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Permalink Posted by lumpblockclod on , attached to 1993-12-30
lumpblockclodThis is quite possibly the best all-around Phish show I've ever seen. From start to finish, they just didn't let up. The show started with great, albeit relatively straightforward, version of "David Bowie." As the composed section came to an end, they played a few bars of Aerosmith's "Dream On". The theme from the 70's rock anthem disintegrated into the spacy section of "Bowie" and it was apparent that we were about to be taken on quite a journey. "Dream On" made a reappearance at the end of the song -- the "Bowie" ended at its typical frenetic pace and we were off! After the always-welcome trip inside the head of Mike Gordon ("Weigh") and a quick version of "The Curtain", "Sample In A Jar" was next. Sure, now we know that "Sample" is pretty much "Sample", but at the time, I remember being excited at how well the song was coming together (compared with the versions from the Spring and Summer). Of course "Sample" never really made it to the proverbial next level, but it was (and still is) an above average version.

Later in the set, we got a great "Forbin." I think the narration was about the floor of the hockey arena breaking apart and floating through space on the planks. Or something. In any event, the arena just might have gone into orbit several times that night. It wouldn't surprise me at all. The "Famous Mockingbird" took flight (somewhat sloppily) and "Bathtub Gin" followed. Having not heard the Murat "Gin" at the time, I was pleasantly surprised at the improvisation at the end of this version. Looking back on it, it really doesn't go anywhere that interesting and certainly doesn't compare to the Murat version. "Free Bird" was next and, as always, was pretty damn funny.

All in all, the first set was pretty strong -- better than anything they had played the night before. But they were just getting started. The familiar introduction to "2001" started up and they went right into "Mike's Song." The "Mike's" jam just seemed to keep going and going. It went on for about fifteen minutes (which was pretty long for '93, especially if, like me, you hadn't heard any August '93 shows at that point) and never seemed to let up. As the composed part of the jam gave way to improv, they locked into a groove led by some sustained, melodious noodling by Trey. Just great stuff here -- I don't know what else to say. As the jam becomes more bass dominated, Trey starts playing his acoustic and before long they've segued -- yes, segued -- into "The Horse." "The Horse" and "Silent" are their usual selves and "PYITE" -- still a pretty major treat in 1993 -- follows. Nothing much to say about "PYITE" except that looking back on it, it seems to be a pretty tight version, especially at the end where they go in and out of "The Landlady."

"McGrupp" immediately starts up and the next fifteen minutes of the set are pretty much perfect. The Page and Mike duet out of "McGrupp" is absolutely gorgeous -- yet another highlight in a set filled with them. The crowd is absolutely silent. Mike's anchoring bass line fades into nothing and then comes back, along with the rest of the band, as they crescendo back into the "McGrupp" theme. "Weekapaug" starts smoothly out of out of this and what else can be said about this "Weekapaug"? It's pretty short and certainly straight ahead, but the entire song is one long machine gun Trey-fest. After the hilarity of "Purple Rain", a "Slave" chant started up near the stage. And sure enough we got it in all its glory. The build starts very slowly with Page and Trey playing beautifully off of each other. Right up until the peak, Page is banging away on the grand piano, perfectly complementing Trey's screaming leads. All the while, Kuroda's lights are swirling around the arena in a siren-like effect. Just another one of those Phish show moments that's permanently imprinted on my brain -- talk about a smoking crater. "Rockytop" and "Good Times Bad Times" sent us out into the sub-zero Maine night. What a set! Sure, there have been better musical moments in Phishstory, probably even better sets. But there are few sets that hold up as a whole the way this one does almost 16 years later. Not a single boring moment, every song executed perfectly, gorgeous segues, exploratory jamming. I knew as soon as I walked out of the civic center that night why I had seen eleven other shows in 1993 and why I was about to see one more -- to see that show.
Score: 8

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