Welcome back! It’s hard to believe, but we are now about two-thirds of our way into Winter/Spring ’93 and almost 50 shows deep. We’ll be spending a lot of time here in the midwest, before the band winds back to the northeast to close the tour at home where they began. Tonight’s show comes packed with two fun treats: a crisp soundboard recording, and a circulating recording of the night’s soundcheck.
The soundcheck, unfortunately, proves to be less awesome than the jaw-dropping list of songs played would indicate. The first segment is the most fun and musically impressive. They start with a cover of “Miss You” that is less a performance of the full song than the playing of a few refrains, messing around with the song’s vocal melody, jamming, and some pauses to take care of sound issues. It’s still an enjoyable listen, and the last jam segues smoothly into a cover of “Take Me to the River,” a song I love but am only familiar with through the Talking Heads version. “Take Me” proves also to be mostly just a platform for jamming, with only a couple of refrains of the lyrics. Together it’s a fun pairing of songs I have never heard the band play at a show proper, with at least a couple minutes of loose jamming.
Next is a “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking Jam,” according to both Phish.net and the track listing of my recording. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” is a great song from a great Stones album, so I was excited when I saw this, but it’s nothing more than a few seconds of teases of the song that really do not deserve to be listed as a separate song. Oh well. “The Wedge” is the last substantial part of the soundcheck, making its second consecutive appearance in a soundcheck instead of an actual show. At one point you can hear Trey making a suggestion about the song and Fishman agreeing. The arrangement remains more or less unchanged but you can tell the band is still deciding what to do with “Wedge.” Some messing around with “Great Gig in the Sky” for about a minute ends the soundcheck. There’s nothing here that is an essential listen, by any means, but the “My Girl > Take Me to the River” segment is fun, and maybe worth tracking down if you really like one of those songs.
“Chalk Dust Torture” opens the first set, a song I always love as opener. It’s a fairly standard rendition, though appropriately high energy, and followed by an equally standard but competent “Sparkle” and “Guelah Papyrus.” The show then goes deeper with – what else? – “Stash.” I’m cool with the band just playing this song every night, as seems to be their plan at the moment. The jam begins with normal “Stash” jamming for a couple of minutes before taking a sharp step sideways at 7:15. The mood grows very dark and a good, dissonant groove develops. They maintain this ominous atmosphere with sharp playing for a few minutes before seamlessly flowing back into the “Stash” structure around 9:50 for a strong wrap-up of the song. This isn’t quite as experimental or adventurous as many of the standout “Stash” jams since Oregon, but the band makes up up for this with surgical execution. The band pulls right in and out of the dark, ‘type-II’ segment with purpose and direction and sounds tight throughout. You’re probably as tired of hearing it as I am of saying it, but this is another standout “Stash.” Keep them coming!
The band trucks along with a midset “The Horse > Silent in the Morning” breather. Trey’s voice dies at the beginning of “Horse” but he quickly recovers. Since I’m primarily interested in the band’s instrumental performance I had not thought about it, but two solid months of heavy performing might actually be having an impact on Trey’s vocal chords. Hopefully he prepared for that; the band did have vocal coaches during this era (which is where the a capella performances originated).
“Maze” is good tonight! It’s a song that is being heavily played and not being varied much between performances, so at this point usually does not move me much one way or the other. That being said, Trey’s solo feels longer tonight and is very high-energy. He drives the song to a more intense peak than I’m used to. Maybe the soundboard recording is enhancing it, but I really enjoyed this “Maze” and found it to be real high point of the set. Should be obvious from what I wrote, but Trey wins the “Maze” duel tonight.
“I Didn’t Know” (Fish on washboard) precedes “It’s Ice.” There’s a good, extended ‘underwater’ segment of “Ice” tonight with some lovely Page fills. Fans of the song should give it a listen. It’s only about a minute but with the quality of the recording it’s a worthwhile listen. A very solid “Divided Sky” and “Cavern” close the set.
The playing from top to bottom this set is very tight. Trey in particular is having a good night. “Stash” goes delightfully sideways for a few minutes, there’s a stronger than usual peak in “Maze,” and “It’s Ice” has some extra flourishes. This has been an enjoyable show so far.
Set 2 starts with a run of five, relatively short songs, beginning with a pairing of “Buried Alive” and “Suzy Greenberg.” Trey plays a few licks from the “Stairway to Heaven” solo before Page’s solo in “Suzy,” around 2:55 on my recording. Between this and some extra yelling from Trey during “Buried Alive,” it’s clear that the band is in high spirit and energy. Next is very tight renditions of “All Things Reconsidered,” “Llama,” and “Mound.”
The set starts to go deeper with “My Friend, My Friend.” This performance ends with a long, two and a half minute outro with the typical dissonant jamming and vocal shenanigans. I like the placement of “My Friend” as a prelude to “You Enjoy Myself.” The ‘bliss’ segment of “YEM” sounds more, well, blissful than most recent performances, though it’s still fairly standard. Page’s solo starts at 8:30 and begins to establish a funky groove around 9:45. Trey slowly starts to take over the direction of the jam and is in charge by 10:30. The jam funks along for a minute before quieting down and getting very subdued at 12:00. Page drops out and the entire band stops at 12:30. There’s a full on ‘silent jam’ here with only a few occasional stray notes before they start to build back up at 13:00. The feeling of the jam is still funky. Trey quickly directs the band into a “Groove Is in the Heart” tease. After jamming with that theme he launches into a thrilling, big rock solo to bring his jam segment to a close with a bang. The bass and drums segment starts at 14:30 and keeps up the “Groove Is in the Heart” theme. Trey provides a few accents at 15:30 before the vocal jam begins at 16:00. There’s a nice, melodic end to the vocal jam before the band starts shouting “Mr. Cookie Head” repeatedly. Keeping it classy, as always. This is a fairly concise “YEM,” but Trey’s jam from 10:00 through 14:30 is a very fun segment that builds to a strong peak and is worth hearing.
“My Sweet One” and “Big Ball Jam” bring us to the Henrietta segment. Fishman announces that Brad Sands (road manager) is on stage for “no reason whatsoever” and procedes to introduce him to the crowd before a performance of “Love You.” After Henrietta’s segment there’s some chatter amongst the band before Trey exclaims “oh fucking A…you convinced me” and starts up “Possum.” It’s a satisfying end to the set with one more strong solo for the evening from Trey. The encore is “Sweet Adeline” (unfortunately cut from the recording) and a solid “Golgi Apparatus.”
Phish is on quite a streak as of late. This is yet another enjoyable show, with good flow and execution from beginning to end. Along with the solid playing there’s some great improvisation as well, from the tight yet experimental “Stash,” to the funkified “You Enjoy Myself.” There’s good flourishes and song selection that keeps the rest of the show feeling fresh as well. The band sounds excited and engaged, which bodes well for the shows to come as well. I feel that since around mid-March or so the band has both started to take more risks with their jamming and really lock down their setlists and song performances. There’s been a few off nights since then, for sure, but as a whole I feel that the band is on an upwards trajectory. I can’t wait to see what this leads to over the next few weeks!
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Stash,” “Maze,” “You Enjoy Myself”
- Phish.net setlist
- Soundcheck length: 20 mins.
- First set length: 73 mins.
- Second set length: ~79 mins.
- This is the first time Phish performed at the State Theatre. They will return on 6/16/94.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Sweet Adeline,” returning after a five show absence (3/31/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (8 songs).