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Permalink Posted by Andy Hopkinson on , attached to 2003-02-20
Phish.Net contributor(Published in the second edition of The Phish Companion...)

The day was abnormally warm for the 20th of February in the Midwest. It couldn't have been any better: my first show after the Hiatus, and the excitement was intense on the drive down to Chicago from Milwaukee. This was hindered only for a short period when we were pulled over by an evil cop who gave me a severe scolding and a ticket by the Wisconsin/Illinois border. As we pulled off onto the O'Hare exit right by the Allstate Arena and saw the line of fans, the excitement built again.
We checked into the hotel right next to the arena and went directly to the liquor store across the street to purchase our pre-show brew. The obscene lines coming out of the store had the employees in a panic as all of their booze quickly depleted. After cruising the lot for awhile, we decided to head in after dark as the temperature was steadily dropping from the mild temperatures earlier in the day. While entering the arena, the fans roared at every plane that flew overhead.
I was lucky to score a general admission mail-order ticket, so I was
finally going to be able to see a Phish show indoors at ground level. Me and my friend made our way down to the floor and, amazingly, got to the front of the stage with ease. I couldn't believe I was actually going to see a show from the front row! As the crowd grew bigger my anticipation grew. The feeling going through my body could have been described as similar to what Tony Montana felt in Scarface... and I was cold sober.
When the lights went down and I saw the guys walk onstage I was overcome with excitement. I remember shaking during “Rift” because I was so pumped. “Rock and Roll” kept the energy high and I finally caught my composure during “Driver”. “Waves” was a good new tune to hear and although the jam was short, it was sweet. This song definitely has some good potential.
“Simple” was rather upsetting, as it got to be too sloppy and dark for my taste. I never was a big fan of “Jibboo” until about eight minutes into this one. This is by far the best version ever, with a stunning peak and then a breakdown into a nice grooving riff that picked up and raged out of control to end the set.
The “Tweezer” that started the second set had me frustrated for awhile, but it picked up nicely toward the end. It was nowhere near the monster that was produced at Nassau a week later, but was still decent. “PYITE” got the place raging. The crowd didn't really seem into it that much until then. The “7 Below” that followed was
probably the most underrated version of the song so far. People seem to favor the Gorge version from the summer, but this has a great build-up and the closest to what you can call funk for Phish nowadays. I thought the “Pebbles and Marbles” was not the best way to end the set, and the jam was definitely not one to write home about, but all around I enjoyed myself.
Now that I look back at it, I think this show has two of the best versions of the two new age jam vehicles (“ Jibbo” and “7 Below” ).
Although the rest of the show was sloppy at points, I was just happy to see my favorite band once again.
Score: 2

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