, attached to 2004-08-09

Review by dscott

dscott Clearly this is a show where context makes a huge impact on how it is experienced. For many whose first listening exposure was in the context of Phish's imminent (or recent) retirement, the ugly side of grief undoubtedly filtered their perceptions. Even outside that context, it would understandably be a letdown to attend a show where the first set was loaded with raging improv but set 2 was a patchwork of mostly mellow songs + even mellower jams.

On the other hand, it's an entirely different experience to give the show a fresh listen long after the band's triumphant 2009 return. All in all, it's not a spectacular show, but the highlights (especially set 1) are well worth hearing.

The opening Chalkdust has been appropriately praised - it's huge! The structured portion of the song is plenty intense, and the lengthy jam is both focused and exploratory. A bit of a hiccup transitioning to the reprise chorus is readily forgiven, as this 21-minute behemoth crunches to a satisfying finish. Bathtub Gin is another improvisational monster in the 20-minute realm, but mostly rumbles heavily through the murk with dark and edgy vamping before unexpectedly coalescing into Runaway Jim. The transition serves as an inspiring springboard to an energetic and modestly explored Jim. Walls Of the Cave is the 3rd 20-minute epic of the set, and the closing jam absolutely bursts at the seams with intensity - especially aggressive guitar work from Trey. Loving Cup is a typically strong version to end an above-average 1st set.

The ballads to start Set 2 are a well-executed trio, and Lifeboy in particular is imbued with extra emotion. Not much of a jam to Limby Limb. Crowd Control is scarcely noticeable in its brevity and indifferent execution. Seven Below begins a short and reflective jam sequence, dissipating into an airy space that is interrupted by Trey's praising his guitar tech Brian Brown. Stash is uncharacteristically introspective, with quiet and sinister exploration that skips the customary finish and winds into NICU instead. Solid enough NICU, with heavy-handed repetitive chords deliberately replacing "Leo"'s usual nimble-fingered solo. Bug is a very strong version, delivered with extra gusto. Contact is tightly executed, and noteworthy for Little Drummer Boy jamlet at the end - which becomes progressively more twisted before rumbling into a typically hard-charging Character Zero. Bowie encore is definitely a satisfactory version.


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