, attached to 1997-11-26

Review by Anonymous

(Published in the second edition of The Phish Companion...)

Anyone who has made live music into a lifestyle choice has secrets. Not secrets like "Can you guess where all my money goes?" or "What do I do every weekend?" The answers to those questions are obvious enough and anyone who has more than a passing acquaintance with a concert junkie doesn't wonder why he or she can't make it to that party when there's a show in town. The secrets I'm talking about are those really personal nights, those nights in smoky rooms that no one else thinks about, but that you know were something special. The Hartford show from `97 is one of those secrets.
This show is understandably underrated. It took place the night before Thanksgiving and was the first show of the northeastern leg of Fall Tour, the southern leg having ended two nights earlier in North Carolina. Also, it preceded the famous Worcester run that boasts myriad highlights, not the least of which was the epic "Runaway Jam" that was literally and metaphorically the centerpiece of all three nights. Nonetheless, Hartford remains one of my most enjoyable evenings of music.
The "Tweezer" opener was the perfect way to send your mind spiraling into a different universe and was a solid showcase for the funk inferno that scorched all of that tour. While the remainder of the set was very song-oriented, it did sport a great "Gumbo" and one of my favorite "McGrupp"s ever. I remember having this relaxing haze drop over me during that set.
The second set opened with a short, spacey jam, foreshadowing the place where Phish's funk would land by Summer Tour `98, into a monster "Character Zero". It was one of those songs that just wouldn't quit, and after squirming in all sorts of directions the Worm found its way to a nice "2001". A fairly long (but focused) version, the end seemed particularly momentous, and led into the only "Cities" of the tour. The crowd was particularly pleased to hear this very tight version, as Slip Stitch and Pass had just come out. The tune was in rotation in the U.S., but only sporadically. A real treat for those in attendance. The jam didn't stop there, though. The slip into "Ya Mar" set off cheers from the crowd who got a huge dose of the start/stop full funk treatment. And then into an oddly placed "PYITE", followed by a "Caspian". The set closed with a "Rocky Top" intro into "Poor Heart" and the full framing effect of a "Tweezer Reprise". The closure that a reprise affords is always nice, but is particularly potent when it bookends an entire show. The "Cavern" encore had the original "Turned the blade back on the bitch" lyrics, although Trey must've decided to use them right then because they were rushed, as though he missed a beat.


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