, attached to 2003-12-29

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo Well it certainly didn't take long for me to lose my pants listening to this show. There are openers... and then there is this Piper. Holy smokes. 15 minutes of fire-breathing locomotive barreling down friction-less tracks. 15 minutes of "OMG did they just do that?!"

::breathe::

Okay. I mean, for all intents and purposes my review is complete. But I guess I have to say something (say it on the radio) about the rest of the show. On paper, this is what shows are made of. In reality, don't believe the florist when he tells you that the roses are free. So let's get to it and figure out what this show is all about. An adept, playful Foam rises like a Phoenix out of Piper's still smoldering ashes. This version missed some spots in the composed section, but made up for it with the lingering, latent energy from Piper. A fair showing, if not extraordinary, this Foam features perfunctory normal Page and Trey solos, that in the heat of the moment, were perfectly forgettable yet still well-played enough to keep the energy swelling. Anything But Me slowed things down just a *touch* too soon, but the slightly extended jam on the back end, led by a very contemplative Trey, gave this version a "Mountains in the Mist" aura to it. Limb by LImb has been an all-star in 2003, and this might be the finest version of the year. Swirling and spiraling are two words I have used often to define LxL jams - and these words are right at home here - especially if this jam was a tornado. The sheer intensity of the Trey/Fish connection was inspiring and beautiful. Asking myself, "How can he play like that?" I am glad I know not the answer, as the mystery is what keeps me coming back for more. This version is a must-hear for sure. A standard-good Wolfman's drops in next and boils with energy, at first, but eventually peters out. Again, standard-good, but seems to lose cohesion near in the final 3-4 minutes. The Poor Heart > Cavern combo was indeed fun, although seemed a bit premature. However, looking back at what this set brought, I have reflected and concluded I would have been perfectly content in the moment at the show - not that it matters to anyone actually in attendance, as I am sure their concern at this moment was finding their face. Rightfully so. All and all, a stellar set with some serious replay value. Top notch versions of Piper and Limb by Limb, era notwithstanding, anchor an efficient and energized set 1. And (it's okay to peak, I did) just look what's on the horizon.

Damn it. I knew I should not have peaked. Eating that third hi... wait. Wait. Different peak. Ahem. With Phish, I have found, unequivocally, the very best shows and funnest times happen when you have zero expectations, Check your setlist prognostication at the door please, this ride requires less-than-zero analysis.
[Spoiler]
Uh, Funky, Carol isn't a Phish song. Oh right, REBA! REBA! We are due for a REBA!!! Anyways, my point is, when you follow setlists religiously (I do) and try predict what they are going to play (I have) you are usually wrong (I am). And then you kick rocks and get too caught up in yourself, instead of being fully immersed in the moment, the beauty, of the Phish show. What is the point of this tangent, well, I suppose it is that I should follow my protocol of not peaking at setlists before I listen to the show. That and just surrender to the flow... man.

Okay, set 2. Rock and Roll gets off to a fumbling start. Kinda un-energized and flat to be honest. The jam jumbles along for about 9 minutes, hitting no real peaks, breaking no real form. Trey realizes this, not a moment too soon, and guides the band into a verrrry generous -> Twist (more of a > in my opinion). Twist features a playful, extended mini-jam segment before the lyrics start. Good stuff here. Fishman loves those woodblocks. As the band breaks out of the lyrics, Mike turns on his Boogie filter and they toy around the a reggae/funk groove for a couple minutes before a true -> Boogie On. The Twist jam is abbreviated, but efficient, and sets up Boogie On quite nicely ... a good pairing indeed. Boogie On however, like Rock and Roll, never finds its footing. That is not to say it is a bad version (it isn't) it is just rather tame. It eventually morphs into Ghost with another true -> and the energy picks right back up! This Ghost is a scorcher. An interesting, conundrum of a scorcher! It builds, but doesn't peak. It has grooves, but none of those "stuck in my head forever" riffs/basslines/anthems. It really brings the dance, but as I look back on it, I can't recall which moments stand out! I just remember it being very fun and very energized. And you know what, I'll take it! Not every jam has to have those types of moments for it be memorable. Sometimes, it is just memorable because the band locks into some fun, straight-forward jamming. You will nary find a bad word about type-1 jams coming from these fingers. Ghost gives us another -> (wow! I know, so many ->) Free. Another almost-seamless transition (not quite, but so close) keeps the energy levels in the red. This Free though, eh, I might draw some wrath for this... this Free does nothing for me. Mike's opening bass blitzkrieg is indeed exceptional, but then two Trey/Mike duets seem off-key. Like two cats yowling at each other. Okay okay, maybe not THAT annoying. But I just couldn't get into it. Having said that, it is interesting to listen to and it sounded like the audience was really digging it. Free comes a stop and (I think I hear a Fluffhead chant?) and Trey has a weeeeeird opening to Divided Sky. It sounds like he's scratching his fingernails up and down the neck of the guitar before playing the true opening notes. It was rather grating and harsh, especially for such a beautiful song. Hmm. Weird indeed. The composed section was played very well though. It took Trey a couple minutes to find his rhythm in the jam section, in fact, the first two minutes were pretty bad. He recovers though, and sends the jam to some soaring heights. All and all, a decent rendition, but interesting in a not-so-good way. A smoking hot Good Times Bad Times closes the set, complete with some, geez, quasi-plinko jamming early on in the jam segment, This version is a cut above almost all other GTBT. It rocks! Waste was a tasteful encore and is exactly what you'd expect. Getting a second encore, I mean, that's exactly what you do not expect. Although the composed section featured some flubs, Trey stuck with Page for a long while in the outro, playfully weaving in and out of Page's soft melodies. Trey finally breaks away, leaving Page on the high keys. Small and petite playing, Page lulls us with soft strokes and light touches. Beautiful way to cap an crazy, energized night of Phish.

Must-hear jams: Piper, Limb by Limb, Ghost
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Twist, Free, Good Times, Bad Times, Squirming Coil


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