After a great show last night at Jones Beach, Phish travels north to perform at another venue that will remain a favorite for the band over the years to come: Great Woods. Tonight’s show opens with a trio of tunes that have been played frequently this tour, and within the last one or two shows: “Llama,” “Horn,” and “Nellie Kane.” All three are performed well. “Nellie Kane” leads right into the beginning chords of “Divided Sky.” This “Sky” is the first in recent memory to contain an actual pause in the composition, and the pause is accompanied by a boisterously cheering crowd. The pause only lasts about 20 seconds or so, but still…it’s happening! The song is performed well, and the ending jam is good and energetic, making this “Sky” an early highlight of the evening. “Guelah Papyrus” makes only its second appearance of tour, and is well-placed as a cool-down after the excitement of “Sky.”
“Rift” proves that it’s out to defend its position of being the most played song of tour by making an appearance in consecutive first sets, and like everything else so far this show, it is performed with exquisite precision. “Stash” is next, and like “Sky” earlier,” this performance shows the development of another form of crowd/band interaction: the “Stash” hand-claps. Fishman is still playing the woodblocks during the pauses in the song, but the crowd is very audibly clapping along with him. Like the “Sky” pause, I can’t remember this occurring at any other show in recent memory. The “Stash” jam begins at 4:50, and is initially driven by a dark, descending riff from Trey. This evolves into full-on soloing at 6:00. The jam sticks in typical-“Stash” territory until 7:30, at which point Trey leads the band into a menacing two-note progression. The mood gets very intense at this point, in no small part due to Fish’s thrilling drum work. After thrashing around for a bit, the band begins to quiet the jam down at 8:40 for a lighter, but still moody, segment. Dissonant chordal work from Trey brings the band back to “Stash” territory for a final peak, and a return to the composition at 10:15. This is a good “Stash!” This song has been a little underwhelming for most of this tour when compared to the great “Stash” jams from the back-half of the Winter/Spring tour, but this performance is a return to form for the song.
The fun continues after “Stash” with the first “Mango Song” in over a year. I’m a big fan of this song because of its absurdist lyrics and generally fun atmosphere, so it’s great to hear this one busted-out. “Mango” also adds some freshness to the setlist of this first set, which is otherwise stacked with songs currently in heavy rotation. “Bouncing Around the Room” follows “Mango” as the penultimate song of the set, before “The Squirming Coil” ends the first half of the show. This is actually an interesting “Coil,” for there’s a brief, full-band mini-jam between the end of the composition and Page’s solo. Trey locks on to a two-chord progression at about 4:20 that the rest of the band picks up on and builds for about a minute. While the rest of the band starts to fade away at that point, it’s a cool segment and sets the tone for the beginning of Page’s solo. It also leads Mike into some deep bass drones that shimmer beneath the surface of Page’s solo. The band doesn’t fully drop out and leave Page alone until close to 7:00.
While the first few songs of the set (“Llama” through “Nellie Kane”) have a bit of a jukebox feel to them, the rest of the set flows well and has clear highlights. “Sky” is excellently performed and has an energetic outro solo, “Stash” contains a dark and intense jam, and even “Coil” has some neat experimentation in it. Altogether, an above-average first set.
The now-familiar pairing of “2001 > Split Open and Melt” opens set 2. While a relatively straightforward reading of the song, this “Melt” is nevertheless a great and satisfying listen. The jam begins at 4:00 with minimalist riffing from Trey for the first minute. The band then goes through several tension/release cycles that build energy before the jam erupts into a good peak complete with lots of shredding from Trey. Again, this isn’t anything too out of the ordinary for “Melt,” but it’s a fun and precisely delivered opening to the set all the same. The first “Fluffhead” of tour follows “Melt,” and sounds excellent despite the lack of recent performances. Like “Melt” before it, this “Fluff” culminates in a strong solo from Trey before the song dissipates with a cool segue into “Maze.” Page’s “Maze” solo is decent but standard, and besides for a lengthy quote of the “2001” theme at the beginning of his, Trey’s can be described as the same.
