Monday 10/29/2018 by phishnet

CHICAGO3 RECAP: ANGER, HE SMILES TOWERING

[We would like to thank Rob Mitchum for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]

Recapping the show before Halloween is a sucker’s bet. The narrative of any fall tour with a costume set capper inevitably becomes defined by whatever Phish chooses to do with that holiday show. Like a well-constructed mystery novel, once you know the twist ending, it’s rewarding to go back and spot the clues you missed your first time through. But any speculation about the 31st I make today will almost certainly have an expiration date of, oh, 72 hours or so.

© 2018 Phish (Rene Huemer)
© 2018 Phish (Rene Huemer)

Fortunately, this weekend’s run in the Chicago-adjacent suburb of Rosemont felt just as influenced by a past Halloween as it surely will prove to be foreshadowing of the next one. In the theory that each Halloween show is a symbolic snapshot of the band’s state at the time, the 1995 show in the pre-branded Rosemont Horizon is an easy data point to explain. As Phish learned how play the arena circuit, they cribbed notes from one of the best, learning The Who’s sprawling, anthemic rock opera Quadrophenia as they conditioned their own muscles to command the nation’s college basketball and minor league hockey venues.

Phish returned to the arena four times since that special ‘95 date, with some unremarkable shows in the slowly souring times of 1999/2000 and a well-regarded 2.0 date in February 2003. But on this visit, even if they didn’t explicitly dust off any Quadrophenia cuts, they seemed possessed by the spirit of 1995, playing nearly the whole weekend in a high-intensity gear that begged for some Pete Townshend windmills. Based on your appreciation of that particular Phish mode, you can blame/credit the venue, a boomy relic where the acoustic shortcomings are best dealt with at high volume, or the crowd, which showed up all three nights in Halloween party mode, never mind the calendar.

Friday and Saturday, Phish were happy to lean into that fevered vibe, but in an uneven first set Sunday, they risked pushing back against it with some mellower material. OK, not with “Everything’s Right,” which continued its consistent career with a patient build to yet another blinding-white crescendo, or “Destiny Unbound,” which paid hyper-specific tribute to the song’s long-anticipated revival in the same venue and same set slot on 2/28/03. But the pairing of “Heavy Things” and “Miss You” was the first time the band took an extended onstage breath all weekend, and seemed to indicate that there would be more of a relaxed, schoolnight feel for the evening.

Tube” ain’t no ballad, but in the night’s most nuanced jam, the band settled into a relaxed, effects-heavy groove, perhaps content like the rest of us to watch Kuroda’s wondrous light rig do its crazy meteor storm impression and cycle through some tidy micro-melodies before a flirtation with the “I’m a Man” riff briefly brought back the classic rock crunch. That could’ve been the springboard back to more dangerous turf for the rest of the set, but it was quickly snuffed by the call for “Petrichor” -- a misread of the room not helped by a noticeably ragged performance.

After those 17 minutes, “I Always Wanted It This Way” had a heavy lift to win back the crowd, further handicapped when Page appeared to struggle to tame his synth effects and played more of the song and jam on organ than usual. The switch gave this version an earthier flavor, but also kept the middle section from drifting into the more experimental textures it typically finds (marimba’d or otherwise), as Trey, needing a big set-closing flourish, grafted an extra but standard solo on the end.

© 2018 Phish (Rene Huemer)
© 2018 Phish (Rene Huemer)
The jagged chords of “Carini” blasted away any lingering first-set cobwebs away and dispelled any notion of calmly winding down in the weekend’s final set. With the light rig hovering claustrophobically close overhead, the band kept the jam close to its menacing origins, Trey playing choppy, heavily delayed stabs over Page’s cushion of Rhodes. It logically set up the ensuing “No Quarter,” where the lights reconfigured from club-intimate to arena-rock spectacle, the rigging forming a giant occult triangle while laser-like spotlights criss-crossed beneath and approximated hexagons. If Jimmy Page was webcasting from Aleister Crowley’s Loch Ness manor, he surely smiled.

Unusually, “No Quarter” was extended past a straight cover, feeding an overtime period of heavy jamming that evolved smoothly into “Cities” — a delightfully mischievous soldering together of the early and late 70’s that pretty much no other band could pull off. A fine “Gotta Jibboo” bridged into “Twist,” where fluid, egalitarian improv grew increasingly starstruck until it just had to become “What’s the Use?,” Phish’s most regal composition in its natural climate as the apotheosis to a jam.

