Sunday 07/20/2014 by phishnet

CHICAGO2 RECAP: NUTHIN' FANCY

[For this recap we'd like to welcome guest blogger Craig Hillwig) -PZ]

FADE IN

EXT: WAREHOUSE, CHICAGO MEATPACKING DISTRICT

AL “CORAN” CAPONE: “Red, I got a job for you.”

ERNEST “RED” ANASTASIO: “Yeah Boss, you name it.”

CAPONE: “We’re takin’ out Wilson tonight and I need you to handle it.”

ANASTASIO: “Sure thing Boss, same deal as Tessio?” Anastasio pulls out a Tommy Gun.

CAPONE: “No, no, no you goombah.” Capone hands Anastasio a small pistol.

ANASTASIO (incredulous): With dis?

CAPONE: It’s called a Saturday Night Special. It’s a compact, inexpensive, small-caliber handgun with perceived low quality, according to Wikipedia. Just get in, pop him cleanly, and get out. When you’ve finished him off, dump it in Lake Michigan up on the North Side.


Photo © PhishPhish From the Road

ANASTASIO: Wouldn’t you prefer something more creative? I’ve brought my Echoplex and Ross Compressor.

CAPONE: I just want you to get the job done. I am just a businessman, giving the people what they want. All I do is satisfy a public demand. These are some quotes attributed to me by Wikipedia.

ANASTASIO: O.K., boss. Can I still use my effects?

CAPONE: Sure kid, whatever.

ANASTASIO: Anything else, boss?

CAPONE: Yeah, I want this to go down in the history books as the Christmas Massacre.

ANASTASIO: But Boss, it’s the middle of July!

CAPONE: I said Christmas!! And one more thing.

ANASTASIO: Yeah, Boss?

CAPONE: I’m changing your nickname to “Ripcord.”

END SCENE


Photo © PhishPhish From the Road

Phish dumped a classic Saturday Night Special into Lake Michigan for its second of three shows at Chicago’s First Merit Pavilion at Northerly Island. True to form, Saturday night’s offering featured compact, inexpensive, small caliber offerings of perceived low quality, while giving (some plurality of) the people what they want – a largely upbeat, danceable rock and funk show with little down time.

Set the First featured songs heavy in the rotation. Each of the first five: “Moma Dance,” “Wolfman’s Brother,” “Devotion to a Dream,” “46 Days” and “Yarmouth Road” were played two shows earlier at the-shed-formerly-known-as-Pine-Knob, and none of them strayed from its standard first set formulation.

“Devotion to a Dream” showcased Phish’s reinvigorated ensemble vocals, perhaps attributable in part to the direction and encouragement of Fuego producer Bob Ezrin. Trey wins the most-improved award for his seemingly expanded range and more mature stylings. As a song, “Devotion” is continuing to develop, particularly the highly danceable outro jam which draws from the same boogie woogie back beat and Trey guitar phrasings that we have come to love in favorites like “Back on the Train.”


Setlist pictograms by Joseeen (available at Etsy)

Stepping back, the performance quality up to this point has been terrific – crisp and assertive, but not rushed or perfunctory. This is a night where the perceived low quality of the Saturday Night Special is misleading, because when deployed correctly, the Special is efficient but effective.

Brian and Robert” brought the first “bust out” of the night, after a 38-show gap since Tahoe ‘13. While well-received, this version seemed to suffer from a lack of practice, demonstrating how even Phish’s seemingly more simple numbers have complexities that need to be mastered.


Photo © PhishPhish From the Road

Rote first-set versions of “Wingsuit,” “Tube” and “Free” came next with a gap chart average of four. The six versions of “Wingsuit” this tour have been distributed evenly between the first and second set. It’s too early to tell whether “Wingsuit” is still trying to pick a team, or is merely comfortable going both ways.

Roggae” followed as the second gap-buster (11) of the set. We love “Roggae” and so should you, but this version was a tad flubby and did not have much to distinguish itself. A solid “Heavy Things” set up another strong “Run Like an Antelope” to close the set. Antelope featured a tease that started off sounding like a botched “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple until the intended victim – They Might Be Giants’ “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” – was confirmed with some vocal accompaniment from Fishman.

