Night 2 at the Palace Theatre is Phish’s final show at this venue, and it gets off to a much stronger start than last night. There’s very little shakiness or mistakes throughout the first set; the band sounds nice and settled in. The soundboard source of my recording for the night also has a better mix and sounds more dialed in than yesterday’s source. “Chalk Dust Torture” is the first song of the evening and is standard but typically high-energy. “Mound” is next, appearing unusually early in the setlist. The song works well in this slot though. “Split Open and Melt” takes its normal (early/mid-first set) position.
The “Melt” jam starts at 4:15 and is driven by Trey riffing and Page comping until about 5:45, where Trey begins to vary his playing and take more of a solo. He starts to push at the “Split” progression with a more upbeat melody shortly after 7:00, but the rest of the band remains locked in to the “Melt” groove. Because of this the jam never breaks the song’s structure. Instead, Trey starts to peak his solo about 9:30. The peak is my favorite part of the jam and provides some of the “Melt” intensity the song is known for. After great playing from the entire band the group heads into the song’s ending at 11:30. The first part of the jam feels fairly standard for the song at this point and is neither particularly experimental nor intense, but the peak is satisfying and makes for an early highlight of the night.
“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” serves as a breather after “Melt” before Trey leads the group into the “All Things Reconsidered” fugue. Trey struggles with the first section of “ATR” until about 0:40, so the song doesn’t pick up the energy level of the set after “Morning” as much as it could have. Thankfully, a ripping “Llama” is next, which more than makes up for the mistakes in “ATR.” A solid “Fluffhead” kicks off the back half of the set in fine fashion, followed by another good “Possum.” There’s a mini-jam during the “Possum” intro led by Mike that induces Secret Language signals and a very brief silent jam. The song proper doesn’t start until about 2:30. Trey delivers a very good solo during the jam that is probably his best playing of the set, going through interesting twists and driving to a satisfying peak.
A guest sit-in takes up the remainder of the set. Dick Solberg, a local musician, joins the band on violin. Trey comments that he met Dick while “taking a break in the Virgin Islands.” The band starts up “Lawn Boy,” and while Dick does not add much to the song at first, Page gives him the nod for the solo and he delivers some ripping violin playing. Fans of “Lawn Boy” will definitely want to check out this performance. Jeff Walton on vocals and acoustic guitar then takes the stage for three Phish debuts to close the set, two of which are never played again. Those two are “Why You Been Gone So Long?” and “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train.” The third, “Tennessee Waltz,” will only be performed at one more proper show. Like many guest sit-ins at Phish shows, your enjoyment of this segment will largely derive from how much you appreciate the band’s country/bluegrass diversions and the underlying songs. I found it to be a fun but inessential listen. Overall, I found this to be a good, though not great, first set. While nothing here is truly exceptional the playing is generally solid and there are a number of highlights: the peak in “Melt,” “Fluffhead,” “Possum,” and the novelty of the guest sit-in at the end of the set.
“Suzy Greenberg” makes an increasingly rare appearance to open up set 2. It’s a standard performance, but is followed by anything but. “Tweezer” takes the number 2 slot, and like they did with “YEM” last night, the band blows the song open in a way we haven’t seen so far on this tour. The result is a 19-minute “Tweezer” with a multi-part, type-II jam. The jam starts at 4:20. Trey drops out to let Mike set the initial direction. Mike responds by almost immediately playing something that sounds quite similar to Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.” The band locks into this and the rides this groove for several rocking minutes. Trey solos and brings the jam to an initial peak from 7:00-7:30. The jam takes a more dissonant turn after that and sounds like its heading back towards the composed ending of “Tweezer.”
Instead of ending “Tweezer,” however, the band fakes us out and takes a left turn around 10:00 into a very anarchic sounding free-jazz segment led by Page’s intense playing. The band starts to coalesce around a simple Trey riff at 12:00 that builds up into an entirely new groove outside of the realm of “Tweezer.” This takes another big turn at 15:45 as the groove dissipates into a very blissful sound led by clean, melodic playing from Trey (think of the big shift that occurs near the end of the Hampton ’97 “Halley’s Comet”). The rest of the band quickly shifts direction along with Trey for a short but very sweet passage of bliss. Trey could have kept riding this section out for another five minutes, at least, in my opinion, but quickly works back into the main “Tweezer” riff. We’re back in the main “Tweezer” groove at 17:00. Trey adds in a little bit of celebratory soloing before going into the composed end of the song at around 18:00.
Suffice to say, this “Tweezer” is on another level from just about any other standalone “Tweezer” from this tour (that is, putting aside the 2/20/93 segue-fest). Most “Tweezer” jams of late have been in the 5-10 minute range and contain a similar tension/release feel. At first it sounds like this performance is just going to be a very good version of one of those, built around Mike’s “Sweet Emotion”-esque riff, but the band then goes entirely in a different direction, working through psychedelic anarchy and emerging into a serene breath of fresh air. Absolutely worth a listen.
Following this landmark “Tweezer” the band treats the crowd to the first “Tela” in over a month. Despite the absence the song sounds good and is great to hear again. “Uncle Pen” and “Big Ball Jam” quickly bring the tempo and energy back up. A good “Squirming Coil” provides a moment of reflection before “Mike’s Song” kicks off the last improvisational journey of the evening, and tonight’s performance continues the song’s hot streak in a really unique way. The first jam is its short, standard self, building to a quick, rocking peak and going into the end chords at 5:20. The second jam starts at 5:40 with “Simple”-esque riffs and is dissonant for about a minute before shifting directions at 7:00. Trey leads the band into the melody of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and the band commences to essentially play an instrumental version of most of the song through 9:45. The band starts to jam over the feel of “Ob-La-Di” while the violinist that sat-in during the end of the first set comes back onstage and joins the band mid-jam! The tempo of the jam increases and takes on a more bluegrass feel. They build to a fun, bluegrass peak before segueing seamlessly into the start of “Rocky Top” at 12:00. Altogether, a very fun and memorable sequence.
A Henrietta “Cracklin’ Rosie” segment brings us to the final song of the set, and another Phish debut, “That’s Alright Mama.” The violinist stays and they are joined by the second guest from the first set on vocals. The band comes back onstage sans guests to encore with a standard “Contact > Tweezer Reprise” pairing. This show has just about everything you could ask from a show of this tour, and then more. There’s great performances of classic songs (“Fluffhead,” “Possum”), a decent first-set jam (“Split Open and Melt”), and a huge second-set jam (“Tweezer”) that is one of the most adventurous of the tour. On top of that there’s the guest-sit, which results in a couple of genuinely cool moments (“Lawn Boy”, the “Mike’s Song” jam). Phish’s playing overall is tight, there’s some great improvisation, and the whole show is just a lot of fun. There’s still two shows to go, but this last week of tour is shaping up to be the most exciting week of the whole three months.
- Show rating: 5/5
- Highlights: “Split Open and Melt,” “Possum,” “Lawn Boy,” “Tweezer,” “Mike’s Song > Rocky Top”
- Phish.net setlist
- Debuts: “Why You Been Gone So Long?” (Newbury), “Tennessee Waltz” (King/Stewart), “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train” (Shaver), “That’s Alright Mama” (Crudup)
- First set length: 82 mins.
- Second set length: 85 mins.
- This is the third and last time Phish performed at the Palace Theatre. Trey Anastasio Band will perform here on seven separate occasions from 5/15/99 through 1/26/13, and Trey joins Medeski, Martin & Wood at this venue on 12/1/00.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Tela,” returning after a thirty-three show absence (3/22/93).
- The best represented studio albums are Rift and A Picture of Nectar (4 songs).