After a couple nights off, Phish relocates to the midwest to kick off the next leg of summer tour. “Split Open and Melt” kicks off tonight’s proceedings. Like many “Melts” from this tour, the jam hews close to the song’s composition. The jam starts at 4:20 and begins with a couple minutes of Trey riffing/soloing. It does sound briefly like the band is about to head sideways at around 6:20, but they quickly return to typical-“Melt” territory. A couple of solid tension/release runs bring this “Melt” home for the composed end. This is a short and not particularly mind-melting “Melt,” so it’s not a jam I’m really going to seek out in the future. That said, just opening with “Melt” is something of a statement, so hopefully it will give the band something to build on over the course of the night.
A series of shorter songs follow “Melt.” “Poor Heart” keeps up the energy of the set before the band drops into the first “Curtain” of tour. “Curtain” is a lovely song, so it’s re-appearance is a treat. And, as weird as this sounds, I quite enjoyed the pairing of “Curtain” and “Sample in a Jar.” The ending of “Curtain” flows well into the intro chords of “Sample.” Up next is the “buy our new album!” portion of the set, with a duo of Rift songs: “Rift” and “Horn.” The playing in both songs is solid.
“Divided Sky” follows “Horn.” Like everything else in this set, the song is well-played. Trey’s solo at the end is a decent length and ends the song in satisfying fashion. After “Nellie Kane” provides a brief interlude, two high-energy party songs end the set: “Chalk Dust Torture” and “Suzy Greenberg.” While all “CDTs” this tour have been firmly within the song’s type-I, less-than-seven-minute mold, I have become increasingly impressed with the band’s playing during the song (especially Trey’s). This performance is no exception, with Trey’s gnarly solo going through some twists and turns and lots of shredding. “Suzy” also is a fun one tonight, featuring a lengthy “Tequila” tease before and during Page’s first solo and great peaks during the solos themselves.
Besides for the tour-debut of “Curtain” and the fun segue from that song into “Sample,” the first half of this set didn’t do a whole lot for me. The show picks up for me during “Divided Sky.” “Sky” is delivered with precision, and the hard-rocking pairing of “Chalk Dust” and “Suzy” to end the set is the highlight of the night for me. A pretty typical first set for this tour, but it still has some fun sequences.
While “Buried Alive” frequently opens show, Phish has been opening the second set with the song far less frequently. The song’s uptempo but vaguely ominous vibe makes it a good fit for this slot, so I’m glad the band plays it here tonight. “Buried Alive” crashes into the opening of “Tweezer.” The ‘composed’ portion of “Tweezer” has some added twists tonight, with good Page leads and a vocal jam during one of the song’s breakdowns at 3:10. This is built on a minute later as Treys starts ominously chanting before the jam begins at 4:30. The jam settles on an almost-bluesy riff at 5:30, with Page providing some great comping. Page and Mike continue to step up as Trey repeats his riff and recedes steadily into the background. The band gets quieter and the jam darker, before Trey locks into a new riff and the jam changes directions shortly after 7:00. Initially it sounds like the song is heading towards a triumphant peak and a ripping Trey solo, but instead he settles back into dissonant riffing. The jam begins to break down again at 11:45, and the band begins to tease “Tequila” again. This fades out and the band starts up “Guelah Papyurs.”
“Tweezer” is very good tonight, with the jam moving through a number of distinct segments. The ominous vibe of “Buried Alive” is very much still alive in this jam, with the song never bursting for the light or a triumphant solo. The jam remains dark and even subdued for most of its duration. One of the most interesting performances of the song on this tour to this point. “Guelah” has some extra fun tonight, with more “Tequila” teases and a Secret Language signal during the song’s pause. A dude from the audience appropriately and in drunk fashion yells out “Tequila!” at this point. An early “Squirming Coil” provides a breather after a very entertaining first 20 minutes of the set. Page has stealthily been tearing it up since at least “Suzy Greenberg,” and that streak continues now for his solo in “Coil” does not disappoint. The song also has a neat little mini-jam before Page fully takes over.