As a setbreak aside, I want to offer plaudits, kudos, and Clif Bars to LivePhish director Eli Tishberg for the outstanding video production this tour (I was not present at the show and am reporting via couch tour). The choices of camera angles and tasteful special effects like double exposures and artistic transitions have given the webcasts a more polished feel that enhances the at-home experience.

Set two continued the theme with a great-on-paper-totally-so-fun-to-be-there setlist of songs that – with one exception – failed to realize the improvisational potential that fans have come to associate with them. “Carini” and “Waves” reprised their combination from SPAC3 with fairly standard versions. “Waves” came to a stop before the band kept Oprah’s promise alive with the seventh “Fuego” of the tour. This version featured several inexplicable “Little Drummer Boy” quotes from Trey. Because Christmas in July.


Setlist pictograms by Joseeen (available at Etsy)

“Fuego” continued to dominate the set for another 40 or so minutes. Along the way, the band teased complete versions of “Twist,” “Light” (extended, with some of the only type II jamming of the night), “Twenty Years Later,” “Harry Hood,” and “Cavern.” “Harry Hood” featured a fun hard rock jam that strayed from form just enough to qualify for a type II asterisk before getting marred by excessive video buffering.

Phish continued the theme through the encore, packing three tunes into fifteen minutes with time running out. First-of-tour versions of “Grind” and “Bug” set up “Suzy Greenberg” for a raucous, “Fuego”-inflected send-off.

Big hopes for Sunday night, amirite?


© Scott Harris Photography

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Comments

, comment by goatsticks
goatsticks good write-up, nice blend of two ideas, well done
, comment by MartianMOMster
MartianMOMster Couch tour reviews just don't do enough justice
, comment by Fluffyfluffyhead
Fluffyfluffyhead TMBG? No.

, comment by CarinCarpenter
CarinCarpenter @MartianMOMster said:
Couch tour reviews just don't do enough justice
But the reviews are (primarily) for peeps to decide if they want to download the show and give it an attentive listen, not travel in time and split their psyche into 30,000 parts to experience the show as it's happening from the simultaneous perspective of everyone in attendance
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @CarinCarpenter said:
@MartianMOMster said:
Couch tour reviews just don't do enough justice
But the reviews are (primarily) for peeps to decide if they want to download the show and give it an attentive listen, not travel in time and split their psyche into 30,000 parts to experience the show as it's happening from the simultaneous perspective of everyone in attendance
And also, at some level, for entertainment, which I think this review provides in spades.
, comment by chillwig
chillwig thanks for the correction on Istanbul. but they were clearly covering the TMBG version. :p
, comment by PinzYouInTheEye
PinzYouInTheEye @lumpblockclod said:
@CarinCarpenter said:
@MartianMOMster said:
Couch tour reviews just don't do enough justice
But the reviews are (primarily) for peeps to decide if they want to download the show and give it an attentive listen, not travel in time and split their psyche into 30,000 parts to experience the show as it's happening from the simultaneous perspective of everyone in attendance
And also, at some level, for entertainment, which I think this review provides in spades.
There is an inherent problem with the webstream reviews that pops up in this one in particular. One of the standouts of this show(for me at least) was the jam that came out of that Hood. It was uptempo, so very dancey, and just joyous. This review barely touches on it because of internet issues. At least maybe try to listen to the whole version before committing to writing the review? Otherwise I enjoy reading the opinions shared here whether I agree with them or not.
, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM I don't know which is worse quite frankly, that they intentionally played the Saturday Night Special jukebox or that they (Trey in particular) just didn't have it when going for the jams.

I will say that there was some incredibly inventive type I stuff going on that was pretty enjoyable, but I'm just not sure they had it for the type II that night. The Light sounded ripped from an average show in '10-'11 where Trey plays a textural, slightly atonal solo, chops at some nice rhythm work, and no melody is ever found. Thanks Page, for making this interesting at the end with that effect so nicely used in the '11 era jams (I forget the name of it). It really seemed like Trey just had nothing so Page decided to take over.

