This is it folks. The final run of tour. Four nights, Wednesday through Saturday. Half of those remaining shows occur at tonight’s venue: the Palace Theatre in Albany. After these two Palace shows we’ll be ending the tour exactly where we began with a night in Maine and the tour finale in New Hampshire. All of these shows are an easy drive from the band’s home in Burlington. Perhaps we’re in store for an end of tour blowout as the band celebrates their return to home after a grueling three months on the road? We’ll soon find out.
I have a soundboard recording to listen to tonight, but unfortunately the mix sounds a little off throughout the show. Fishman’s drums in particular are on the quiet side and Mike is just as, if not louder, than Trey. It’s nice to hear Mike with such clarity but he drowns out Trey at times. None of this is the band’s fault, of course. The show opens with “Rift” and “Guelah Papyrus,” both which sound fine but not particularly great either. “Foam” is nice and dynamic with a quiet middle section, and it sounds like the band has finally picked up steam by the end of the song. Fishman messes up his timing at the end of the song though, making for an awkward transition into the following “Sparkle.”
“Stash” is next. Continuing the trend of not sounding 100% locked-in, the band struggles in spots with the composition of the song. Fish and Mike especially sound off. Despite these problems the band does deliver a decent jam. The jam starts at 5:30 and immediately sounds eerie and tense due to a repetitive riff from Trey and some great comping from Page. Trey and Mike lock into a riff at 6:40 that shifts the direction of the jam and moves it further from the “Stash” progression. This builds into a small peak before another transition around 9:00 into a segment driven by a Trey solo. After some good fretwork from Trey it sounds like the band just limps towards the end of the song. Trey saves the day by throwing in some dark, evil-sounding chords to inject some energy back into the song, but it’s still a slightly awkward ending to the jam. There’s some great moments in this jam but it’s hampered by the overall lack of tight playing so far tonight.
The next two songs are an improvement: both “Bouncing Around the Room” and “It’s Ice” sound great (especially “Ice”). If the band was struggling to even play “Bouncing” that would be troubling indeed, but “Ice” is a fairly complex song so nailing that is a sign of progress. The ‘underwater’ segment of “Ice” is slightly extended and features some real nice playing from Page, who might be the MVP of the set. A solid “Glide” brings us to “Maze.” “Maze” has an extended intro tonight with extra chording from Trey akin to the mini-jams that sometimes occur during the “David Bowie” intro. Page’s solo is decent but only builds to a so-so peak. Trey’s solo has more swagger and a more intense peak, so he easily wins the “Maze” duel tonight. “Golgi Apparatus” takes its familiar role of set-closer.
Phish doesn’t exactly come out firing on all cylinders tonight, and there are some rocky moments during the first half of this set (especially “Foam” through “Stash”). There are some interesting passages during the “Stash” jam, but the technical issues keep this one from being a true highlight. Thankfully, the band’s playing does improves from there, and the standout of the set is actually the well-executed “It’s Ice” and the nice Page fills during the ‘underwater’ segment. This is otherwise an unremarkable first set.
The band returns to stage to open set 2 with “Runaway Jim,” and at first it worryingly seems the problems of the first set are going to return as well. Trey returns to the chorus too early around 3:00, throwing off the rest of the band in the process. The band recovers quickly though, and I’m happy to report that the rest of the set is mostly flub free and has a good energy – a clear improvement over the first half. “Jim” follows its standard progression at first with Trey leading his solo to a solid peak. From there it departs from the usual as Page steps up for a mini-solo as Trey wails away on feedback. The band starts to break down the jam at 7:30. Trey puts down his guitar and picks up his acoustic for the intro to “My Friend, My Friend,” leaving “Jim” unfinished for the first time this tour. The transition between the songs is surprisingly smooth due to the rest of the band continuing to jam over Trey’s intro to the song.
The fun segues continue with the second full-on “Manteca” jam in as many shows during the “My Friend” outro. Almost immediately as the the “my friend, my friend, he’s got a knife” outro begins Mike begins teasing the “Manteca” progression. The rest of the band quickly picks up on this and a full-on “Manteca” with lyrics emerges. It’s only about a minute long, so shorter than the more fleshed-out jam in New Jersey, but it’s still a very amusing twist to the “My Friend” ending. The band blazes through a number of quicker songs after “My Friend,” starting with two Mike tunes: “Poor Heart” and “Weigh.” Both songs sound solid. “Weigh” lands into the always frantic “Big Ball Jam,” keeping the energy of the set high.
