Wow, it feels like we were just here! The band played this same venue less than four months ago on April 27th. Tonight’s show starts with a memorable “Chalk Dust Torture.” Immediately after Trey’s solo begins at 3:30 he begins to tease a Jimi Hendrix song I was previously not familiar with, “Who Knows.” Trey sings a short verse of the song at 4:20, before the band quickly transitions back into “CDT” at 5:05. It’s a fun little moment, though it’s less than a minute long. “Who Knows” will never again be played at a Phish show (at least, to date – never say never). A solid “Mound” follows up this entertaining, high-energy opener. “Fee” is song four. The composed portion of the song is well-played, but for the first time this whole year the band actually jams out the end of the song as well! This brief jam begins at 5:00. After some initial space, Trey begins to repeat a slightly dissonant riff while Page continues with pleasant “Fee”-esque melodies. This quickly develops into a swirling, psychedelic groove. This fades out as quickly as it began, leading Fishman to starts up “Split Open and Melt” at 6:10. The jam out of “Fee” is yet another improvised transition between songs that succeeds wildly in creating a real sense of setlist flow. I’m glad this has developed into a full-on trend and was not an abnormality limited to a couple shows early in the month.
Phish seems boosted by the energy of this transition, for there’s a lot of fun little flourishes added to the “Melt” composition tonight. There’s some extra vocal inflections early on, and a short ambient-noise interlude at 3:00. The jam begins at 4:30, and Trey quickly turns on some sort of effect (sounds like delay or chorus?) that I don’t recall him using much at all before. He repeats a melodic riff while using this odd tone, and adds some scat singing to it as well. This morphs into a full-on ‘Hey!’ jam shortly after (named for the band’s infamous Hey-Hole practice exercise). Trey’s playing here largely consists of sharp, dissonant chording, while Mike grooves away in the low-end. This is some intricate, heady playing that ranks as one of the more psychedelic moments of tour so far. The jam returns to more “Melt” sounding territory at 7:00. Trey starts to solo some, but also keeps playing a lot of chords as remnants of the earlier ‘Hey’ jam remain. The band begins to return to the composed “Split” theme at 9:30, and it initially sounds like the band is headed home. However, the jam goes sideways again at 9:30. Trey suddenly starts wailing away with long, drawn-out descending lines. The rest of the band slows down the tempo, and a jazzy, subdued sequence emerges from the depths. Trey drops out entirely, leaving Page and Mike to drive this section. The guitar comes back in with sparse, eerie ambience, and the jam starts to get increasingly spacey at the very end. The band transitions smoothly from this atmospheric sequence into “Glide” at 13:11.
This is easily the most improvisational “Melt” of the tour so far, and I love it. The whole jam flows well, which is not something I always say about the experimental jams from this year. The early part is very psychedelic and ‘type-II.’ The band returns to more traditional “Split” territory for a while, before blowing out the end of the song into a hazy, second-jam. “Melt” leaves some debris over “Glide” as well, for a dissonant mini-jam is snuck into the middle of the “Glide” composition at 2:30. The band includes several Secret Language signals in the exaggerated pause at the end of “Glide.”
“Nellie Kane” serves as a nice breather after the intense vibe of the middle of this show, before the band impresses again with a note-perfect “Divided Sky.” Like with “Fluffhead” from last night, the band simply sounds virtuosic and professional during this composed tune, and Trey’s solo at the end erupts with energy. The audience gets treated to an early a-cappella tune, with “Memories” being performed for only the third time of the year as the penultimate song of the set. A soothing “Squirming Coil” closes out an impressive first set.
I think if you really want to understand how Phish has evolved over the course of the year, comparing the first-set “Fee > Split Open and Melt” on 2/26 to the same sequence tonight would be more instructive than words could ever be. There’s a lot more on-the-spot creativity unfolding in those songs tonight than in that earlier show. While that sequence is certainly the highlight of the set, the rest of the set is high-energy and entertaining as well. From the opening “Chalk Dust Torture > Who Knows > CDT” fun to the excellent “Divided Sky” near the end, this is a great listen top-to-bottom.
