, attached to 2014-07-19

Review by solargarlic78

solargarlic78 https://medium.com/the-phish-from-vermont/11ea786bd64b

4th Quarter Comeback?
Or, too little too late?

In my review of Randalls 1 I discussed the concept of “house money” — where particular jams are so great they give you peace and comfort with whatever Phish does for the remainder of the show. Well, a similar concept might be the “4th quarter comeback” (Some Phish fans have gotten into the habit of dividing shows into quarters, withe the 3rd obviously being the most important in terms of improvisation): a scenario where Phish finishes a show so strong that it makes up for a rather unexceptional first three quarters. Judging from the reaction on twitter, last night’s “Light”-> “Twenty Years Later”->“Harry Hood” appeared to fulfill this mission for many fans. In my humble opinion, it was simply too little too late in a show that overall suffered from the increasingly dull and repetitive song selection and the recent (and alarming) lack of inclination to let jams breathe and open up. The latter is so odd since that is what defined the first 8 shows of tour.

The first set failed to meet any of my three criteria for enjoyable first sets — bustouts, classical Phish composed songs, and jams of some kind. For the first several songs, they were essentially playing the exact same set as Pine Knob. Does Phish realize how close Detroit and Chicago are? Do they understand many in the audience were at Pine Knob just a few nights before? That said, this set featured the best “Wolfman’s” of tour (it really hung out patiently in the funk section for a good while), a nice “bustout” (of a kind) of “Brian and Robert” (although does anyone really go to a show dying to hear this song?), and “Roggae” which I love under any circumstances. Yes, there were other highlights: the “Smoke on the Water” (or, as Trey explained at Camp Osewego in 1999, “Cat Scratch Fever” is the exact same riff!) tease was cool in “Tube”, Fishman singing “They Might Be Giants” in Antelope is certainly a rarity to behold, and, according to @secretcabdriver that was the first time Trey said “spliff” (a slang term for marijuana cigarette) instead of “spite” during the Antelope lyrics since 1988 (that can’t be true, can it??? I feel like I’ve seen a show where this has happened).

The second set started promisingly enough with “Carini” which some would argue was the best jam vehicle of 2013. Almost formulaically at this point, the jam modulated into major key “bliss” territory. Eventually Trey settled on a beautiful descending line of octave phrases (again, I hypothesize his Soule Monde sit in on 5/1 is what instigated this summer 2014 obsession with octave phrasing) — even if he hit a few wrong notes along the way. But, before we knew it, Trey opted to end the jam in favor of “Waves” (the same “Carini-> “Waves” combo from SPAC and reverse combo from Worcester 1 in the Fall). Don’t get me wrong, this “Waves” featured powerful and emotive soloing from Big Red during the first jam segment — a reminder that type 1 jams need to be appreciated and savored — but, where’s my heady “second jam” in Waves? Instead of going into an exploratory type ii segment out of the “On the wind and under water” part (which has been almost the norm lately), the opening piano chord of “Fuego” interrupted (honestly, that was the first time those opening chords bordered on jarring in my view). Before tour started, I was controversially arguing that we had no reason to believe “Fuego” was going to be this open ended jam vehicle that everyone expected. The first three versions of the song (including Mansfield) were totally contained, the jams were surrounded by intricate composed sections, and the song felt to me like a “Pebbles and Marbles” or “Walls of the Cave” that rarely opens up. Well, I was ecstatic to be proven wrong with the amazing SPAC and MANN versions. But, what the hell has happened since? At Randalls, the song was unfinished but did not open up, and the next three versions have all been in set 2, but have been self-contained finished versions (No different than the version they played for the web exclusive on Jimmy Fallon, which I, btw, blame for the reigning in of “Fuego”). OK, apart from the odd and seasonally inappropriate tease of “Little Drummer Boy,” we lost 1o minutes there (even if I still love this ‘effin song). “Twist” was another reminder of the merits of “type i” jams — pure thick, funky nastiness and amazing interplay between all four members on this one. Fun teases of Fuego (which kept coming back) taboot. “Light” was clearly the improvisational highlight of the night to this point. As is the case in many “Lights”, this jam was about rhythmic grooving between the members. However, I found the jam a bit meandering for the bulk of it, with Trey quickly shifting back and forth between playing chord-based “rhythmic stabs” and then playing rocking blues licks. The jam never really settled on anything until the end where it opened up and employed some spacy loops and ethereal playing from Page, Mike, and Trey. The last 3-4 minutes of “Light” were a keeper, but overall this was not a top version of this song. “Twenty Years Later” was a really strong if straight ahead version (if we simply forget about the 10/29/13 version). The jam stayed in the box, but was really was spacious and textured (no member playing too many notes).

On to the “Harry Hood.” This was for sure a really epic and interesting version. But, and I’m certain this will not be a popular view, count me as one who is somewhat ambivalent about the slew of type ii “Harry Hoods” this tour. To me, “Harry Hood” is defined by its beautiful type i D major jam. It often fits perfectly at the end of the set to punctuate the more improvisational music that should have come before it. Last night’s “Hood” featured another modulation into a minor key and, eventually, employed some downright anthemic rock chords that built and built to a breathtaking peak (the chords almost had a “Not Fade Away” feel). Then, a very nice transition back to D major and the “Hood” ending. All I’m saying is I would have preferred this amazing “rock jam” to exist in “Carini” rather than “Hood.” In fact, if it did, we would be saying “That was a pretty good Carini” instead of saying “That was a Hood for the ages.” One reason we loved the rock jam more than perhaps its musical merits suggest, is because it existed in Hood where it wasn’t supposed to exist. Nevertheless, it was great, and definitely the highlight of the night. My bottom line is: more type ii jamming in the 3rd quarter, could allow “Hood” to fulfill its best role — 4th quarter type i melodic bliss reflection (alternatively, why not open up a second set with Hood and see what where it goes?).

The encore featured the silly “Grind”, a funny “Bug” (funny because they seemed to forget much of the structure of the song and were singing “It doesn’t matter” over and over again in inappropriate times — on the other hand, this “Bug” might have the shortest guitar solo in history, which I usually enjoy quite a bit), and “Suzy” (with more Fuego-teases!). Can’t complain about three song encores.

Hate to say it, but this tour is feeling like a mountain that reached a thunderous peak with Randalls 3. That, of course, can all change tonight. But, for that to happen, Phish really has to open up the catalog in set 1 and let the jams breathe in set 2. Hopefully the “never miss a Sunday show” dictum still holds!


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