Is this the same band that played Randall's?

That said, I think the blog post here (due to the technical difficulties) shortchanged the shit out of Hood. It was one of the better moments I've had at a show, mainly because at that point my expectations were entirely gone and it was such a nice reprise of the fall tour 'swamp rock/near bliss' that I've been waiting to see in person.

I have to say though, that the 4 or 5 minutes or so of that Hood didn't redeem the show for me.

The other strange, alarming thing for me is that Phish (for whatever reason) has stopped playing their higher caliber shows in the midwest. '09-'11 had quite a nice assortment of top shelf shows (8-14-10, 6-3-11, 8-15-11, etc.) and '12 had some decent moments for where they were at at that point of the tour.

What has the midwest gotten since then?

The Northerly debacle of '13. A one-off bizarre and forgetable Pine Knob and the return to not jamming. After what we heard last fall and the start of this tour. Not jamming again, let me repeat that.

Why?

I have to think that part of it is the incomprehensible touring schedule that puts these midwest shows in a bubble, disassociated from east coast, and ridiculously metropolitan centered. If the Chicago shows don't do it for you, better luck next year. Well now it's next year. Same pattern of shows (discounting ho-hum Pine Knob) and same results. I know this year is better, but the pattern of being substantially of a lower quality than the surrounding tour is alarming the shit out of me.

Maybe go back to Alpine and Deer Creek. People in the midwest like good Phish shows too, we're not all Chadlybrah McTalkersons here. Really, I swear.

/annoyed Chicagoan
, comment by STL_HOOD
STL_HOOD Did that Hood jam contain "Lovelight" or is it just me? If it wasn't Lovelight it was ver close.
, comment by theresoundingecho
theresoundingecho I personally enjoyed the Christmas in July treat...who saw that coming? I second AlbanyYEM on the quality of Harry Hood.
, comment by MidnightRdr
MidnightRdr Spot on, A1bany. Northerly is a nice venue, but I prefer Alpine. Better lawn (for view, at least ... the sound at Northerly is top-notch), better vibe, and seemed to raise the boys' level. Last night had a few moments (highlight for me was the Light jam) here and there.

Have moderate hopes for a good Sunday show; we'll see.

MR
, comment by elephant
elephant ArkansasMule - while i have not heard the show yet, last night a friend of mine texted me Hood> Lovelight> Hood. So, it wasn't just you. I'm looking forward to hearing it.
, comment by mahimahi
mahimahi I have really enjoyed these two Chitown shows. These guys are having so much fun, and so am I. Money well spent indeed, and I am looking forward to listening to these again in the future.
, comment by grapeapplepies
grapeapplepies Both nights have been good for me so far. Looking forward to tonight!
, comment by MartianMOMster
MartianMOMster Last night was great, I've nevet been so stoked to hear either Wolfman's OR Mz S Greenberg.....but they were both welcome and it got funky in there y'all
, comment by MartianMOMster
MartianMOMster @MartianMOMster said:
Last night was great, I've never been so stoked to hear either Wolfman's OR Mz S Greenberg.....but they were both welcome and it got funky in there y'all
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @AlbanyYEM said:
I don't know which is worse quite frankly, that they intentionally played the Saturday Night Special jukebox or that they (Trey in particular) just didn't have it when going for the jams.

I will say that there was some incredibly inventive type I stuff going on that was pretty enjoyable, but I'm just not sure they had it for the type II that night. The Light sounded ripped from an average show in '10-'11 where Trey plays a textural, slightly atonal solo, chops at some nice rhythm work, and no melody is ever found. Thanks Page, for making this interesting at the end with that effect so nicely used in the '11 era jams (I forget the name of it). It really seemed like Trey just had nothing so Page decided to take over.

Is this the same band that played Randall's?

That said, I think the blog post here (due to the technical difficulties) shortchanged the shit out of Hood. It was one of the better moments I've had at a show, mainly because at that point my expectations were entirely gone and it was such a nice reprise of the fall tour 'swamp rock/near bliss' that I've been waiting to see in person.

