, attached to 2003-02-18

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo Phish hit the ground running on their newest tour, just removed from the hiatus. Each of the first three shows contained at least two "fuckin-a" jams, and a handful of other "holy crap" renditions -- all mixed into unpredictable (in a good way) setlist construction and start-to-finish improvisation. Would Denver, after a day off for travel, follow suit?

Runaway Jim continues the trend of statement show openers. This Jim moves along at a sprinters pace, fast and methodical, though it doesn't set any world records. It is nothing to write home about, but there is no doubt whatsoever it brought some serious energy to open the show, and that is everything we could hope for in an opener. Water in the Sky comes next and is met with mixed crowd reaction, as it seemed like it took a few measures for the crowd to realize what the song was, definitely an example of the patternless setlist construction of 2003. Trey has a deft little solo and picks the energy back up but nothing too fancy comes of it. Twist continues the setlist mayhem, but like the two preceding songs, neither exalts nor castigates the audience. It is well played. sure, but it won't blow your mind. We are mind-fucked yet again with a early mid set Squirming Coil. I wasn't at this show, but the confusion on the AUD is palpable. I love Coil, I do, just not as the 4th song of the show... especially a show that is really needing a couple adrenaline shots to get moving. Brian and Robert does its best to send the crowd to their seats/bathroom/beer line. Who knows. I certainty don't, and at this point during my listening I was wondering what was going on. I became rather un-enthused with the way the show was progressing. [author's aside: I try as best I can to listen to these shows in one piece, no skipping around, so that I can get as good a "feel" as I can for the vibe and flow of the show.] Stash came next and was exactly what the doctor ordered. You could hear and feel the crowd, and band for that matter, start to radiate some much needed energy. This version, follow the refrain of the set, isn't great, but definitely isn't bad. Trey scorches the last few minutes and just like that, the lull is over. A short and sweet Wedge follows; predictable, as Wedge is always played t honor the Great (Continental) Divide of the Rockies. The energy stays fluid. Birds comes in next and delivers a really, solid punch. Trey really took the reigns on this BOAF and hammered the crowd with relentless tension and release builds. Sounded like a super fun party in there. You would think, seeing Lawn Boy next on the setlist, that the crowd would be raucous as Page sexed it up onstage. Not so much. Maybe I am wrong, but I think this was a bit of an in-the-moment gut punch for the set, especially considering the Coil, Brain and Robert combo that already kicked us in the nuts. Oh well. Walls of the Cave closes the set, and FINALLY we get a tune that realllllllly showcases the improv that permeates 2003. Following close on the heels of the 2.14.03 version, this WOTC breaks away from the rock/vamp groove and dives into intergalactic space. Although this spacey excursion lasts mere minutes and is not nearly as profound as the Forum's, it is absolutely brilliant in its execution and even more brilliant with its re-entry to the WOTC theme. Phish crushes the landing and really gets the crowd amped for Set 2.

Couldn't ask for a better Set 2 opener than Moma Dance, given the wholeness, or lack thereof, of the first set. We needed to dance. Moma Dance brought the dance, but just as quickly as it came, it appeared to fade away. The Moma Dance opening jam was great - slower than usual, thicker than usual. But the outro jam was muddy and murky, with little funk and dance to speak of. Ho hum. Limb by Limb goes about six minutes deep before being caught in the swampy morass that Moma Dance created. Some people love this style of jamming - I am not one of those. To me, it sounds like heavy, grating noise (it is this sound that so many people classify "2.0" as, even though it is relatively inconsistent in its show appearances, but when it does appear, it is noticeable, and for most ears it seems, noticeably bad). The LXL jam just kind of lurks in the darkness for five minutes before making an unexpected and MOST WELCOMED swirling callback to the song's theme. A great way to end it, thankfully. Thunderhead comes next.. What can I say. I absolutely love Thunderhead. It can do no wrong. Not in setlist placement, length of jam or overall feel. It always fits. This version to my ears sounds like that pretty, delicate sound that is hallmarked by the Grateful Dead. The music flutters and drifts through the air and reminds me of a soft, warm breeze. Great stuff. Divided Sky finds a perfect home in the middle of set 2 and is played with great gusto and zeal! The composed section is relatively clean and well-executed, and the jam segment, man, Trey nails it. Machine gun Trey all the way, he lets loose a Gatling gun of cascading notes, peaking notes, and melodic notes. The crowd responds, erupts, and thanks. Thunderhead/Divided Sky was a PERFECT pairing. Carini hits next, and if you're listening to an AUD, you (like me, maybe?) were surprised with the seemingly lackluster response to this song. Like I have said a few times before in this thread, Carinis of old are NOT like Carinis today. Today, Carini has evolved into this major key jam vehicle and has become somewhat of a cult classic with regards to second set jam vehicle status. Back then, Carinis were this dark, evil, monstrous song that delivered fear, not happiness. This version was... well... weak. The jam was just evil noise. Had I been in attendance, I feel I would have been overcome with anxiety, and not in a good LSD "IM FREAKING OUT" sort of way... more like in a weird, "What they hell are they even attempting tom "play" " sort of way. This version, regrettably, is entirely forgettable. You Enjoy Myself swoops in and saves the day though! You want a jam that has it all? READ NO FURTHER AND PUT ON THIS ROUSING RENDITION. Fish sets the tone with his gratuitous woodblock use early on, and there is some full-band playfulness that follows for a solid 3 minutes. After that winds down, Trey takes off. Painting music with fire, Trey sets Pepsi Arena ablaze with huge, thunderous peaks. Man, if ONLY they played YEM this was today ::sigh:: Long are the days it seems of 7-10 minute jam sections of YEM that really take off and peak in orgasmic tension-and-release fashion. I hope YEM returns to its former glory sooner rather than later, because listening to versions like this one get me all nostalgic and such. The Bass and Drums section retains the comedic element, as a seemingly scripted (and comical) pause calls Mike into the spotlight. Fish hammers home for a couple measures before dropping out completely, leaving Mike blitzkrieging us while Trey is scratching over Cactus - super interesting sound dynamics going on. They drop out of music and into the vocal jam and before you know it, the whole god damn band is crooning us with The Lion Sleeps Tonight (HEP! HEP! HEP! HEP!) God damn it you guys! You f***ing rock! Another comedic and apt encore of NICU, Mexican Cousin sends off into the cold mountain air with mixed emotions. A bad show? No. A good show? Well duh, there's no such thing as a bad Phish show. But still, it didn't quite have the fire of the 14th, 15th. and 16th. No worries though, we are only just beginning to cut our 2003 teeth.

Must-hear jams: You Enjoy Myself, (and Thunderhead because it really is so damn pretty)
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Birds of a Feather, Walls of the Cave, Limb by Limb, Divided Sky


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