A brief, slinky return to “Twist” and the cool-down of “Shade” and it felt like we were in for a “Slave” to tuck us in for the night. Instead, the band caught their eighth wind, the out-of-nowhere drop of “Plasma” motivating one last segment of Rosemont ragers. “Plasma” creeped its way up to a reprise of the “Party Time”-ish jam from Friday night’s "Tweezer," and “Character Zero” got particularly raunchy, Fishman vocally egging on Trey until he was jumping back and forth from wah pedal to his mysterious box of pre-set loops at the apex. For dessert, a “Fluffhead” encore offered some contrast to the night’s other quarter-hour composition made up of several distinct sections, throwing the curfew to the wind and providing one last helping of peaky white light.

So closed a show sporting the weekend’s most interesting decisions, if not with uniformly successful outcomes. And so ended a weekend that didn’t touch the pure weirdness of earlier Fall highlights such as Hampton’s “Golden Age” and Nashville “Mike’s Ghost,” instead pursuing a more direct and aggressive approach.

But something about that tone felt appropriate, as (sorry) the shows took place against the backdrop of yet another blast of terrifying and tragic national news. For the record, I definitely do not want Phish to get political. But I’m also not too thrilled with them doing the exact opposite; “everything’s right, so just hold tight” is just about the worst advice possible for late October 2018 (obligatory: please, PLEASE vote next week).

© 2018 Phish (Rene Huemer)
© 2018 Phish (Rene Huemer)
When fans like myself long for the days of dark Phish, it’s usually the cosmic/experimental/ambient side we crave. But there’s an angry side to Phish too, that’s been seen all too rarely in the 3.0 era, which predominantly (and justifiably) projects an attitude of “we’re just happy to be alive.” It’s easy to defend music-as-escapism, but the up-with-people vibes of recent Phish performances and songs have felt increasingly disconnected from the real world happening outside, at least to this reviewer.

Not so much at Rosemont, where there was an jagged edge and ferocity all three nights, whether due to the venue, the awful news out of Pittsburgh, the ghosts of Halloween past, or the spectre of whatever they’re building up to Wednesday in Las Vegas. The ominous overtones lent this weekend a heavy air, but that made the occasional moment of release all the sweeter. It’s a dark season, for reasons much more serious than Halloween, and we’re lucky to have a Phish that’s more in tune with the prevailing atmosphere to see us through it.

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Comments

, comment by pabalive
pabalive I must say that much of Phish' new style is hopeful. Not dwelling on anger or negativity. For example, I felt the pairing of Rise/come together>Light in Hampton as a beautiful reminder to remain hopeful. If we come together, we can get through this nightmare we are living in. I feel the same way about Everything's right. Just hang on and breathe, we will get through this together. But, in the meantime, it doesn't do any good to be in a constant state of anxiety and panic. That is my takeaway from it. Having said that, songs like more that have us merrily dancing into the apocalypse is a bit ridiculous and I can see your point of view.
, comment by PhreePhish
PhreePhish Don't sleep on this Twist! It's 8 min timing beguiles the fact that it goes Type II right away and was easily the most experimental jamming of the show. Nothing like NMINML last night, but hey, what else is?
, comment by TanasRoot
TanasRoot DU bust out was in Nassau on 2/28/03 . Rosemont was 2/20/03 .

Not sure if I’m more disappointed in the reviewer or .net for letting this low point hit in desperate show reviewing.
, comment by jsauce
jsauce @TanasRoot said:
DU bust out was in Nassau on 2/28/03 . Rosemont was 2/20/03 .

Not sure if I’m more disappointed in the reviewer or .net for letting this low point hit in desperate show reviewing.
Good catch. If you don't like what you read, write one yourself.
, comment by TanasRoot
TanasRoot @jsauce said:
@TanasRoot said:
DU bust out was in Nassau on 2/28/03 . Rosemont was 2/20/03 .

Not sure if I’m more disappointed in the reviewer or .net for letting this low point hit in desperate show reviewing.
Good catch. If you don't like what you read, write one yourself.
Thanks. Fair point , tho I don’t for any moment imagine myself eloquent enough to use words in a review of a phish show. If you’re expressly inviting me to, we can PM about the idea , thanks :)

Thanks for letting me voice that there is inaccuracy in this review .
, comment by Slice
Slice This is an absolutely perfect review (IMO, I guess). Thank you.
, comment by nothingburned
nothingburned Gotta say from a couch tour perspective (made it to 2/3 of Hampton, listened to the other shows by webcast/after the fact) the band seemed out of sorts this last Chicago show.

