The Winter/Spring ’93 tour treated us to not one, not two, but three great Phish shows in the city of Atlanta (2/19, 2/20 & 2/21), forever immortalized with the At the Roxy box set. There hasn’t been a single multi-night stand at one place this whole summer tour, however, and Phish’s stop in #Hotatlanta on this tour does not break that trend. This Saturday night show begins with a pairing of “Rift” and “Sample in a Jar.” Both songs sound good but are standard. The breezy “Ya Mar” follows, always a great first-set song choice for an outdoor, summer show. “Ya Mar” generally tracks along the same course it has charted all year, but it does give both Page and Trey an opportunity to stretch out a bit and warm up their soloing chops. Trey’s solo in particular is fun; he plays very quietly for most of his solo and the band matches him, making this an unusually subdued “Ya Mar.”
“Split Open and Melt” is next, giving the band an opportunity to light some sparks under what has been a solid but largely uneventful show so far. It sounds like Mike hammers on a wrong note at 1:00, which is briefly jarring, but he recovers instantly. The jam begins at 4:10, with Trey quickly locking into a driving, three-note riff. Mike matches Trey’s playing, and Trey begins to modulate at 5:10. Fishman starts pushing at the rhythm at this point, and the song quickly builds in intensity. Trey begins full-on soloing a minute later. The song threatens to cut loose into psychedelic weirdness, but Trey quickly falls back into dark riffing. The jam ends with a couple minutes of great, tension/release runs that peak at about 7:45. These runs continue until 8:45, at which point the band wraps up the song very quickly with just a couple refrains of the song’s main theme. This is a short but efficient “Melt” that punches above its weight, with the band (particularly Trey) rapidly working through a number of ideas. “Melt” definitely lights some fire under this set.
“Mound” carries the momentum from “Melt,” before the band drops into a mid-set “Foam.” Like “Ya Mar,” this “Foam” features engaging, exaggerated dynamics. Trey plays some unusual scratching noises over the song’s intro, which returns at about 5:45 as the song breaks down into near-silence. The band continues to play very quietly for a solid minute or so, before the song explodes back to full volume. This makes for a fun “Foam.” “Nellie Kane” is next, serving as an interlude between two of Phish’s more impressive compositions, as the band follows “Kane” with a late-set “Divided Sky.” This “Sky” does feature a crowd pause, though it only lasts ~15-20 seconds and the cheering is not very loud. Still, this is at least the second show on this tour to feature the pause, so it’s definitely (slowly) coming into existence. “Sky” is well-played and features an energetic solo from Trey at the end. “Cavern” closes the second first-set in a row.
This set doesn’t contain as many “wow” moments as yesterday’s first-set, so I would rate it as only about average for this tour so far. Average for this tour is still pretty good though: “Melt” is short but packs in some good improv, both “Ya Mar” and “Foam” are more dynamic than usual, and “Divided Sky” does a good job of filling out the end of the set. This first-set is an enjoyable, albeit not very unpredictable or surprising, listen.
“We’ll be right back…get some cold water or something!”
Set 2 opens with a short, standard “Wilson” that drops into “Runaway Jim” (I guess “2001” is an every-other-show opener, now?). “Jim” is also rather concise tonight, and while it features some solid soloing from Trey, it doesn’t reach the same ‘type-I’ heights that “Jim” often has reached this year. The set continues along with a well-played but unremarkable “It’s Ice” (sense a trend here?) that is followed by a mid-set “Maze.” Page’s solo in “Maze” is the most exciting moment of the set so far, as he takes his time building to a good peak. Trey’s solo might be even better, for his playing in “Maze” feels more experimental than usual. He leads the band through several dissonant passages, including a thrilling run shortly after 8:00 that features him vocally wailing over his playing. These twists and turns make the eventual peak feel all the more sweeter. This is a very good “Maze.”
“Sparkle” serves as a bridge between “Maze” and Mike’s Groove. The “Mike’s Song” jam begins at 2:35, with Trey coming in at 3:20. Once Trey is in, the band almost immediately moves into a “Heartbreaker” (Led Zeppelin) jam. Trey breaks from this riff into a solo at 3:50, but quickly returns to “Heartbreaker” just a half-minute later. Another quick solo ends the first jam, as Trey starts up the ‘end chords’ at 5:00. A second jam begins at 5:25. Trey locks into some vaguely-uplifting riffs, which sets the tone for the second jam. Despite Trey’s major-key-ish riffing, the rest of the band keeps the vibe of the jam murky and ominous. This segment chugs along for a couple minutes before the jam begins to break down at 7:20. Page briefly takes the spotlight with some neat organ fills, before a chordal assault from Trey brings the band back into the “Mike’s” progression at 8:00. One final, quick Trey solo brings the jam to an end, as the final set of ‘end chords’ kick in at 8:15. Overall, a fun “Mike’s Song” with a couple unusual segments. This probably isn’t one I will return to often, but it’s entertaining while it lasts.
The final performance of “Leprechaun” serves as the bridge between “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug Groove” (side note: “I Am Hydrogen” has not yet been played on this tour). It does sound like “Leprechaun” has been tightened up since its first couple of appearances, and it does an adequate job serving as a sort of alternate “I Am Hydrogen.” Despite this being the best performance of the song, I don’t think I will miss “Leprechaun” much (and the songs it will give birth to, “Free” and “Guyute,” are much better). So long, “Leprechaun,” we hardly knew you. Trey starts soloing shortly after 1:00 of “Weekapaug.” His solo builds for a couple of minutes into an exciting flurry of hammer-on/pull-offs from ~3:25-3:55. This is followed by some great, melodic soloing, a final peak, and a return to the “Weekapaug” verse by 4:50. This is a solid “Weekapaug,” but it’s very short. “Weekapaug” was consistently one of the band’s most experimental songs during Winter/Spring, but it’s felt much more reined in on this tour.
We weren’t treated to a Henrietta segment during last night’s tightly-scripted second set, but never fear, we get to hear Fishman seduce us to the tune of “Purple Rain” tonight. This second set is wrapped up quickly after “Purple Rain,” with tight performances of “Daniel Saw the Stone” and “Highway to Hell” ending the set. The first encore is a treat tonight, for “AC/DC Bag” makes its first appearance of the summer. “Free Bird” sends the crowd home for the night.
Phish plays it very close to the vest tonight. The setlists of both sets flow well and the playing is rock solid, for the most part, but there’s little sense of spontaneity or unpredictably either. This show is a solid listen, but few great Phish shows start from the premise of ‘playing it safe.’ A solid show, though slightly underwhelming given the fire the band brought to Atlanta earlier this year.
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Split Open and Melt,” “Maze,” “Mike’s Song”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 62 mins.
- Second set length: 80 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Masquerade Music Park. G.R.A.B. will perform here on 7/15/06, and Mike Gordon on 8/9/08.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “AC/DC Bag,” returning after a sixteen show absence (5/8/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).