, attached to 1993-12-30

Review by Anonymous

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

Portland was a nice treat for our group because we could stay at Bowdoin, just a half-hour away. Getting from Boston to Maine was a cinch; the roads were clear by morning. We hooked up with some guests and got to the show no problem. Like the Bender show, Portland was general admission. The lines to get into the venue were long and it was quite cold out. However, we managed to head in at just the right time so that we weren't stuck out in the cold for too long but still able to snag some really nice seats. We ended up in the stands in the section just in front of the stage, Page side, fairly low.
The Cumberland County Civic Center is simply a great venue, seating around ten thousand, general admission, with excellent acoustics. I don't believe that the show sold out, and if it did, the last ticket was sold within an hour of the performance. Anyone who could have hit this show but missed it just blew it. So it goes.
Set I begins with a grand version of “Bowie”, highlighted by two passes through Aerosmith's “Dream On”. The ending is tight and glorious. “Weigh” is a rare and welcome treat. I suppose it's not rare any longer with the release of Slip Stitch and Pass, but in any case this version is executed well. “Curtain” is also a rare and welcome treat. It’s one of those songs that was on my wish list for the tour that I had enough sense not to be waiting for because I couldn't really expect to hear it. This version is tight. And the opening chords to “Sample” sound so sweet! This transition is just perfect. And this “Sample” is great. I once said that comparing “Sample”s is somewhat pointless, but I was wrong. This is a hot, smoking “Sample”, one that gives reason to its being played so much the next year. “Paul and Silas” is an upbeat bluegrass tune, but nothing special to note.
The “Forbin's” is really nice, one of my favorite songs (great drum part). The narration between the two songs involves the Civic Center washing out into to ocean so that the fans can surf; a better-than-average narration with nice sound effects from the band. The “Mockingbird”, however, is seriously flawed because Trey flubs the timing between the first and second major melodic sections. The band actually has to stop playing and try to re-coordinate, and even then they aren't quite on the same page. The rest of “Mockingbird” is fine, but this flub is sad, the only low point of the night. A “Rift” is a “Rift”. This is no exception.
This “Bathtub” doesn't compare to some of the more recent monster “Bathtub”s, but it still has some interesting improvisation. This version caused one in my touring clan to identify a distinct Phish jam type as "deconstruction-reconstruction." And that is exactly what happens here. They break down the “Bathtub” until it is totally unrecognizable (Hey Hole territory), before piecing it back together. It is somewhat akin to a fairly spacey “Stash”. My only complaint is that the “bottom” of the jam does sound a bit like an exercise. So just an okay “Bathtub” even though “Bathtub” is always a treat.
Why Phish hasn't pulled this one off the shelf in recent years is a mystery to me, because the a cappella “Freebird”s played in 1993 are very creative, fun, unique Phish in my opinion. Although Fish is a little off-key for a while (one of the band members motioned with their hand at the show and he caught on), toward the end the whole band's crazy scat jam/a cappella guitar solo is just out of this world. Wow. Great first set.
“2001” opened many a second set in 1993, especially in the summer as an opportunity for Chris to show off the new lights (before Summer ‘93, Phish didn't have the moving/color changing variety, just stage lamps, strobes, and a few other goodies). This version is what people would now call “standard” because there isn't any real funked-out jam between passes by the main theme. Page gets a few bars at the keys but that's it. Still enjoyable of course, and the “Mike's” that followed…wow! I cannot say enough about this golden hose. It is a platinum hose. A five-carat diamond hose. An all-time-great “Mike's Song”: my favorite, hands down, on tape or in concert. Everyone in the band contributes in a meaningful way. Trying to describe the melody is pointless — you must hear it for yourself to understand its beauty. And the segue into “The Horse” is perfectly seamless, a feat made all the more astounding when you realize that Trey switches over to an acoustic guitar that was brought onstage by a roadie.
“Punch You in the Eye” was another song on my wish list that I didn't really expect to hear. Page's ascending keys part near the beginning is executed perfectly (on the piano as it should be) and everything is tight throughout. And then “McGrup” follows. Already a stupendous setlist and then this! This “McGrupp” is nicely played (note the choice drum fills) and Page's solo is better then its usually awesome self. This is my second-favorite “McGrupp”, next to 12/31/91.
The “Weekapaug” is high-energy and includes some fabulous guitar shredding by Trey. He hits upon a theme from the “Mike's Song” earlier in this set that, after hearing it in both contexts, seems more apropos to “Weekapaug”. This “Weekapaug” dissolves into a short but sweet vocal jam segment that segues into the music for “Purple Rain”. Then Fish takes the stage!
This “Purple Rain” is very long. It is an amusing Fishman number, but he wasn't in control of his vacuum to quite the same degree as the night before. Compared to most of the rest of the show, this is a tad weak. Fun in concert, but not really interesting on tape.
“Slave” is quite possibly played by request; you can hear fans chanting "Slave, Slave, Slave" before the opening chords on my tape. This “Slave” does not have one of the all-time-best endings (e.g., 4/9/94, 7/13/94) but it does have the all-time-best build toward the ending. Absolutely mesmerizing! And the height of the jam (Trey solo, really) is quite high. I was not very familiar with this song when I heard it at the show, but it blew me away with its melodic majesty and still does five years later.
The encore, “Rocky Top”, is tight and fun. “GT/BT” rocks the house down; Trey nails the jam with a Mack truck. Wonderful encore!
This is one of the all-time-great Phish shows, hands down. It has height (“Mike's” super hose, also great versions of “Bowie”, “McGrupp”, “Weekapaug”, “Slave”, and “GT/BT”), a great deal of width (every song except “Mockingbird” and “Freebird” played flawlessly), and a setlist full of Phishy candy. In my experience, it ranks as one of my two favorite concert experiences ever (with 12/31/95, which has its own flub during “Coil”) and is still my favorite Phish tape. If you don't have this show in your tape collection, get it now. Your collection isn't worth talking about without it.


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