I for one loved the first set, Everything’s Right has grown on me every time its been played and always has a raging jam. Destiny is never a bad time, and I like Heavy Things, although Miss You is painful to hear. Tube was honestly a little aimless compared to how good it was in Albany, but I will never complain about a jammed Tube. I don’t know why so many people seem to dislike Petrichor, a newer composition that stands with some of Trey’s best imo, it seemed fairly well practiced this time around and I want it to be in the rotation more. IAWITW is another great newer song thanks to Page’s background keyboards, and Grind is always a great set closer.

However the second set never really found its footing. Starting with a fierce Carini, the jam moved between a few different moods without Trey really gettig comfortable before Page wisely took the band into No Quarter. Trey badly flubbed the composed parts, but the song did its job of setting the mood, and there was some nice soloing from Trey at the end before Trey pressed the segue to Cities.

Cities was unremarkable, then led to an unremarkable Jibboo, then Twist. Twist is a song that almost always has some nice jamming, even if only for a few minutes, and Trey nicely guided the band into What’s the Use?, which found its way back to the Twist outro for maybe the neatest sequence of the night.

I’ll say it here for posterity, I think this Year’s Halloween album is the Siket Disc, and I will be so sad if I’m right and miss it. Shade was an unearned ballad bathroom break (god I hope they never play this one again, boring as hell with some of the most cliched lyrics I have ever heard) that put the final nail in the set. Plasma is a great song and brought some energy back into the dead crowd, but honestly should have been near the start of the set. Standard raging Zero to close things out, with Fluffhead as a nice bonus for an encore. Very much a “two set 1” show, with the band not really finding any jamming groove all night, and I found the second set pretty frustrating thanks to Trey’s seeming lack of patience. Strong Fall tour as a whole, but there were a few shows like Chi3 that were just not up to snuff for how well Phish has been playing, which is a shame. Hope they’ve been playing it safe for Halloween, which is sure to be amazing at MGM again.
, comment by levitatingyogi
levitatingyogi I had the best time at this show, even better than the throwdown on Friday at Rosemont which I didn't think was possible.

Having seen the band since 94 I'm amazed how they can continue to 'get me off' and last night was no exception.

From a perusal of the real time setlist thread on Reddit it appears as though everyone in cyberspace was enjoying it as much however I've read several reviews/comments that this show went right over some heads...

For me this is exactly why I come to see Phish, I want the flowing groovy, mystical dance party filled with twists and turns and unexpected treats.

Sunday at Rosemont provided all of these with an interesting first set selection beginning with a moving and juicy opening jam in Everything's Right... Right from the get go you could tell that Trey's fingers were warm and ready and working unlike the night before when Stash was probably chosen to help him get loose.

Destiny was the first treat, a booming version, Tube was jammed well and Petrichor was another gift, the rarity of it and the nostalgic vibes from being present at the fabulous New Year's production will always evoke positive vibes... I was thinking how I'd rather hear this than say another minute eater in Divided Sky which I feel they just don't play well anymore save for the last few minutes... But i digress...

Page laying out the disco vibes was awesome and fun to get the first acapella and probably my favourite other than Free Bird...

Second set is the stuff of legends... Carini with spooky sound effects into what I've been chasing for a few years now, No Quarter... And an extended one at that! The place was loving it.. A great segue into Cities which while short still gave the impact its meant to and then Giboo to really kick off this groove fest... Twist is welcome at any show and this one wasted no time in getting sonically situated, a WTU as meat and then Twist reprise and let me tell you that by that point I was sweating from all the ass shaking and welcomed Shade to hydrate and catch my breath... Until the highlight of the night--PLASMA... Wow was this ever awesome, it's so rare and has such a neat middle eastern? sound to it, exotic in some way anyway and it too was extended reaching a massive peak followed by a raging Zero... I was 15 rows back centre floor and the place was jumping! When they cam back out and started up Fluffhead I was levitatijgt with joy.

This show woke me up and gave me such a kick that I danced for two hours to the funk going down at shakedown and didn't fall asleep until 4 am.

Thank you Phish for being Phish

What an amazing weekend in Rosemont

I'm still riding high
, comment by vslice
vslice Could you specifically point out the ragged sections in Petrichor? I was there in real time, relistened again today, I would need for you to point out those ragged moments, give me the time stamp if you could.

This is what I hate/love about Phish fans. Viewed as a misread in ones eyes is viewed as a highly unlistened, unfamiliar song by most in another’s eyes. The unfortunate part is that Petrichor is an amazing, highly technical, orchestrated piece of music performed in an environment where people would typically be seated. So from that standpoint it will always be a misread because most can’t pick up what Trey is putting down.
, comment by ScottyB
ScottyB Rob is an incredible writer and having him review the Chicago show was a masterstroke. The Phish.net recaps have been on point this tour.

