extraordinary about this “Tweezer” but I enjoyed the major-key segment; it gives this jam some flavor.
“Tweezer” is followed by a “Mound” that immediately segues into “Big Ball Jam.” After the relatively uptempo beginning of the set the “Fast Enough for You” that is next is well-placed (as well as well-played). The intro to “You Enjoy Myself” is off tonight but the band recovers by the time the ‘bliss’ segment starts. This “YEM” is about as textbook as it gets; Page’s solo is 2 minutes and fairly unremarkable. Trey’s solo has more energy but is just a minute longer than Page’s. The bass and drums segment is standard. The vocal jam might be the most notable part of the improvisation as it ends with a loud “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” refrain sung by the whole band. “The Horse > Silent in the Morning” provides a breather after “YEM.” Unfortunately, “The Horse” is a bit spotty tonight.
We get treated to to the oft-requested “Prison Joke” tonight and oof, I kind of wish we hadn’t. An audience member asks Fishman to tell it and Fish refuses, but he invites an audience member to come up on stage to tell it. The audience member takes the stage and asks the rest of the crowd not to blame him for the joke because he “learned it from the band.” The infamous joke is as off-color as you would expect a joke about prison rape to be. After Fishman takes back the mic he asks if anyone else would like to tell a joke and welcomes the crowd to the “Phish joke hour!” This is followed by a stirring rendition of “Terrapin,” featuring a virtuosic vacuum solo. “Good Times Bad Times” closes out the set after the somewhat-entertaining trainwreck that was the Henrietta segment. “Carolina” and “The Squirming Coil” wrap up the night in the encore slots. I like “Coil” as the last song of the evening; I don’t think we’ve heard it in this role yet and it’s a pleasant note to end a show on.
I’m giving this show a low rating, not necessarily because I think it was objectively a bad show, but because it felt below average for the tour. There’s a few minutes of “Tweezer” that were engaging but otherwise there isn’t much notable improvisation to speak of tonight; “Split” and “YEM” were about as standard as they come. The first set up to “Runaway Jim” felt a little lifeless and there were some issues during the second set as well (intro to “YEM,” “The Horse,” perhaps a overly-long Henrietta segment). Unless you really, really want to hear the Prison Joke (believe me, you probably don’t) you’re really not missing out on much if you give this show a pass.
- Show rating: 2/5
- Highlights: “Tweezer”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 57 mins.
- Second set length: 109 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “The Prison Joke,” returning after a two hundred and forty-seven show absence (4/11/91).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (7 songs).