Phish performed in Ohio on the 6th, but tonight’s show feels like the true start of the mid-west leg of tour, as the band will spend the next week and a half moving around the region (loosely-defined). “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars” makes its second appearance of tour to start the show on an odd note. Mike faintly plucks the song’s riff as the band takes the stage, and the band goes with it. This is the first “BBFCFM” to open a show in ’93. The band keeps the song short and the hijinks mostly to a minimum, though Trey does throw in some “Divided Sky” quotes during one of the song’s many freak-outs. It amuses me that this performance was likely someone’s first exposure to Phish.
A well-played “Foam” follows “BBFCM,” returning this set to a somewhat normal course. “Loving Cup” is then played for the first time in 50 shows; the song was last seen in March. Mike shakes off some rust here, as it sounds like he re-learns a couple of his lines on the spot. It’s still fun to hear this one though, and Trey delivers a good solo at the end of the song. Trey builds on this quality soloing in the subsequent “Runaway Jim.” His solo gets unusually dissonant and tense at 5:45, driving the song to a big, trill-filled peak that begins at 6:30. This thrilling soloing makes “Jim” the most compelling performance of the evening so far.
“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” are next to give everyone a mid-set breather, and are followed by the second “Punch You in the Eye” of tour. “Punch” is standard but well-played, and the same can be said of the subsequent “Fast Enough for You.” Like he did in the last outing of “FEFY” on 7/30, Trey does an excellent job of building his solo into a fiery, shredding peak, making this song once again an unexpected highlight of the set. “Paul and Silas” is the night’s bluegrass song, and “I Didn’t Know” takes its usual penultimate-song-of-set position. “IDK” is humorous tonight, with Trey introducing Fish as a “butt with protruding limbs” and later telling the audience that Fish will perform the “sparsest waterboard solo ever in human history.”
“David Bowie” closes the set. There’s a couple Secret Language signals in the intro, and the jam begins at about 5:45. The jam breaks down almost immediately. Trey starts some quiet riffing, and Page matches him on piano. The band builds the jam back up as Trey hammers away on a crunchy chord. This chordal work sets a dissonant tone for the following minute of the jam, before the band shifts back into more recognizably “Bowie” territory at 7:00. Trey locks into a simple, cocky rock riff at 7:25 that launches him on a journey towards a traditional “Bowie” peak. After a couple of wild, “Run Like an Antelope”-like tension/release runs, the song comes to a head at around 10:00, and the band transitions into the composed end of the song at 10:40. This is a good “Bowie”; the jam features a couple short but interesting minutes of experimentation at the beginning that works its way into a traditional, but very satisfying and well-executed build. Certainly the most interesting song of an otherwise solid but unmemorable set.
“2001” opens the second set. This song has been performed with a laser-like focus so far, but the band sounds a little looser tonight. Not loose in the ‘extending the song with improv’ sort of way, but loose as in ‘the band is flubbing’ sense. Trey in particular noticeably misses a couple notes. Everyone tightens up quickly though, for the following “Rift” is delivered with precision. The set opens up with “Harry Hood,” the longest song of the show. This is one of the most experimental “Hoods” of recent memory; I think I would go all the way back to the 3/21/93 “Hood” as the last performance of the song to depart this much from the normal progression of the jam.
Page really stands out in this “Hood.” The jam starts at 5:55; Trey drops out immediately while Page sets the tone with lovely flourishes on his baby grand. Trey starts to slowly come back in at 6:20 with quiet riffing, but Page continues to hold the spotlight with very sparse and airy, delicate playing. Page’s solo picks up while Trey builds momentum with his playing, before Trey starts to take control over the direction of the jam at about 8:50. What follows is a wonderful sequence of back and forth. Fishman begins to cut in and out with his drumming, perfectly timed with Trey’s precise and jazzy descending lines. The jam really picks up in energy shortly after 10:00, as the band begins to swell around a driving Trey riff. Instead of building this right into a raging peak, Trey instead slides into the composed “Hood” melody at 11:15. He solos in and out of the “Hood” composition until the band begins to sing the last verse of the song at 13:45. Given the long build I expected this “Hood” to erupt into a huge, triumphant peak, but the band plays it more understated instead. I appreciate the subversion of my expectations at the end, and I absolutely love the full-band interplay and Page leads during the first segment of the jam. You can feel good about this “Hood.” (Give me some credit for waiting 80+ shows to drop that line).
The band follows “Hood” with a number of more through-composed songs. “Wilson” kicks off this sequence. Besides for a very subdued and elongated intro, not ending until 2:00, this is largely a standard “Wilson” performance. The same cannot be said of “It’s Ice.” Almost immediately after the ‘underwater’ segment begins, Page launches into a thundering, chordal solo. Not content with leading the first half of the “Hood” jam, Page decides he needed to steal the show in “Ice” as well. The rest of the band drops out entirely, leaving Page to deliver an impressive “Squirming Coil”-esque solo that lasts for several minutes. All of this makes for easily the most memorable “Ice” in some time. “Fluffhead” rounds out this composition-heavy sequence. Simply put, this “Fluff” is performed with excellent, professional finesse. Normally I don’t get too excited when I see “Fluff” anchoring the middle of a second set, but the band pulls it off with aplomb tonight. Page continues to sound great during the composition, and Trey delivers an exciting, fire solo to end the song. “Possum” just builds on the energy from the end of “Fluffhead.” Unlike “Hood” the band largely colors within the lines of the song, but Trey builds his solo into the most raging peak of the set.
Tonight’s Henrietta segment is long, with Fishman taking the time to banter with the audience before launching into the first “Love You” of tour. Fish mentions he sung it last time they were in town, which I can confirm. Fish also introduces the band during “Love You,” and calls Trey “Chuck Norris.” The first “Daniel Saw the Stone” of August follows Henrietta before “Good Times Bad Times” ends the set. This set has been very high-energy post-“Hood,” making this song an excellent choice to close on. “My Sweet One” and “Free Bird” are the encore songs tonight.
Phish played a great show in Cleveland when they were last here at the end of April. The venue size has tripled since that last show, but the band matches the earlier show in quality. This is largely due to the second set, which is a sum is greater than its parts. “Harry Hood” is very good, with interesting, full-band jamming that emerges into an understated peak. The set becomes a party after that, with the highlights being Page’s ownership of “Ice” and the raging, precisely played “Fluffhead.” The first set takes its time warming up, which caused me to initially fear a come-down show (see: 8/3) after the face-melting show the night before. “David Bowie” puts that fear to rest, and the rest of the show similarly impresses.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “David Bowie,” “Harry Hood,” “It’s Ice,” “Fluffhead”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 68 mins.
- Second set length: 85 mins.
- Encore length: 8 mins.
- This is the first time Phish performed at the Nautica Stage. They will return on 6/25/94.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Loving Cup,” returning after a fifty show absence (3/30/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).