, attached to 2003-11-29

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo A non-volatile yet still-promising opening salvo of the reunion run hinted at what could/might/may turn into a string of exceptional shows. We can hope, right? In fact, aside from criticizing, hoping might be a Phish fan's best attribute! There is always imagination - always a dream setlist - always *that* jam - just waiting over the horizon. Let's see what dreams this show is made of.

Wilson is one of Phish's quintessential opening songs. A singalong power ballad that reaches vets, n00bs, and norms alike, it never, ever fails to set an energetic tone. This one is no different. Right from the get go, you could hear - feel - the crowd getting rowdy. Love it when that happens. Cars, Trucks, Buses merges into the number two slot and I for one, really dig this Wilson, CTB pairing. Something about the hard rock-meets-swinging-jazz juxtaposition really did it for me. The crowd seemed to have felt that way too, as CTB was met with an impressive, audible roar. Page nails the piano and organ work, and although the song and mini-jam elements is rather short, it sets an emphatic tone. Limb by Limb was go-to scorcher for Phish in 2003, and by this time in the year, hearing a LxL meant you're going to go for a ride. Your head will spin. Arms will flail. This one, when the dust settles, is simply: standard-good. It is indeed good, with Trey and Fishman performing admirably (Trey especially) - but this one does not elevate itself above some of the finer 2003 versions (can't recall the standouts from the top of my head, but they are there... good thing someone made a thread about 2003 so we can go back and find them ;) ). Enough self-aggrandizing... for now. Dirt comes into the 4 slot and although I love the song, its placement seemed a little off. There was a steady trajectory of energy building in the first three songs and the opening notes to Dirt seemed rather listless. HOWEVER, as Phish tends to do, I was proven wrong with my knee-jerk reaction. Some truly soulful, heartfelt playing by Trey layered over Mike's emotive bassline made this song a perfect respite into the set. A great moment of peace and reflection as Phish celebrates 20 years of playing music. Seven Below warms us up after we wipe away the tears from Dirt. This Seven Below certainly has an identity crisis. Within 100 seconds of the chorus dropping out, Trey leads the band on a Possum-like, jagged-edged jam. Had you come into the room, at say, the 4-5 minutes mark of this jam you would ask your buddy, "This is Possum right?" Ha! From there it shifts into a meandering, yet still rocking jam segment that eventually sashays into a brief, sassy little jam. An interesting Seven Below with many distinct elements of jamming, I can't quite call this a must-hear jam, but you need to listen to it just because of much range it covered. Divided Sky pops in, right on cue (in my mind, for whatever reason, I was thinking D-Sky would be a great follow-up song to this Seven Below). Funky-stradamus nails the call... from the couch... 13 years later... and the self-aggrandizing continues. (I will be signing autographs after the thread is complete). A pretty standard-good DSky culminates in a couple measures of Trey really, really nailing his solo. Some fantastic playing at the peak punctuates a normal-good version of this fan favorite. Fast Enough For You is a song I wish, we all wish, got the 2003 treatment in this modern era of Phish. A regular rotation song back then, this version, although normal (yet again I use the word normal in this set) it is still delicate and pretty... haunting and placid. A song that *takes you there* even when the version is, well, normal. Julius was well, payed with a coupe extended minutes of uptempo blues, but I still rank this one below IT's and 7.19.03's. Nonetheless, it is a hot set closer to end a ... wait for it ... rather normal set of Phish.

Set 2 starts out with Twist. An interesting choice. Twist has taken on a dark tone this year. It had a track record (save 7.9.03, which is playful, beautiful, and eventually brightly spacey) of being this demonic, twisted (hehe...) jam vehicle that probably sparked some introspective chaos among those in attendance. This version is one of those - those scary ones. Not my bag. It sounds lost to me. They never click. There are moments between the 10-13 minute mark when it feels like they're about to lock in and explode, but just as quickly as that feeling arises, it is erased by darkness. Now, some people really enjoy this element of Phish - where they go down the rabbit hole with no intent of flowing into a major key jam. So if you are one of those, this jam would be right up your alley. For me though, I feel that Phish tried too hard to create a demented soundscape, rather than a cohesive jam. No matter your preference, this version will keep you talking. It eventually bleeds into Simple, and Simple, one of my all-time favorite songs that can do NO wrong (especially in 2003) falls flat. Harrumph. :/ Taste arises out of Simple's last gasp and yikes, this is when the set takes a noticeable, bad turn. Taste had a great run in 2003, with many exceptional versions featuring fire, intensity, and connectivity. This one lacks all three, and then the ending... man, it is bad. Phish revisits the Makisupa/Buffalo Bill pairing, as they did so masterfully and playfully and giggly on 7.23.03... except, again, this one fell flat. It was nice to have Tom Marshall come onstage to "sing" the lyrics... but musically, especially on the heels of that awful Taste, this was three consecutive swing-and-a-miss. You're out, Phish! I mean no, you're not, I love you guys like seriously big time, but this set isn't your best effort. Strange Design adds nothing. Bowie adds nothing, and in fact, is as crappy as Taste. And the highlight of the set, I kid you not, is a red-hot Character Zero. Finally they lock into some semblance of a cohesive, passionate jam... but it was far too little, far too late. The worst song ever written in the history of time lands in the encore slot. Personally, I would have preferred the house music to come on and drown them out... just like their first show! Member! I member! But seriously, how funny would that have been if they planned an encore where they purposely had the house music drown out their own to memorialize their first gig? In this case, it would have worked.

So, not every show can be gangbusters. And although this first set was pretty decent, even if pretty normal, the second was followed a graph-able, audible, cringe-able downward trajectory.

Must-hear jams: none
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Seven Below, Twist, Character Zero


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