We continue our trek south tonight with the first and only North Carolina show of the tour. “All Things Reconsidered” kicks off tonight’s show, and it feels a bit awkward in the opening slot. The band sounds good out of the gate, but I feel like this tune works better as a mid-set interlude. A high-energy “Runaway Jim” is next and feels like the true opener. Trey shows he needs no warm-up tonight, for he positively shreds through this “Jim.” It’s a relatively standard reading of the song, but the jam/solo builds to a strong and exciting peak. A rare, early-show “Ya Mar” follows “Jim.” There’s nothing too memorable about this “Ya Mar,” but the mellow groove of the song is well-placed after “Jim.” A solid “Sample in a Jar” rounds out the opening salvo of songs.
The first set rolls along with a very fine reading of “Foam,” and an appropriate-given-the-location “Nellie Kane.” “Split Open and Melt” provides the most psychedelic moments of the show so far. The jam begins with Trey teasing “Nellie Kane” before moving into some chunky riffing. Trey slowly moves from riffing into full-on soloing, as the rest of the band does a great job of both maintaining the song’s signature ominous and chaotic vibe and building up the song’s energy. This culminates in an intense peak from about 7:40-8:20 before the band moves into the song’s composed ending. In terms of the jam’s progression this is a relatively standard “Melt,” but it’s very well executed and has that classic, darkly-psychedelic “Melt” vibe I love so much. The highlight of the show so far. Both the band and the audience get a breather after “Melt” with “The Horse > Silent in the Morning.” A duo of short songs closes out the set: “Poor Heart > Cavern.”
With only “Split Open and Melt” exceeding the nine minute mark (and even then only barely so), Phish doesn’t really seem to stretch out too much this set. The set clocks in at under an hour, and because it features some mellow tunes (i.e. “Ya Mar,” “Silent in the Morning), it doesn’t match the utter ferocity of the 7/16 first set. Due to this, it’s hard to rate this first set much higher than average. This set is still a decent listen though: the playing is rock solid from the first note to the last, the “Runaway Jim” is exciting and sets the energy-level high at the beginning of the show, and the “Split Open and Melt” jam is a legitimate highlight. If the band can keep up this energy and quality of playing during the second set and throw in a couple curveballs too, we could be in for a great second half.
“2001” takes its customary spot to open set 2, before the band steamrolls through two tour-debuts: “Axilla > My Sweet One.” These three opening songs all come in at under 4 minutes, lending the beginning of the set a frantic feel. The energy only builds from there, with “Run Like an Antelope” capping off this opening sequence. “Antelope” has easily been the most thrilling song of the tour so far, and it has clearly benefited from its now-standard set 2 placement. Tonight’s performance doesn’t chart a path away from this new normal for the song, but it’s still another great, exciting “Antelope.” The jam starts at 2:40, and after some initial space Trey launches into fast-paced riffing. He transitions into full-on soloing about a minute later, and the song rapidly grows more intense. There’s a strong peak at 5:30, which is followed by a series of quick tension/release passages. After pushing the peak further and further, the band collapses into the reggae section at 7:20. The band takes its time in beginning the verse, throwing in a “Simple Gifts” tease and a fun stop/start segment beforehand.
“The Lizards” follows “Antelope,” and is a well-placed breath of fresh air after the hyper-kinetic beginning to the set. The performance of “Lizards” sounds great, and is followed by “Mound,” which continues to flip back and forth between the first and second set. The middle of tonight’s second set is rounded out with another largely through-composed song: “My Friend, My Friend.” Though largely a standard performance of “MF, MF,” the band substitutes an “Aw Fuck!” Secret Language signal (which I’m not sure I’ve heard before) in lieu of the typical “Myfe” ending. This sacrilegious expletive is immediately followed by perhaps the most holy song in the Phish catalog: “Harry Hood,” making only its second appearance of the tour.
This is an excellent “Hood.” The jam starts at 5:05 and is initially very quiet. Trey gradually enters with pleasant, jazzy soloing, and is backed by great comping from Page. The jam builds at a relaxed pace, with the song not really picking up a full head of steam until about 8:00. The peak begins about a minute later with drawn-out, arpeggiated chords from Trey that are drenched in distortion. While more-or-less in line with the typical “Hood” structure this is still an interesting segment. This erupts into a jam-ending, blissed-out peak that feels well-deserved. The band transitions into the composed end of the song at 11:35. A lovely “Hood,” and probably my favorite song of the evening.
After “Hood,” Fishman gets his time in the spotlight with the first “Great Gig in the Sky” of tour. The end of his vacuum solo blends into the “Hold Your Head Up” theme. “Chalk Dust Torture” is the lone post-Henrietta song of the set. It’s a fun but relatively standard “CDT.” “Crimes of the Mind” continues to pop up on this tour, as Trey teases the song’s riff early in his “CDT” solo from about 3:30-3:40. Page’s Dad, Dr. Jack McConnell, takes the stage and joins the band for the double-encore. The encore begins with an instrumental, honky-tonk “Piano Duet” before the public debut of the band’s cover of “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home?” (which I will be counting as a debut, for stat purposes).
The playing tonight is top-notch, with nary a flub coming to mind. The first set feels a little standard for the tour besides for an exciting “Split Open and Melt,” but the second-set is perfectly paced and contains some excellent highlights. While not quite as revelatory as the past few performances, “Run Like an Antelope” continues to thrill in its new second set slot, and “Harry Hood” is simply exquisite. Throw in a bunch of tour-debuts that keep the setlist fresh, a well-played “Lizards” anchoring the middle of the second set, and a fun guest appearance during the encore, and you’ve got yourself a great show.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Split Open and Melt,” “Run Like an Antelope,” “Harry Hood“
- Phish.net setlist
- Debuts: “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home?” (Cannon) (first public performance)
- First set length: 58 mins.
- Second set length: 77 mins.
- This is the first time Phish performed at the Grady Cole Center. They will return on 4/24/94.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Axilla,” returning after an eighteen show absence (5/2/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).