, attached to 2009-11-01

Review by waxbanks

waxbanks The acoustic set is delicious - songs like Army of One, McGrupp, and Curtain With(!!) really come alive in this stripped-down setting. For fans it's a must-hear for historical reasons, but it's also surprising evidence that the band could just do acoustic shows if they wanted to, and still make a fine living. Lovely.

Set 2 is a weird, rocky thing. Bag through Heavy Things is a superb run of tight/loose tunes, then things go a little haywire. There's some tension in Reba - Trey pushes for a fast tempo in the opening but the band holds back, and though 'the chase' is fine, the transition into the jam is a trainwreck. The resulting jam is equally tense, not gelling as it normally does - check out Fish's weirdly standoffish middle-school drumming in the first half of the jam. Trey's playing on Reba through Melt led some listeners to believe he'd fallen off the wagon, an uncharitable assumption...in any case, Wedge and Guelah are eerily bad, Undermind is astonishingly good (because Trey goes absolutely batshit during the jam, driving the whole thing to new heights of intensity), and Melt is a weird hear-it-to-understand nightmare. It's hard to rate this set; it's worth hearing but I don't know how often I'll listen to anything but that blistering Undermind.

Apparently a conversation took place between sets 2 and 3!

The band goes deep right away: a big bold echt-2009 Tweezer segues slyly into a huge Maze. Fishman is a *monster* on these first tunes - he drives the segue into Maze, which he singlehandedly turns into a must-hear version. It's a standard thrilling 2009 Free, all bass bombs and barroom funk, though I seem to recall the return-to-song chords being a little shaky at first. The boys pull it together and pretty much *nail* the vocals on the way back, thank heavens. After a riotous Sugar Shack we get a celebratory LxL and compact Theme (again, forceful vocals).

Some fans thought Mike's Song might not show up at all, but it arrived with bells on in the middle of this final set, with a big surprise waiting after the closing chords: 2001. It's a cheeky midtempo version, very Page-centric (like so many of the weekend's best jams), and clears the way for the deep-space jam of the weekend, the darkest Light of the year. That setlist should real Light > Jam > Slave; the transitional passage between the two songs is really its own creature, fully seven minutes long. Slave is what you'd hope: patient, delicate, cathartic.

And that encore? As good as it looks, with Grind containing - by the way - its steadiest 'for a grand total of...' section yet.

11/1/09 III is an immediate contender for set of the year, though I'd go with the most abstract late-summer stuff first. But it's a Fenway-style late-night blowout with better jamming, including that one transcendent run of songs that otherwise very fine shows like Fenway are missing. Sets 1 and 3 are the ones to get if you're stingy with hard drive space, though you ought to make room for that Undermind as well.


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