The first “Dinner and a Movie” of tour opens set 2. This song has only been played a small handful of times this year, and it shows some rust. Trey flubs pretty badly at about 2:45, as he struggles to remember one segment of the composition. Flaws aside, for the sake of setlist variety it’s still fun to hear this song. The band launches right into the deep end after “Dinner,” launching into the second big jam sequence of the evening via “Tweezer.” The “Tweezer” jam begins at 4:20 and is initially driven by a driving Trey rock riff. This develops into an upbeat, melodic solo by 5:45. The band leans into the cheery vibe of this segment, and Trey goes all-out in building to an unusually blissful “Tweezer” peak. After this initial peak, the jam takes a dissonant turn at 7:30. The jam breaks way down, before being built up around this new, ominous vibe. This collapses into a free jazz freakout, complete with stop/start dynamics, by 10:30. Then, as if on cue, the band explodes back into a triumphant “Tweezer” solo at 11:30 for a final, satisfying peak. The band ends the jam with the composed “Tweezer” ending at 12:50, and transitions into a well-placed “Tela.”
“Tweezer” is very good tonight, with two distinct and interesting segments that work well as counterpoints to each other. The jam initially drives towards a blissful, thrilling peak before collapsing into a dissonant freakout, before the band brings it home with a final satisfying peak. One of the better “Tweezers” of the tour so far. Like the earlier “Dinner in a Movie,” this is the first “Tela” of tour. Unlike “Dinner,” however, there’s no signs of rust in this one. The band sounds great here, and Trey stretches out a bit with his solo at the end of the song. The pleasant atmosphere of “Tela” is a great follow-up to the intensity of “Tweezer,” and the delicate ending of the song makes the segue into the acoustic intro of “My Friend, My Friend” work very well. “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own” works well as a fun little interlude, before the band drops into the last big moment of the evening: “You Enjoy Myself.”
Trey strangely drops out of “YEM” during the intro arpeggios, but quickly comes back in and sounds fine after that. (I’m used to the band having this intro locked down). Page starts getting creative before his solo even begins, initiating a cool little mini-jam at 8:00 before the end of the song’s “verse.” Page’s solo itself is similarly fun tonight. He brings the heat with his keyboard playing, and the rest of the band serves up a funky backing track. Trey takes over at 11:15. Initially Trey’s solo is soft and jazzy, but the energy quickly builds up as Trey teases “Theme from Speed Racer” at 12:45, complete with vocals. An absolutely roaring sequence of guitar playing from Trey builds the jam to a peak before the bass and drums sequence starts at 14:20. Mike turns on a ridiculous filter for his bass, and Fishman appropriately stops playing to scream “Mike Gordon on the bass, lady and gentlemen, Mike Gordon on the bass!” The largely Mike-led bass and drums sequence gets increasingly weird from there, before the vocal jam begins at 16:40. The vocal jam contains more silly hijinks, with the band teasing a good portion of a “Psycho Killer” verse at 18:20. Overall this is a very fun “YEM,” though that’s due as much to its hijinks (“Speed Racer,” Mike solo, “Psycho Killer) as it is to improvisation. Both Page’s and Trey’s solos are good, but they’re rather concise. A good “YEM,” but go to “Tweezer” or “Split Open and Melt” if you’re looking for heady jams.
At the end of the “YEM” vocal jam the band transitions into “Contact” by singing an a-cappella intro of the latter song, which makes for a fun minute of quirkiness. Trey introduces the “Dude of Life” to come on stage to sing the final song of the set, a huge bust-out of “Crimes of the Mind.” I’ve heard this song a couple times prior (thanks 11/28/03), and I think it’s a fun, hard rocking song somewhat in the vein of “Chalk Dust Torture.” It works well here as a high-energy closing song for what shaped up to be a very fun second set. “Rocky Top” is the lone song of a very short encore.
This is another great August show, with significant and creative highlights in both sets. The mid-first set sequence of “Fee > Melt > Glide” is still probably my favorite part of the evening. I like my “Melts” dank and dark, and this highly-improvisational version serves just that. The second set might be ever-so-slightly less awesome than the first, but it’s a close call. The “Tweezer” jam goes through a couple very different, distinct segments, and the transition into “Tela” works great. “YEM” doesn’t contain a lot of significant improvisation, but it does feature a lot of fun silliness, and the “Crimes of the Mind” bust-out is an excellent way to close out the evening. Don’t listen to the naysers on Phish.net – this show easily holds its own against the other great performances of the past week.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Fee > Split Open and Melt > Glide,” “Divided Sky,” “Tweezer > Tela,” “You Enjoy Myself”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 67 mins.
- Second set length: 69 mins.
- Encore length: 2 mins.
- This is the second time Phish performed at the Concert Hall. They last played here on 4/27/93, and will return on 4/6/94.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Who Knows,” returning after a five-hundred and ten show absence (10/26/89).
- The best represented studio album is Junta (5 songs).