, attached to 2003-12-28

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo A odd of juxtaposition of opaque-ity versus clarity defined the 20th anniversary run. Good times, bad times, the band had their share (but honestly, don't we all). Some called it a microcosm of 2003. Not me. 2003 was far more consistent in its highs and more more spread out in its lows than that 20th anniversary run. The nay-sayers who look back at this year with contempt and define it by the 4 anniversary shows most likely harbor something personal against what transpired for them or their lives. We've all had those moments though, and the moment ends, so as we round the final bend to the home stretch of this glorious year of music, 2003, let us reflect on the multitudes of good, forgive the few bad small potatoes, and look forward to what the magic of Phish at Madison Square Garden on New Years can manifest.

WooooOOOOooOOOO-Tsss-tssss-tssss-tsssssss-tssss-tssss-tsssssss-WooOOooOOooOOooOOooOOo-Tsss-Tsss-Tsss-Tsss-Tsss...brrrrr-boom BLAP DAVID BOWIE! Those are the actual transcribed sound affects on the opening spacey/high-hat segment of the run-opening David Bowie. Holy cow. What a statement opener this was. An extended and highly spacey opening section to Bowie set an immediate tone of imagination and improvisation. The crowd exploded. One of those reactions that is captured perfectly on the AUD and gave goosebumps to me, someone not in attendance, listening for the first time some 13 years later, some 3,000 miles away from the epicenter. The composed section was nailed nearly flawless and the jam escaped at warp speed. As I eluded to earlier -the word juxtaposition- this Bowie was the antitheses of the less-than-tepid Bowie that train-wrecked the 2nd night of the anniversary run. As Harry Dunne once said, "You go and do something like this and TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF!" And Phish was good. Again. This Bowie is a torrent of diamond-plated fury. It wooshes into the stratosphere before grinding into, a... well, grinding groove. Harsh (in a good way) and with an attitude, Bowie finally hits four substantial, locked-in peaks and the MSG lifts off. Sample in a Jar drops in next and the feel-good sing-a-long whips the crowd into a energized conglomerate of happiness. Hitting notes with passion and intensity, Trey leads us into... A FIRST SET 3RD SONG TWEEZER!!! Phish has scored a hat trick so far, and the New York Rangers are thinking about treading Brian Leetch and Co for the foursome onstage. Tweezer, although nothing too special, features a swampy slow groove that eventually morphs into a Bowie-Esq-grinding groove. You won't remember this Tweezer, but sometimes the whole (set) is greater than the sum of its parts. And when your set starts Bowie, Sample, Tweezer... the whole it good. Bouncing finds a nice home following up the power trio and gives us a chance to gather our brains, catch our minds, and high-ten anyone within an 11-foot vicinity. AC/DC Bag simply does not relent. A blitzkrieg of energy, both this version and this set, washed the crowd in volumes of controversy. The dance moves were unprecedented. Was I there? No. I was not. But if my living room moves were any indication... I mean, they do say history repeats itself... so I was no doubt channeling those of you in the Round Room on 12.28.03. Godspeed to us all. As Bag evaporates out, the eerie opening notes of Frankie Says float in like fog over the sea. One of my personal favorite tunes in Phish's repertoire, this dreamy rendition lifts off into an extended outro jam taking pieces of 2.14.03 Fee, 7.29.03 Crosseyed, and completely original ingenuity: combining them all into a psychedelic masterpiece of space, time, and vapor. The version floats like a peaceful cloud. And it rains droplets of curiously soft, intriguing grooves. Eventually, the clouds darken and give way to a thunder clap set to the tune of the opening snare hits of Llama! Whoa! Did NOT see this coming! Llama rips out of the foggy and haze and takes us all by surprise. The version itself is rather mild though, with Page struggling to find a rhythm in his solo and Trey kinda following suit. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic pairing of songs, the Frankie/Llama. By this point, Phish has delivered it all. Extended jams. Volcanic energy. Architectural set construction. And non-stop fun. Speaking of which... how about a dose of Fish? A wacky, yet *perfectly* placed HYHU > Love You(?) [the question mark is due to the gaffed lyrics, which was awesome in its own right] > HYHU gave this set a fully complete Phish experience. Really. What more could you want? A dramatic and so-unexpected Tweezer Reprise brought the house down. What a way to start the New Years party!

Gotta Jibboo sashays through the PA to open set two and this swanky little jam really does it for me. Patient. Consistent. Upward-sloping. Perhaps not the most colorful of words to describe a jam, but these trio of symbols elegantly define this 13-minute Jibboo. It slowly swells in intensity. It patiently builds its energy. It unapologetic-ly takes the long route to a fine, hearty, satisfying peak. It's one of those jams that's easy to overlook because of its title and timestamp, but when you listen to it, you can't help but say, "I wish I was there for that." Suzy EXPLODES into the two slot and this is when the when things get interesting. This version pops with fury from the opening lyric. The normal Page-led mini-jam segment between the verses gets flipped on its head into a Mike/Fish-led maelstrom of dance and rhythm. I was GETTING DOWN in my living room. Articles of clothing were being removed at a clip that had Hugh Hefner saying, "We need to hire that guy." One of the most fun living room dance parties that even had Mrs Funky saying from the other room, "What version is this?!?" It slams back into the chorus and then immediately takes off into truly uncharted territory for Suzy. Unfortunately, to my ears, this second jam was light-years behind the first extended jam. Where the first one was peppy, bouncy, and unabashedly controversial... the second jam was dissonant, disconnected, and a little to wanky for my taste. Trey got a little too carried away and led the jam into weird, distorted places that just didn't sound good. Nonetheless, this two-part Suzy is worth many listens to decipher the many nuances of the jam. Suzy eventually recedes into some space (which was cool) before Theme starts up. The composed section of Theme was not well-executed. In fact, it was poorly executed. Not to worry, as the soaring jam on the back end makes up for the mistakes in the front end. This version is a high-flying, feel-good version that will leave your jaw on the floor... after, of course, you finish grinding your teeth on how bad the composed section was. Theme stops, Water in the Sky starts, and WITS finds its Winter 2003 roots. WITS was a song played with great frequency in 2003, with versions being measurably less-strong as the year went on. Fortunately, this version bucked the trend and delivered strong Page and Trey work. Both working quickly and nimbly, this version is fierce and hot. It felt like a perfect springboard for a huge jam, maybe Ghost or Waves or something along those lines, but instead it is followed up by a song that sounds worse than getting kicked in the nuts feels. Fortunately, the pain ends, and we get a Hood to close things out. 2003 was good to Hood, and this version falls somewhere in the bottom third. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as, again, 2003 was a very good year for this song, but this version features a more "metal" jam to it, rather than melodic. It grinds along, filled with distortion and darkness. It does build, however, into a colorful almost-peak, but they never...quite...get...there. Sometimes they just can't stick the landing. Oh well... still, bot a *bad* version, just not a great one. A humble and fun Sleeping Monkey kicks off the encore which leads into a raging Loving Cup. A fine pairing in the final frame, Phish puts a much deserved exclamation point on a whirling, eccentric, fun, and energized night of music!

Must-hear jams: David Bowie, Frankie Says, Suzy Greenberg (especially the first jam segment)
Probably-should-listen-to jams: AC/DC Bag, Gotta Jibboo


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