@TanasRoot said:
DU bust out was in Nassau on 2/28/03 . Rosemont was 2/20/03 .

Not sure if I’m more disappointed in the reviewer or .net for letting this low point hit in desperate show reviewing.
, comment by tek9rifleskills
tek9rifleskills @vslice said:
Could you specifically point out the ragged sections in Petrichor? I was there in real time, relistened again today, I would need for you to point out those ragged moments, give me the time stamp if you could.

This is what I hate/love about Phish fans. Viewed as a misread in ones eyes is viewed as a highly unlistened, unfamiliar song by most in another’s eyes. The unfortunate part is that Petrichor is an amazing, highly technical, orchestrated piece of music performed in an environment where people would typically be seated. So from that standpoint it will always be a misread because most can’t pick up what Trey is putting down.
This is exactly my take on fans' "understanding" of Petrichor. Same comment from the Alpha show this summer but while there I thought it was nailed hard, but was actually even played more accurately after relisten/rewatch of the webcast. It's unfamiliarity with the song, period, that people create issues from. That's my opinion of it. Maybe it's the lack of rain sounds that the album has but live performances don't that spark the "botched" or "errors" during Petrichor, I don't know x2.

Good review regardless! I like the reflection of recent events at the end. Pondering that point all morning so far will probably keep thinking about it the rest of the year.
, comment by frogdog
frogdog These shows were a fantastic time. seemed to me like the the crowds were stoked, full of energy and so very happy to be there. Herein is the dilemma of couch vs. being there. they just don't compare easily.....maybe at home i would have had a more critical eye (hopefully not!) but surrounded by thousands of radiant humans experiencing what to me was excellent playing while dancing hard and giving myself over to the now--- that's it right there.....that's why we jump through so many hoops to get there. just beautiful smiling buddha nonsense with the crew. thanks chicago(ish) for the good times. there was great energy hearing back to oregon after this weekend!
, comment by pheelnice
pheelnice Is there ever a time when we can just sit back and enjoy what we've heard instead of trying to dissect every note, lyric, and crowd choice? Judging from the audience at the show, Phish has transcended multiple decades of fans, and will continue to do so for a long time. I just feel such deep analyzation waters down the pure ecstasy of each performance.
, comment by AbePhroman
AbePhroman Nice review until you had to throw in your political opinion.

I don't go to Phish to listen to political bologna.
, comment by RossMG
RossMG @AbePhroman said:
Nice review until you had to throw in your political opinion.

I don't go to Phish to listen to political bologna.
How could the reviewer neglect to ask you why you go to Phish shows before deciding how to construct his take? So selfish of him :)
, comment by Spudster
Spudster @AbePhroman said:
Nice review until you had to throw in your political opinion.

I don't go to Phish to listen to political bologna.
Is it really a political stance to criticize a figure who has no real policy positions?
, comment by Happyone
Happyone @RossMG said:
@AbePhroman said: [quote]Nice review until you had to throw in your political opinion.

I don't go to Phish to listen to political bologna.
Agreed, a very good review, but sadly he had to throw in HIS political opinions.
Go vote next week and be done with it. We do not need to hear your political views on here...
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS In defense of the reviewer, I did not feel that he was being political at all. I think he was reflecting on the music and was being honest about the band's history and tone. I felt it was a well-done synopsis.
, comment by jjjrrr
jjjrrr Hi Rob, thanks for the review, and I really enjoyed it.

Aside from the negative comments saying part of your review was "political", I do want to mention your opinion that may help you and others decide whether Phish should be political or not.

You wrote "It’s easy to defend music-as-escapism, but the up-with-people vibes of recent Phish performances and songs have felt increasingly disconnected from the real world happening outside, at least to this reviewer." You're trying to make a connection between Phish performances and Politics that doesn't exist, because there is no direct connection.

As an example, I could have said "I went to friend's birthday party and had a good time but felt increasingly disconnected from the real world happening outside". It's the same issue, there is no direct connection between your friend's birthday and today's political environment.

If you said "I went to the Insert-Political-Party-name's local rally and felt increasingly disconnected from the real world happening outside", you would have a legit reason for feeling disconnected because the two should be directly related.

Some bands have chosen to make their music and concerts Political - Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, etc - but that's their choice. It says on the concert ticket that you'll get a Rock Concert and if you get something else, that's their choice. If Phish chooses to not be political, they have every right to not do so.

Interested in your thoughts
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