We approach the first Southern weekend of tour today with a Thursday night show in Knoxville. The show opens with the first “Funky Bitch” since 4/20, and like all performances of the song this year, Phish keeps the song’s solos very close to the vest. “Divided Sky” is next. Though I always love a good first-set “Divided Sky,” especially in the summer, this performance is uncharacteristically sloppy. It’s not Coventry-bad, or anything close, but minor flubs are noticeable throughout the whole song, and the solo at the end is not particularly energetic. Couple this with some tape glitches in the first couple minutes and this is easily the most disappointing “Sky” of the tour so far. “Weigh” also makes its tour debut in the three slot, and it ends by collapsing into “Rift.” Despite being one of the band’s more difficult songs “Rift” sounds good, hopefully proving the looseness of “Sky” has been shaken off. “The Landlady” emerges out of “Rift” before a mid-set “Fast Enough for You.”
Though “Fast Enough for You” was likely placed in the middle of the set to serve as a breather of sorts, it’s actually the highlight of the show so far. The beginning of the song is nice and delicate, and it builds to a fiery peak. A great performance of a great Phish song. Tour stalwart “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own” follows “FEFY” before the the first “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird” of summer ’93. The narration isn’t anything too out of the ordinary for ’93. The venue and surrounding buildings of Knoxville melt away so that the audience members find themselves in an ocean “that’s actually just a big river.” The audience flows along this river, which gets rougher and rougher until the band and audience go over a “bottomless waterfall.” The audience falls through space, reaches terminal velocity, and is pulled by gravitational forces to Gamehendge. While this is a somewhat ‘standard’ narration for the time, the musical accompaniment to the narration is well-done, and the whole sequence is very entertaining.
“Possum” closes out the set, and it’s easily the most exciting song of a somewhat-staid show so far. Trey’s solo is well-paced, starting with a relaxed feeling and building to a strong, exciting peak by 8:00. “Possum” has been consistently great throughout ’93, and this performance is no exception. The song contains the most significant improvisation of the first set. Like last night’s first set, I didn’t find this set to be particularly memorable. I would even rank this set lower than last night’s first set, because the uncharacteristic flubbing of the usually-solid “Divided Sky” is disappointing, and nothing in this set is as fun or psychedelic as the “Split Open and Melt” from last night. That’s not to say there’s nothing to celebrate: the “Fast Enough for You” is excellent, the “Forbin’s > Mockingbird” is entertaining, and “Possum” is energetic. Still, this set is far from a must-listen, and I’m hoping the band steps up their game for the second half of the night.
“Maze” opens set 2. Wait…what? NO “2001”??? That’s right, this is the first second set (or first set of a one-set show) to not open with “2001” in ten shows. This “Maze” deviates from a typical “Maze” in a couple of small ways. First, the intro is slightly elongated for some extra moody ambience. Second, Page’s solo features a bit more full-band jamming than normal, with Trey adding some interesting complementing lines. Perhaps because of this slight experimentation, Page’s solo doesn’t build to huge peak. Trey’s solo is more standard, but does build to an energetic ending. These minor deviations aren’t anything too special, but this “Maze” is still a solid beginning to the set.
“Bouncing Around the Room” follows “Maze,” and features a slightly stretched-out ending that segues into “It’s Ice.” “Ice” is largely standard tonight, but the ‘underwater segment’ does have a fun organ melody from Page. The elusive “Lifeboy” is next, filling a role in the setlist similar to “FEFY” in the first set. While “Lifeboy” doesn’t build to the same fiery peak that “FEFY” did, it’s still a rare treat and an appreciated delicate moment in the middle of the set. “Sparkle” builds back some energy before the band drops into “You Enjoy Myself.”
The composed portion of “YEM” is standard. Trey starts yelling over Page’s solo early on, and takes control of the jam with heavy-metal riffing at about 10:30. He moves into some fun Jimmy Page-esque soloing soon after, and builds the jam up into an early peak. Surprisingly, after only jamming for a couple minutes, Trey drops out at 12:30 for an early drums-and-bass segment. Mike is sounding good and funky tonight, so this segment is fun, but the vocal jam begins by 13:40, making this the shortest “YEM” in recent memory that was not unfinished. This jam felt like it got cut off just as it was getting started. The now-standard Henrietta segment of “Purple Rain > Hold Your Head Up” follows “YEM,” allowing Fishman an opportunity to ham it up for the audience.
“Daniel Saw the Stone > Good Times Bad Times” closes out the set, while the band sends the crowd home with a double-encore of “Rocky Top” and “Free Bird.” These songs sound fine, especially “Good Times,” which has more fire in it than just about anything in this set thanks to Trey’s solo. It’s still a pretty standard show-closing sequence for this tour, though. I have to be honest here; almost nothing in this second set really stood out to me, and the “YEM” jam, usually a show-highlight, is bizarrely short tonight. Maybe I’m projecting, but the band’s energy seemed to be flagging tonight to me. That’s understandable, for we’re two weeks into a tour that’s involved a lot of traveling. Nevertheless, I definitely found this to be one of the weakest shows of the tour so far. I would rate the first set higher than the second: the sloppiness of “Divided Sky” is disappointing, but “Fast Enough for You” is a nice treat, and “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” through “Possum” is the most energetic and entertaining sequence of the night. Hopefully the band will come out with a little more spring in their step tomorrow tonight.
- Show rating: 2/5
- Highlights: “Fast Enough for You”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 70 mins.
- Second set length: 77 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Tennessee Theatre. Trey Anastasio band performed here on 2/28/10.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Funky Bitch,” returning after a twenty-nine show absence (4/20/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (6 songs).