“Glide” is next, and Trey is still having some issues with this song (though the performance is still better than the rough 7/21 version). I can sympathize; “Glide” sounds like a tough song to play on guitar. A quick “Sparkle” gives way to the first Mike’s Groove in a week. The “Mike’s Song” jam begins at 2:30, and Trey comes in at 3:05. The first jam is short and relatively unexciting, with the first round of ending chords coming in at 4:15. A second jam begins at 4:35. This second jam is initially dark, but quickly takes a melodic and upbeat turn at 5:10. The next several minutes are very uncharacteristic for “Mike’s Song,” and are led by open and airy melodies from Trey. The jam quiets a bit at 6:10 before beginning to build back up at 6:45. The mood gets more intense at this point, but the jam remains somewhat major-key and lighter than the a typical “Mike’s” jam. Trey goes full-on rock star mode and delivers some great soloing before the jam snaps back to the minor-key “Mike’s Song” progression at 8:00, just as the jam comes to a peak. Trey delivers a short, final solo before the final round of end chords kick in at 8:45. The second jam of this “Mike’s Song” is quite unusual for the time and delivers several minutes of interesting and enjoyable ‘type-II’ improvisation, making this song the improvisational highlight of the evening so far. “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” makes its second appearance as an a-cappella bridge between “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug.”
The “Weekapaug” jam begins at 1:25. Trey leads the song with high-energy soloing until 3:00, at which point he delivers a round of trilling before letting Page take over. The jam quiets way down with Page at the lead until the song reaches near silence by 3:30. The band builds the jam back up very slowly over the next minute, with some quiet but great interplay between Trey and Page. Trey suddenly strikes on to a Chuck Berry-esque blues riff at 4:30, and the jam comes roaring back to life. The song returns to more typical “Weekapaug” territory at 5:00, and Trey goes full-on, machine-gun-style ‘hose’ to deliver a thrilling end to the jam. After this awesome peak, the band returns to the “Weekapaug” verse at 6:10 to end the song. This is a relatively short “Weekapaug Groove,” but it packs a lot of punch. Overall, this is a fantastic Mike’s Groove with lots of great improvisation spread across its 20 minutes.
Fishman gets his time in the spotlight with the nightly performance of “Purple Rain > Hold Your Head Up,” which is well-placed here as a lighthearted reprieve after a largely relentless first 60+ minutes of the set. The band ends the set with a pairing of “Daniel Saw the Stone,” in which Trey thanks the audience, and a high-powered “Good Times Bad Times.” This “Good Times” gets gnarlier than most performances of the song I have heard writing for this blog, with the band throwing in a surprisingly dissonant and powerful tension/release jam from 3:30 through 4:00. The song serves as a fitting exclamation point for what has turned out to be one hell of a set. The band encores with another high-energy tune, “Golgi Apparatus,” and the requisite “Free Bird.”
This is the performance I have been waiting for since this tour began. Tonight’s show holds a candle to the classic performances from the last week of the Winter/Spring tour, with a long list of highlights, excellent improvisation, and great setlist flow to both setlists. I know the band’s jams will get headier over the next month, which I am very much looking forward to, but I find myself agreeing with one of the reviewers on Phish.net that writes that this show is the culmination of the band’s sound and accomplishments to this point. Definitely the strongest show of the tour so far, and an easy recommendation.
- Show rating: 5/5
- Highlights: “Divided Sky,” “Stash,” “The Squirming Coil,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Mike’s Song > Yerushalayim Shel Zahav > Weekapaug Groove“
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 68 mins.
- Second set length: 92 mins.
- This is the second time Phish performed at the Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts. They will return on 7/8/94.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “The Mango Song,” returning after a one hundred and fifty show absence (5/17/92).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).