I have to say though, that the 4 or 5 minutes or so of that Hood didn't redeem the show for me.

The other strange, alarming thing for me is that Phish (for whatever reason) has stopped playing their higher caliber shows in the midwest. '09-'11 had quite a nice assortment of top shelf shows (8-14-10, 6-3-11, 8-15-11, etc.) and '12 had some decent moments for where they were at at that point of the tour.

What has the midwest gotten since then?

The Northerly debacle of '13. A one-off bizarre and forgetable Pine Knob and the return to not jamming. After what we heard last fall and the start of this tour. Not jamming again, let me repeat that.

Why?

I have to think that part of it is the incomprehensible touring schedule that puts these midwest shows in a bubble, disassociated from east coast, and ridiculously metropolitan centered. If the Chicago shows don't do it for you, better luck next year. Well now it's next year. Same pattern of shows (discounting ho-hum Pine Knob) and same results. I know this year is better, but the pattern of being substantially of a lower quality than the surrounding tour is alarming the shit out of me.

Maybe go back to Alpine and Deer Creek. People in the midwest like good Phish shows too, we're not all Chadlybrah McTalkersons here. Really, I swear.

/annoyed Chicagoan
Wow, you sound disallusioned.

So much for the blissful optimist who was convinced that Trey was (::ahem: :) , mindfucking us the other night by intentionally ripping out of promising jams, with a level a control and command that was spellbinding, just to break out of the pattern of expectations.

I suggested at the time that it seemed very unlikely (as much as I wanted to believe you) that the band would intentionally disrespect that audience with such a flippant treatment of their show experience, but no, you insisted that Trey was omnicient and was keeping us artistically off-balance.

I'm playing with you.

I share your disappointment but really, if anything, this last week simply reinforces how thankful we should be for what transpired last fall.

Like I mentioned before, the band has built up a level of credit with us because of last Fall, a strong NYE run and a strong start to this tour, but now, here we are.

We cannot say that we've been "Rochestered" after a solid week of really average performances with only one or two remarkable moments. This is a trend now.

At this time last year, there was a veritable human outcry about the shrinking song rotation and plethora of repeats. The problem seems even more pronounced this year but I hear nary a word, though our intrepid reviewer (who gave us an excellent and highly entertaining read), peeled off the kid gloves a bit with his stark and tongue-in-cheek treatment of a very rote and uninspiring first set.

The critics are currently bashing their heads into the fence looking for brains, and if the boys don't knock it out of the park tonight they'll be chewing on Trey's arms and innards trying to find the missing bust-outs.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @AlbanyYEM said:

Is this the same band that played Randall's?

A one-off bizarre and forgetable Pine Knob and the return to not jamming. After what we heard last fall and the start of this tour. Not jamming again, let me repeat that.

"One-off bizarre and forgettable Pine Knob".....

Amazing how quickly a little unexpected reality can change a perspective on something.

Keep the faith. There's another "Tahoe Tweezer" experience in the future. I'm sure of it.
, comment by EvilKingWilson9
EvilKingWilson9 Thank you FACTSAREUSELESS
, comment by dipped
dipped And then Sunday happened.
, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM Recanted.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @AlbanyYEM said:
Recanted.
You're awesome. Just couldn't resist the irony of the situation. Looking forward to the review of Sunday night!
, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM Well then. I feel like an ass. @FACTSAREUSELESS you were certainly right, sir. When they were playing the opening chords to The Wedge, I was thinking again, well there goes the set. Without my saying a word a tour buddy of mine and fellow 'jaded' vet turns to me and says 'it'll happen.'

And then it did. The patterns of the last five years are being disassembled. That's even more of a risk than a wide open jam. It's incredible, joyous, frustrating, and expectation-annihilating. The Wedge! Really?? I guess it's time to just go with anything, knowing that eventually, and out of nowhere, it'll happen.
, comment by kernalphorbin71
kernalphorbin71 YES!!! the boys NEED to come back to DEER CREEK! PLEASE! We do like good PHISH shows too. And the good times that go with heading up to noblesville...what ever happened to the 3 nite runs we used to get in the late 90`s?
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