This is not my favorite show from Fall '98 but nonetheless there's no mistaking why it was chosen for the official release treatment. This 2nd set is probably one of the most energetic and fun of the tour and also contains one INCREDIBLE but oft overlooked jam in Weekapaug Groove.
The first set is pretty standard, with a tight opening run of tunes. Nothing special, but well played and energetic. Can't go wrong with any of the song choices either. Ya Mar had particularly beautiful outro soloing from Trey, and Jim had a ferocious peak. Meat's a welcome addition to any set in my opinion. It's a neat tune that I wish saw more action. The Reba is phenomenal - I'm a sucker for any Reba soundboard, so I'm admittedly biased, but this is the clear highpoint of the set for me. Mike is especially strong in this version. Vultures also smokes, another song that I wish got more attention. Trey's guitar tone was unbelievably crisp and smooth in 98 - I think it is my favorite year in terms of his tone. An energetic Birds of a Feather closes out the set. It's a 'Type I' by-the-numbers version, but definitely features some dark and ominous playing. On to Set II.
Set II is where the craziness and fun begins. Buried Alive is the perfect opener, a blast of energy. This version seems to have some added dissonance in the middle. Next up: WIPEOUT!!! The classic surfer tune made it's first appearance since having been played and teased in the early 90's. As Trey begins to repeatedly tease Wipe Out in the following Chalkdust it becomes apparent that this is going to be no ordinary second set. During the verses Mike begins to tease an infectious bass line, becoming more and more distinct with each subsequent tease. (Later revealed to be the bass line to "Mirror in the Bathroom" - a song by the 80's English ska band The Beat) As Mike continues to tease this song Trey eventually picks up on it and begins to play along and even sings along! This set is becoming out of control!! Trey eventually leads the band back into an energetic Chalkdust jam with some fierce soloing. This is an awesome Chalkdust jam, definitely above average. It eventually morphs into a choppy, slowed down bluesy groove and the band starts singing Dog Log! This is quickly becoming a very old school set, full of segues, teases and bust outs. An abrupt ending leads into Sanity, another old school rarity! I love the opening marching-band drumbeat to this song. This is a very creepy, odd song, and I love it. They must've been really into the rarities that night because it's one after another after another…. Buffalo Bill is next. This a fun tune.
Back to relative normalcy with the opening chords of Mike's Song, but the night's music journey is far from over. Following the Wipeout/Chalkdust/Mirror in the Bathroom/Dog Log madness and the ensuing rarities there is still almost an hour left in the second set! The Mike's jam is funky and aggressive. Trey and Page really just tear the song apart, before an atypical ending without the usual final chords that signal a segue into I am Hydrogen. Instead, the band drifts into spacey ambience. This absolutely enchanting musical space bleeds flawlessly into I am Hydrogen proper, starting with Mike's gorgeous bass line. Trey soon follows suit. Not the cleanest I am Hydrogen but damn, I'd trade a crisper version for one this interesting any day. Trey's tone is absolutely stunning during his Hydrogen solo, as usual. (P.S. why why why??? is this not included in the list of unusual, interesting, or weird versions on Phish.net's song history of I am Hydrogen?)
As Hydrogen winds down, Mike kicks down the opening bass licks of Weekapaug and we're off! The jam immediately descends into its typical fast paced funk after Trey's energetically soloing slows into rhythmic chords and Page hops on the clav. Already the song shows hints of becoming a little spacey, with by Mike's strong bass leads, and Trey continuing his funk chords while Page adds accompanying effects. Trey starts to solo and the song begins to soar to a typical peak. But wait - the band starts playing Wipeout!! In the middle of Weekapaug the entire band makes a full reprise of their early set bust out, before returning to finish out Weekapaug in a speedy fashion. The song comes to almost complete close before reprising the ending of Weekapaug! What has gotten into the band during this set!? This is far more than just a brief re-ending of the song. Weekapaug slowly fades away as Mike takes the reigns with a driving bass line and Trey begins to lay down effects laden lead guitar lines. Mike continues to lead with a devastatingly addictive groove. Some of my favorite Mike playing of all time. This is an absolutely phenomenal "second jam" to Weekapaug. Definitely an early precursor to some of the Mike led jams of the 3.0 era. Page adds effects on the keyboard while Trey plays squeaky, screechy background licks. This is ambient groove at it's finest. Towards the end Mike begins to drop liquid bass bombs, and Fish picks up on his rhythm. Trey returns with growling chords to add to the building beat before it grinds to an abrupt halt. End set. But no…
Trey plays the opening notes to Run Like an Antelope! This set is relentless! Unfortunately, this Antelope is more of an afterthought to the craziness that ensued before rather than an exclamation point. It's fine, it just lacks inspiration and is rather dull and uneventful in my opinion. A standard Antelope, nothing special here. Besides the "wow!" factor of one more song (and Antelope no less!) after the Weekapaug slowly faded out, I think that this Antelope adds very little to a legendary set. The jam actually starts out with interesting staccato interplay between Page and Trey, before escalating to an equally uninteresting tension filled Trey solo peak. (Note: after a couple of relistens, I have found things to enjoy within this Antelope. Definitely more going on than my initial listen led me to believe. I still stand by my opinion that this Antelope is not on par with the rest of the set, however.) I think that the main fault of this version actually lies with its length believe it or not. A more succinct version would have given a more energetic stamp to the end of the set.
The encore also starts out relatively uneventfully with a Wading and a Golgi before a very fun (if not expected) final reprise of Wipeout.
All in all, this is a wonderful show and an excellent choice for the LivePhish series. It combines the maniacal spontaneity and youthful energy of the early 90's with the deeper musical exploration and expression of the second half of the decade. A very strong first set full of interesting playing and great song choices coupled with such a fun and musical important second set should warrant 5 stars. The Antelope and the lackluster encore hold me back. I wish I could give this one a 4.5, but I'll settle for 4.