Preface: The official release of this show was delivered to me after I had already finished writing this review, so I was not able to take into account the improved sound quality that the new release provides. As my review indicates, I highly approve of choosing this show for an official release. I will use the improved audio of the St. Louis ’93 set for my review of the summer St. Louis show in August.
The midwest portion of tour continues tonight with a stop in St. Louis. A fun sequence of “Buried Alive > Poor Heart” opens up the show before “Maze” allows the band a chance to dig a bit deeper. It sounds like there’s a touch more eerie ambience in the “Maze” intro tonight. Page’s solo is standard but good, while Trey’s is fast and thrilling. Trey builds the song to a strong peak. There’s no question that he wins the “Maze” duel tonight. The band certainly seems locked in at this point in the show. They take a quick breather with “Bouncing Around the Room” before performing a very well-played “It’s Ice.” The underwater segment of “Ice” is slightly extended and has an ominous feel.
Emerging out of “Ice” comes perhaps Phish’s most exciting song as of late: “Stash.” The jam begins at 4:50 and enters into a very cool sounding, Trey-led passage around 5:35. While I would characterize the sound as more upbeat than the typical “Stash” jam the music still has an edge to it. The band is listening to each other and playing off of each other well. The jam takes a more menacing turn at 6:30. It builds steadily before blending back into more typical “Stash” territory at 7:45. Trey delivers a strong solo with the rest of the band still humming along at full intensity. The jam peaks, but instead of transitioning back into the composed ending of the song as they usually would, the band instead breaks the jam down at 9:30. A mood similar to the direction the jam initially took reemerges. By 10:30 the jam has dissipated into just Fishman’s beat and some stray notes from Page…
…and the “Kung” chant begins. The “Kung” lyrics are spoken over the remnants of the “Stash” jam. The volume starts to build back up about 1:00 into “Kung” and a demented jam materializes once the chanting has finished at 2:20. The next minute is essentially a raging type-II “Stash” jam that transitions back into the ending of “Stash” at 3:37. Trey adds some additional “from the hills” lyrics to the end of “Stash.” Even before the “Kung” shenanigans this was a top-shelf “Stash,” but with that added insanity this is a serious contender for most memorable “Stash” of tour. Definitely a recommended listen.
A reprise of the “Kung” chant is next as Trey picks up his acoustic guitar. What follows is essentially a long, improvised intro to “The Horse.” It’s some good, nonsensical jamming. Once “The Horse” starts proper there’s a fun “Harry Hood” tease from Trey. Altogether this makes for one of the most interesting “Horses” I’ve heard from Phish. “Silent in the Morning” is a great way to relax after a half hour of creative antics.
What better way to follow this excellent middle of the set than a very well-performed “Divided Sky?” That’s exactly what the band delivers. I noted a brief pause with cheering during this “Sky,” which has not always been the case this tour. “I Didn’t Know,” featuring Fishman on washboard, and “Golgi Apparatus” close the set. I think it goes without saying at this point, but this is a superb first set. The playing is tight from the beginning, meaning the long, technical compositions (“Sky,” “Ice”) sound great. The whole sequence from “Stash” through “Silent in the Morning,” over a third of the set, is pure, Phishy creativity.
Set 2 begins unusually with Trey introducing a friend of his to come up to the stage. This person, Roger, has “appeared in a lot of our songs,” according to Trey, and grew up with both Tom Marshall and Trey. Roger comes upon stage with his girlfriend, who he proposes to. She says “yes,” and to honor the occasion, Trey starts up one of said songs that mentions Roger: “AC/DC Bag.” This is only the fifth “Bag” of tour we have heard, making it quite the rare appearance. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fond, so the song makes for a fun opening to the set. Admittedly the song does seem to slowly increasing in frequency of appearance, but I wonder why the song dropped out of the band’s favor in the first place? From the strange, Gamehendge lyrics to the tension-filled outro jam the song has always struck me as quintessential Phish.