A pleasant “Uncle Pen” leads into a big, mid-set “You Enjoy Myself.” “YEM” is making a consecutive appearance tonight, as the song was by far the best moment of an otherwise-staid show in Miami on the 3rd. This set’s ominous vibes continue during the ‘bliss’ segment of “YEM,” which nears three minutes total and is much darker than usual. Before the beginning of the jam are more “Tequila” teases from Trey at 9:00. There’s an unfortunate tape flip at the beginning of Page’s solo, but it’s solid nonetheless. He works in some more “Tequila” teases and it builds to a good peak. Trey takes over shortly after 11:00, and quickly works into a brief stop/start jam. He adds some vocal wailing, and the energy begins to build. The band tears into an incredibly locked-in passage by 13:15. Trey is rocking away with a shredding riff, and Page steps up and starts soloing all over the place. This culminates with a big, satisfying peak at 14:00. The bass and drums segment starts shortly after. Mike starts up a bluesy groove, and Trey comes back in with chordal strumming at 15:15. This slowly morphs into a full on “Cocaine” jam, complete with a sung verse of the song (“If you want to get down / get down on the ground / cocaine”). Trey drops back out and Mike transitions back into ‘bass and drums’ at 17:20 only for the vocal jam to begin seconds later. The vocal jam is short tonight, with a smooth transition into the a-cappella intro of tour-debut “Halley’s Comet.”
Two “YEMs” in two shows, and two excellent jams. Even without the “Cocaine” segment, this “YEM” has great playing and improvisation during the initial jam. The “Cocaine” fun just puts it further over the top. Another must-hear “YEM.” “Halley’s Comet” is fun to hear, and instead of ending the song suddenly, the band decides to jam out the ending of the song a bit, fading away the song with a transition into…”SLAVE TO THE TRAFFIC LIGHT!” “Slave” has not been played since 1991, and I’ve been waiting to hear ’93 Phish take on this song since the first show I listened to a show for this blog! The “Slave” jam is short, but it’s ever so sweet, and does not underwhelm after the wait. As the jam builds to its final peak, Trey blisses out and goes full-on ‘hose’ shortly after 7:00. The jam then breaks down and slowly transitions into “Hold Your Head Up” before a “Cracklin’ Rosie” Henrietta segment. Fish is (unintentionally) funny tonight, as he forgets the “Rosie” lyrics and starts tunefully singing “I don’t remember the words / but I hope you know them / Cracklin’ Rosie / hey!”
“Tweezer Reprise” is the lone post-Henrietta song, while “Amazing Grace” is the only encore. Trey introduces “Grace” by joking they need to play something that will “put the animals to sleep…so ‘Highway to Hell!'” Mike reminds the audience to drive safe. Tonight’s show is a tale of two sets. Until the end of the first set, this night seems to continue last night’s trend of standard playing. “Sky” sounds great, however, and the last two songs of the set light a spark under the band that will continue through the rest of the night. This second set is excellent and non-stop. The set feels more cohesive than most have on this tour, with the setlist flowing throughout and an ominous vibe permeating a lot of the set’s song, from “Buried Alive” through “YEM.” “Tweezer” has some good experimentation, and while the “Tweezer” jam doesn’t peak, the set builds and comes to a head with the second huge “YEM” in as many shows. And that’s all before the lovely, exhilarating bust-out of “Slave to the Traffic Light.” You can largely give the first set of this show a pass without missing much, but definitely check out the second half.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Tweezer,” “You Enjoy Myself > Halley’s Comet > Slave to the Traffic Light“
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 61 mins.
- Second set length: 78 mins.
- Encore length: 2 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Cincinnati Zoo Peacock Pavilion.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Slave to the Traffic Light,” returning after a two-hundred and forty-one show absence (10/24/91).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).