Tonight marks the 13th show of tour and the first to take place at a venue also visited by Phish during last year’s spring tour. An energetic but standard “Chalk Dust Torture” opens the show, which is followed by a “Glide > Poor Heart > Julius” sequence. There is some timing issues and uncharacteristic messiness in “Glide,” but the latter two songs both sound good. “Julius” in particular continues to be a pleasing addition to setlists and provides Trey his most significant solo opportunity of the night so far. A pairing of two, largely through-composed Rift songs rounds out the opening half of the first set: “My Friend, My Friend > Rift.” Besides for a notably intense and wild final climb to the song’s climax in “My Friend,” these songs are standard but well-played.
The first opportunity for extended improvisation tonight comes by way of a late-set “Split Open and Melt.” While not notably adventurous, the band is dialed-in during this “Melt” and delivers an intense jam. The jam begins at 4:10 with quick riffing from Trey. This becomes increasingly dark, and descends into dissonant chordal anarchy on more than one occasion. Trey settles on a repeating, shredding riff at 7:20, kicking off a furious build during which everyone pushes at the seams of the song. This releases in a burst of energy at 7:55. Trey lets it rip with excellent soloing for a couple minutes as the band returns to the “Melt” progression. The band returns to the “Melt” progression at 9:25. Again, nothing too far outside the realm of a typical “Melt” jam, but segments of tonight’s performance are nevertheless notably dark and intense, making this easily the most memorable song of the night so far.
The second-ever “Dog Faced Boy” follows “Melt” in the best possible slot for this song–following an intense jam. A quick “Oh Kee Pa Ceremony” brings us to a set-closing “AC/DC Bag,” instead of the expected “Suzy Greenberg.” Trey’s “Bag” solo follows its typical path, but the peak is filled with energy and exaggeration tonight. The first half of this set really felt like a Phish jukebox set to me, with the band stringing together a number of shorter songs light on soloing or improvisation. However, my ears definitely started to perk up during the last few songs: “Melt” is exhilarating and dark, “Dog Faced Boy” and “Oh Kee Pa” are well-placed and add some setlist variety, and “AC/DC Bag” pops as the set-closer. Okay Phish, you have my attention.
Set 2, like set 1, begins with a string of shorter songs. The band’s standard arrangement of”2001″ opens the set, as it is prone to do, and is followed by typical performances of “Sample in a Jar” and “Sparkle.” “Bathtub Gin” presents the first jam of the set, and the band accomplishes in this “Gin” what they were able to do last night with “Wolfman’s Brother”: establish the prototypical path of a type-I “Gin” for all “Gins” to come. And like last night’s “Wolfman’s,” it is very satisfying to hear the band pull the various threads of this song together for the first time into a complete, standalone package.
The jam begins at 4:35. Trey sticks to the “Gin” melody as the rest of the band loosens up and pokes at the song’s structure, similar to late-’93 performances. As they push through this initial looseness Page and Trey land on a driving groove, and pull Fishman along with them. A galloping Trey riff develops, and he transitions into soaring, blissful melodies by 6:30. Shortly after 7:00 he returns to the “Gin” melody. The band lets the energy settle, then pushes rapidly towards a peak at 8:50. Then at 9:35–and this is what I mean by pulling the complete package together for the first time–the band comes in together on the same beat with the “Gin” melody/progression as the jam fades out, what we think of today as the song’s composed ending. The band settles on an upbeat groove without much initial exploration, rides it to a peak, then returns smoothly to the “Gin” progression. While not as adventurous as the best of the recent “Gin” jams, as I said, this more or less establishes the blueprint for all “Gins” to come. Those recent “Gins” have, I believe without exception, been blown out into jams that the band never attempted to return to “Gin” from.
“Big Ball Jam” follows “Gin,” and leads into a pleasantly chilled out “Ya Mar.” Both Page and Trey’s solos are enjoyable, if on the shorter side of things, and the reggae ending with yelled Mike(?) vocals returns after being absent from most of the recent performances. Speaking of returning after an absence, the first “Mike’s Song” in over a week kicks off the back half of the set. The “Mike’s” jam begins at 2:40 with Trey once again asking for a volunteer for the trampoline, as he continues to be disabled from his leg injury. He drones on some feedback for a while as a result, then launches into a typical “Mike’s” first-jam solo. The first round of end chords come in at 4:35, and the band drops into a second jam shortly after. The band quickly locks into a driving, Fishman-led groove. Fish is going all-out on his toms, Trey sticks to minimal, rhythmic playing, and Page is shredding it up on his organ. Instead of exploring from here, however, Trey quickly shreds his way back to a standard “Mike’s” peak at 6:45, and the final round of end chords at 7:30. “Mike’s” consistently produced lengthy, adventurous jams during late-’93, so it’s disappointing to hear it be reined in here.
The band makes the unusual decision of forgoing “Weekapaug Groove” tonight, instead dropping into an always-enjoyable “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY” sequence. This in turn gives way to the second “Down with Disease” in as many shows. The transition from the pleasant fade out of “TMWSIY” into the opening bass drone of “DwD” and the late placement of the song are both cool, and the jam ends up being quite fun as well. It consists of a typical, soaring Trey solo, but this is the guitarist’s best playing of the set since “Gin,” and Page goes absolutely bonkers on his baby grand near the end of Trey’s solo as the song builds to a big peak. This is more or less the same “Disease” I’ve heard at least half a dozen times this tour already, but the execution is terrific tonight.
A full Henrietta sequence of “Hold Your Head Up > I Wan’na Be Like You > HYHU” follows “Disease,” consisting of virtually no banter, before “Cavern” ends the set. The Hendrix encore streak ends tonight in favor of Zeppelin by way of a hard-rocking “Good Times Bad Times” that comes to an intense finish. Like several shows from the last week or so, this is a thoroughly enjoyable show that also is light on real risk taking. In fact, there are some signs in the opposite direction, as Trey seems downright uninterested in taking “Mike’s Song” on a journey. Perhaps Trey’s leg injury is affecting the band’s playing, or least Trey’s, more than I thought at first? Or maybe the band is just more interested in breaking in the Hoist material and solidifying their approach towards songs like “Gin” than engaging in freewheeling improvisation like last summer. It’s hard to say. I’ll learn more as Trey recovers and the tour continues.
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Split Open and Melt,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Down with Disease”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 54 mins.
- Second set length: 71 mins.
- Encore length: 6 mins.
- This is the second and last time Phish performed at the Bob Carpenter Center. They last performed here on 2/13/93.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday” and “Avenu Malkenu,” both returning after a thirty-two show absence (8/7/93).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar and Hoist (4 songs).