Trey dedicates the following “Ya Mar” to his future wife Sue, who is at the show tonight, wishing her a happy birthday and telling her he loves her. Knowing how their relationship evolves it’s a sweet moment. “Ya Mar” is standard but it’s nice to hear it returning to a somewhat regular rotation. “Ya Mar” brings us to the set-closing “You Enjoy Myself.” “YEM” clocks in at well over a half hour, the first time any song from this tour has reached such a length, and it’s an outright party tonight. Strap-in, because you’re in for a good time. The opening ‘bliss’ segment is slightly extended tonight, not ending until 3:15, and sounds like it features a little extra instrumentation from Trey and Page. Page’s solo begins at 9:10 and is decent but nothing special. Trey starts comping at 10:15 and takes over from Page at 10:50. Shortly after Trey starts his solo The Aquarium Rescue Unit, whom I have never listened to before, slowly start taking the stage. A second guitarist comes in at 11:20, picking right up from Trey. Several minutes of great, multi-guitar interplay follows.
The jam starts to move away from the “YEM” progression but maintains a very groove-focused feel for the rest of the jam. A second percussionist and bassist are in by 13:15. Trey starts singing at 15:15 but I can’t make out exactly what he’s saying. The rest of the band, guests included, is tightly locked into a funky, danceable groove. The jam gets increasingly psychedelic as one of the guitarists starts shredding away and someone is yelling on top. After this segment peaks the groove resets a bit at 17:15, and Page takes the spotlight again at 19:00. The jam breaks down and becomes increasingly sparse at 20:00, beginning a rhythm section solo. The bassists keep playing but eventually drop out, leaving Fish and the guest percussionist rocking out and keeping the dance groove alive. The bassists and piano come back in, as well as a saxophone player at 21:45. Obviously, any semblance of “YEM” has been completely abandoned at this point. Fishman starts ‘playing’ the vacuum at 24:00 as the other percussionist keeps playing. The guitars come back in at 26:00 for a final intense round of soloing before the jam starts to fade out with a lot of scat-singing at 30:00. This mammoth jam finally comes to a close without a traditional vocal jam at 31:50.
The first encore song, “Amazing Grace,” is not present on my recording. That’s okay though, because the final encore is another fun setlist quirk. After the first minute or so of “Cavern” the band segues straight into the jazz-standard “Take the ‘A’ Train,” and then back into “Cavern” after playing through that tune. The transition back into “Cavern” is a bit rough but the novelty of the segue makes up for it, adding a final exclamation point to the second set.
I thought the first set of this show was on the weak side, but I honestly considered giving this show a 5 for the “YEM” jam alone. Phish simply did not jam on super-extended, funky grooves at this point, but the Aquarium Rescue Unit manages to slide right into the feeling of the “YEM” jam and draw out the party band, blue-eyed soul side of Phish before Phish themselves had fully embraced it. The result is a long, groove-based jam that must have been an absolute blast to have witnessed live but still holds up well on the recording. As cool as the “YEM” is though, it’s not the only highlight of the set. “Runaway Jim” has followed the same progression the entire tour, but tonight the band experiments with leaving the song unfinished and segueing right from the solo into “My Friend, My Friend,” making for a fun and encouraging experiment. And while it’s a brief sojourn, the “Manteca” inside “My Friend” is fun as well. While I can’t recommend the first set of this show, the second set is another excellent chapter in what is shaping up to be an exciting final week of tour.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Runaway Jim > My Friend, My Friend > Manteca > MFMF,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Cavern > Take the ‘A’ Train > Cavern”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 69 mins.
- Second set length: ~74 mins.
- This is the second time Phish performed at the Palace Theatre. They last played here on 11/20/92, and will return tomorrow night.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Take the ‘A’ Train,” returning after a fifty-nine show absence (2/12/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift and A Picture of Nectar (6 songs).