Happy April Fools Day! The story of today’s show actually begins during the day, at Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park. This is a long, narrow park on the waterfront on the downtown side of the river that splits Portland in half. The park is good for an afternoon walk and also plays host to a variety of festivals and Portland cultural events (recently it has become home to the annual Music Fest Northwest). Phish performs a (very) short a capella set here for an event that, judging by the recording, was an anti-logging political concert. There’s nothing notable musically about the five-minute recording but it is fun to hear the band introduced as “the Phish!” and to hear an a capella rendition of “I Didn’t Know.”
Evening brings the band back to the site of last night’s show, the Roseland Theater. The main event starts off with a fiery “Llama.” A standard “Guelah Papyrus” fills its usual setlist role as song #2 before a well-played “Rift.” The last time Phish played “Stash” was in Eugene, where they took the song for a longer ride than they had all tour. They continue to experiment with the song tonight with another good performance. The jam begins at 4:50 and becomes dissonant around 7:00. Page and Trey play off each other well, and neither dominate the musical conversation over the next several minutes. This dissonant passages builds well to a strong peak and transition to the song’s end at 10:20. Tonight’s “Stash” isn’t as long as the last, but it’s a more focused and tighter sounding effort that remains experimental. “Stash” continues to impress.
“The Squirming Coil” is an odd choice mid-set, but it works as a nice breather after the intense “Stash.” “My Friend, My Friend” brings the energy back up and, as usual, has an extended outro with subdued and eerie jamming. “Paul and Silas” is fun to hear in any slot at a show and leads into a well-played “Fluffhead.” “Lawn Boy” lets the audience breathe before the always frantic “Run Like an Antelope” closes the set. This “Antelope” stands out due to a good, dark build at around 5:30 that lasts for several minutes before a strong peak. As a whole, this is a good first set. Like last night it starts out somewhat unremarkable, but picks up a few songs in. The set is anchored by another experimental “Stash,” a well-executed “Fluffhead,” and a blistering “Antelope” to close.
A pairing of “Axilla” and “The Curtain” opens set 2, followed by a lengthy “Possum.” There’s a subdued feel to the early portion of Trey’s solo, but the band is back to full intensity by about 5:30. A breezy, if unremarkable, pairing of “Fee” and “Ya Mar” rounds out the opening sequence of tunes.
“Tweezer” is the first (and only significant) attempt at group-orientated improvisation in the second set, and it’s a good jam that results. A very intense and dark passage is underway by 6:30, largely led by Trey. This settles down into a groove driven by Trey’s riffing and a chunky bass line from Mike. Page fills the space with haunting fills as Trey recedes into the background. The volume starts to pick back up at 10:30 with a strong Trey solo before the transition into the composed ending of the song shortly after 13:00. This is the second consecutive good and long (for the time) “Tweezer.” “Poor Heart” and “Big Ball Jam” follow “Tweezer.”
Before the first “Hold Your Head Up” refrain Trey announces to the crowd that they will be joined on stage by Neil Young. April fool’s! The crowd boos when they quickly realize that the special guest is in fact just Fishman on the microphone. He informs the crowd that they fell for it “hook, line, and sinker” but promises to console us by performing a stirring rendition of “Terrapin,” vacuum solo and all. After this lengthy Henrietta segment the short set closes rather abruptly with a concise “Cavern.” The encore is equally whimsical, consisting of a barely audible a capella “Carolina” and the requisite “Tweezer Reprise.”
Tonight’s setlist is full of setlist regulars that are, for the most part, performed in average fashion in the context of the tour. This combined with a rather short set second makes for a show that is largely an inessential listen. However, there are also a number of strong highlights that keep the listen entertaining. These are clustered in the back half of the first set (experiments in “Stash,” excitement in “Antelope,” a well-played “Fluffhead”), and the middle of the second (another long, patient “Tweezer”).
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Stash,” “Run Like an Antelope,” “Tweezer”
- Phish.net setlist
- Early show length: 5 mins.
- First set length: 78 mins.
- Second set length: 77 mins.
- This is the fifth and last time Phish performed at the Roseland Theater. Pork Tornado performs here on 10/31/02 and Trey Anastasio Band performs here on 11/30/05.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Ya Mar,” returning after a nine show absence (3/21/93).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (7 songs).