, attached to 2014-08-03

Review by FACTSAREUSELESS

FACTSAREUSELESS An interesting and generous tour closer by the boys. The first set clocked in at an eye-popping 90 minutes. The show featured some interesting bust-outs and a few noteworthy highlights but the second set was marred by impatience and underdeveloped concepts. I don't believe that this was a lack of effort by the band. Rather, I think Trey was too excited and seemed to be trying to squeeze two nights of material into one evening. The show would have been well-served to reduce the number of songs and increase the exploration.

Nonetheless, the show was highly entertaining (like all Phish shows), and featured a must-hear Gumbo in the first set and some interesting band interplay in the second. The Fluffhead encore was extremely well-played, and Trey capped it with a smoking peak that made this Fluffhead easily the best version in years. It was not enough to rescue a mis-played and frustrating 3rd quarter, however.

First Set:
My Soul and Bathtub Gin open the evening in fine, old-school fashion. My Soul was a welcome surprise as the opener. I really had anticipated Llama in this spot, which is way overdue at this point, but My Soul was an appropriate and bluesy start, setting the stage for a standard rendering of Gin. Of note was Trey's late-nineties tone during the build up of this song. There are pluses and minuses to Trey's choice of axes these days but this tone is one of the pluses. This Gin caught fire as Trey really poured himself into the cresting peak with some outstanding work on the frets. Not a long version, but definitely a highlight.

555 is next. I'm sorry, but it's overplayed at this point and the crowd was politely silent as the opening notes began. Straight-down-the-middle as it has been consistently, Trey did spice it up with a nice lyrical solo.

A brief pause in the action while Trey fiddles with his tuning and we wonder what he's up to. Pebbles and Marbles! The adrenaline starts to pump at this welcome bust-out, an excitement that must have been tempered somewhat in the Georgia crowd as they were served this rare song the last time Phish was here. At any rate, the song is very well-played, a testament to some time spent by the boys rehearsing. I must say that this evening represented some of the sharpest playing of the tour. Very few flubs all night.

Pebbles gives way to The Line. A nice piece of songwriting by Trey but not a good call here. Pebbles set the stage for something special and The Line was not it. However, it is lifted from the ashes in postmortum fashion by another bustout, Vultures. A welcome boost to the action, Vultures actually meshed quite well both musically and lyrically with The Line. Vultures was not must-hear, but a solid rendition.

Another ballad comes next, but it is the beautiful and underplayed Fast Enough For You. A short, but well-played and satisfying version which gives way to Back On the Train. The boys seemed to really have fun with this one and as always these days Trey seems particularly energized by the crowd interaction and involvement. Trey is more and more of a showman as he ages.

The BOTT is good. At this point it appears evident that the band is really hanging back and waiting for Trey to lead at each and every point. Page, in particular, seems reluctant tonight to offer direction or to take the lead in any way, a penchant that has been a welcome feature over the last year and a half, by my ears. Tonight was Trey's night. He was the ringleader without question.

Taste comes next. This is becoming a very interesting set one by now. I love Taste; it's one of my top ten favorite Phish songs, but honestly, this version is forgettable and is abandoned quickly. Trey really botches the opening timing, in one of his few flubs of the night, causing Mike to actually stop playing and wait for Trey to sort things out. The song never really recovers and it seems that the band spent most of it looking for a place to get off the ride.

Then IT happened.

This Gumbo had the makings of somethng great from the beginning. You could feel the vibe. It was the perfect call for that audience at that time, and the band milked it in fine fashion, producing perhaps the top one or two highlights of the evening. This Gumbo is worth the download by itself. Very deep and gooey, it doesn't quite venture fully into type 2 territory, but it comes awfully close and the crowd appreciated it.

The band could have closed shop for setbreak at this point, but instead launched into a halting but pretty version the beautiful Page song Halfway to the Moon. Can't end on that note, and Trey cranks up the crowd-pleasing STFTFP. This stomp should have ended the set without everyone smiling and headed for beer tent, but instead the band raced into a frenetic Suzy Greenburg. This Greenberg was standard for 3.0 with no added jam and really added nothing to the set's construction except that it allowed Trey to keep playing instead of laying down his guitar (this is one of the reasons for my comments above about Trey's excitement level).

