Okay, fine - if you wanted to draw up a model Phish show, the one to hold up against every other show before or since, what would you go with? Jamming, of course - w00ks and n00bs like myself and long-timers are all united in our love of kickass jams. Setlist flow, certainly - the great shows tend to have two incredible sets, in terms of song selection and placement. Venue choice, perhaps - we all have our favorite shows that take place in an out of the way venue (most people's is the DSOTM show; mine's probably Chula Vista '99), but I feel like a show in one of the hallowed arenas of Phish past, present, and future, your Hampton Coliseums and UIC Pavilions and Deer Creeks and Gorges of the world, tend to have a little extra cache, not least of which because Phish tend to give them that little extra cache themselves. And, of course, sheer musical quality - not just the jams, but even the songs we consider bathroom breaks or sops to the casual fans, imbued with a little extra something that separates the great shows from the many, many other shows that don't carry the same reputations. You can write up the greatest setlist in the world, but if you're not on your game, it doesn't matter one little bit.
Well, under that set of (admittedly incomplete) criteria, does any other Great Show hit as many of those points as hard as 11/22/97 does? You can't get any more hallowed and beloved a venue as the Mothership - after all, Phish has made not one, but *two* separate "returns" in this very arena. The setlist is something to behold - two sets that could very easily be second sets, practically screaming "we're going to jam all night and you are going to like it" to us lucky ducks. Those jams? Absolutely top-notch - the Halley's Comet we all know about, but the Mike's Groove, Tweezer, and Antelope are all great as well, and even the Frankenstein > Izabella combo is of higher quality than normal (insert plea for Phish to bring Izabella back here). And the playing all throughout...hell, it's Fall '97, that should tell you everything you need to know.
NYE '95, Big Cypress, Red Rocks '94, Worcester '93...the Great Shows all have their arguments to sit on the throne, and all of them are valid. Me? I'm casting my lot with 11/22/97, the once and future King.