A quick “My Sweet One” (lot of Fishman songs tonight) brings us to an odd “Tweezer.” The jam begins at 4:25 and is very sparse at first. Trey slowly starts to piece together a growling riff around 4:50. The rest of the band latches onto this and builds it over the next minute, before Trey starts to solo over the new groove that has developed. The overall sound quickly becomes dissonant. There’s good, precise playing from Trey, but he latches on to a static, dissonant groove and kind of just sticks with it for the rest of the jam. Mike starts to experiment at 8:30, which just makes the jam sound even stranger. The band works into the composed ending of the song at 11:25 without a huge peak or releasing much of the tension that was built. I do appreciate the band going out there and clearly pushing at their improvisation in this jam, but this “Tweezer” didn’t click very much with me. Trey seems to me a little too focused on the technicality of his playing and slightly out of step with the rest of the band, and it sounds like they got trapped into a dissonant groove. Still, points for effort, and I could see reasonable minds disagreeing with me on this one.
“Mound” continues to occupy its early/mid-second set workhorse position before “Big Ball Jam” and the requisite “You Enjoy Myself.” The ‘bliss’ segment is nice and patient tonight, which is how I like my ‘bliss’ segment. It weaves in and out of a subtle tension that is a nice contrast to its usual mellow sound. This section ends at about 4:00. Page’s solo begins at 9:05 and is a rocking, fun time. Trey basically drops out entirely as Page plays. Everyone else, except Fishman, drops out at 11:00, leaving Fishman to take a minute long drum solo in the middle of “YEM!” How often does that happen? It’s rather good too and develops a good groove.
Trey comes in very quietly and the rest of the band keeps it low as well. The hand claps are louder than the band on the recording at this point. There’s some nice stop/start work here. The volume starts to increase and has picked up considerably by 13:50. A “Spooky” jam, with a full verse from Page, begins at 14:19. Unfortunately, there’s a tape flip not soon after, so it’s uncertain how long this “Spooky” jam went on for, but we’re firmly back in Trey “YEM” solo territory at 15:20. He delivers a strong peak to wrap up his solo, and the bass and drums segment starts at 16:50. Mike continues with his experimental playing that we got a taste of during “Tweezer,” but he manages to keep a fun groove alive as well. This makes for a more interesting bass and drums segment than normal. It ends with full on heavy metal thrashing before the vocal jam starts at 18:50. The vocal jam is long tonight, close to 7 minutes, but it’s varied enough to stay interesting throughout. Altogether, this is an excellent “You Enjoy Myself” with a lot of creative playing by everyone involved and the clear highlight of the set for me.
The band does the opposite of mail-in the rest of the set, and charges straight from “YEM” into a long and ridiculous “Harpua.” Trey spends the first few minutes of the narration pontificating about dreams. (“What if there was a pile of dreams?”). I believe the narration involves Trey dreaming about dreams and a literal, walking dream catcher that comes along and snatches everyone’s dreams. He then very, very loosely ties this into the standard “Harpua” narration by mentioning that an old man and his dog are walking through dream land. This dog, of course, turns out to be Harpua. From there dream land somehow morphs into suburbia and the standard course of the “Harpua” story unfolds. The band adds plenty of nonsensical narrative and musical embellishments to this story, however, making this a very entertaining “Harpua.” A concise but fiery “Runaway Jim” closes out this awesome set. You can tell Trey is feeling it when he starts yelling almost indecipherably at the end of a set.
“Lengthwise” is the first of three encore songs, and is introduced by Fish as a “lighter song” (as in cigarette lighter). “Contact” and “Tweezer Reprise” end the show. From top to bottom this is an intense, entertaining show that has both great improvisation and zany Phish antics. “Tweezer” may be the one misstep, but even there the band is experimenting and trying to push at the boundaries of the song, even if they don’t quite succeed. But between the wild middle of the first set, the “AC/DC Bag” set 2 opener, the huge “YEM,” and the silly “Harpua,” you can’t really go wrong with this show.
- Show rating: 5/5
- Highlights: “Stash > Kung > Stash,” “Kung > The Horse,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Harpua”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 74 mins.
- Second set length: 91 mins.
- This is the first time Phish performed at the American Theater. They will return on 8/16/93.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Kung,” returning after a fourteen show absence (3/25/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (7 songs).