After an exhausting 90 minute set, I am worrying how much the band has left in the tank for set 2.

2nd Set:
I expected either Fuego or Chalk Dust to open the frame, so no surprise for anyone as they open with the familiar phrasings of CDT.
Trey wastes absolutely no time going type 2, promising great things. Creating some nice working space for his bandmates, Page steps up to the plate and engages in some counterpoint and then Mike follows. Again, it appears that the band is content to let Trey lead the action and he does so in fine fashion for about 8 minutes. The jam has a ripping and evil tone to it, reminicsent of Disease>Carini from the NYE run for a minute or two, before it turns major key and becomes brighter. Trey toys with this joyful rhythmic theme for a few moments. He's thinking. The band waits, treading water.

A beautiful, and I mean picturesque, segue into Scents and Subtle Sounds follows. I am thinking that Trey should have explored the CDT jam some more at this point, as it was shaping up to be a classic, but in fairness to Trey, he was not getting any help from his bandmates in terms of ideas. Perhaps this segue was pre-planned during setbreak, I don't know, and they won't tell.

The Scents is well-executed but is much too short. After a beautiful composed portion of the song, Trey seems to forget where he is during the solo and, whether intentional or not, brings the band into the concluding measures seemingly faster than they expected and they turn on a dime to join him in planting the ending.

It appears to me that the CDT>Scents combo was a brilliantly conceived concept that could have launched into greatness, but, perhaps due to hesitancy on the part of the band, never developed and the result was a feeling of awkwardness in the middle of the 3rd quarter. We are left in silence with a train dead on the tracks looking at an uphill climb and wondering what would have been had Trey continued exploring CDT. No matter. Twist is next.

Twist, over the last couple of tours, has more often than not to my ears been the fall-back option of choice when set-plans go awry. This version does not dissuade me from thinking this. The Twist does not flow from Scents naturally, and of course Theme, which would have been a more natural choice, was played the previous show. Twist, with it's Santana overtones and bluesy feel, is always guaranteed to please when everything else is questionable. Trey toys with the tempo a bit, and Fishman obliges politely but remains largely unengaged with the gambit. It is nice to hear some of that 2.0 style-growl coming from Trey in the piece (a sound I wish he would continue to incorporate), but really this Twist is nothing more than a transition piece to the next portion of the set.

Fuego follows in predictable fashion. The crowd is not thrilled, but they follow along obediently and the band appears visibly pleased by the call-back from the audience of "Vlad the Impaler!" Sometime Phish music is just bizzare and this is one of those times. Hearing a thousand people chant "Vlad the Impaler" reminds me of some type of B-level Creature Double Feature matinee. At any rate, this Fuego is pleasant enough but really goes nowhere and gives way to........

The Wedge. This was a mistake. You knew it wasn't going to be THE WEDGE, but just The Wedge, and sure enough it is a straight down the middle typical set 1 offering which ended the 3rd quarter in awkward fashion. The show was sadly falling apart. What would they do next?

Here comes Light, as the knight in narly armor, to rescue the scene, and rescue it it certainly does. While the crowd is audibly deflated after the Wedge and somewhat unengaged during the opening riffs of Light, they quickly jump on board during this very exploratory Light which feature some of the darkest and richest texturing from the band all night. This Light jam, and the Gumbo in the first set, are easily the highlights of the show.

Light gives way, again all-too-soon, to Harry Hood. While I would not rank this Hood anywhere close to the Great Woods version on the opening night, or even to the Hollywood Bowl version, it is interesting (if you were there or watching) to see Trey and Mike enjoying a cup of coffee together on stage as they continue to effortlessly play this difficult-to-play song. That was a worthwhile scene. Don't know what was discussed, but soon Trey goes over to Fishman and shares something with him. A hilarious moment ensues as the cameras catch Fishman rolling his eyes playfully at Mike as they are humored by Trey's antics. It really doesn't add much to the song as Trey simply does some interplay individually with both Fish and Page. Interesting but not epic. Trey intros a nice bluesy progression which none of the rest of the band seemed interested in exploring, so he quickly abandons this for the build to the peak, which was quite satisfying.

First Tube signals the end of our adventure for the night and the crowd is very pleased with this selection.

Fluffhead, as mentioned above, is a must hear version and a fine capper to an excellent tour, and an average show.


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