I have just returned from a trip which took me to the wonderful
cities of Pheonix and San Diego. I wrote a long review of the Pheonix show
in the computer commons of Arizona State the next night but I was unable to
post and have since lost it. Oh well. Here is my opinion of an
The scene for this show was unbelievably pleasant. The weather
obviously was much kinder than some of the other shows I've seen this tour
(Pittsburgh or Champaign to name a couple). But most importantly, the scene
was very small and managable. A security guard told me that they only sold
5200 tickets with a capacity of 10,000! It was really nice to see Phish in
such an intimate setting. I haven't seen a crowd that small in about my
last 40 shows. The security was the best I've been with in years as well.
I had a general admission floor seat and saw ABSOLUTELY NO security on the
entire floor other than the soundboard area for any time the band was making
music. At least the two completely different places I stood for each set.
The crowd seemed very relaxed as a result of this. I also didn't personally
any police officers inside the venue. I'm sure there were some there but
they really weren't very visible because I walked around the arena several
times. The combination of a small crowd, general admission, and mellow cops
and security gave me a really good vibe from the beginning. Now to the music.
The My Friend was a truly inspired version. This was my ninth time
seeing this tune open a show and it was probably the best I've seen. At one
point, Fishman played a fill that was incredibly more busy than it usually
is. Trey's head wipped around and he gave Fishman a great big smile as
Tubbs continued to whack away.
The Chalkdust Torture was a perfect match for the very powerful My
Friend. Right before Trey's solo, he looked at someone in the first or
second row, stuck out his tongue, and shook his head back and forth as if he
were the devil. It was a very similar phenomenon to him pumping his fist in
the air twice at Red Rocks before his solo in Julius. Needless to say, it
made me very happy. He then preceeded to blow the shit out of the
Chalkdust. Quite an impressive build up and an awesome and much more
extended than usual climax.
For some reason, Horn seemed a lot slower and kept my interest much
more intensely than it usually does. I was just mezmerised by the delicacy
that Fishman played with throughout.
Uncle Pen was a very nice treat that I had not seen for quite a few
shows. And country-ish toons always are proceeded by something really
nice...Timber (Jerry) (thanks Dean). This was a very extended version that
a very nice jam with Trey doing some real wailing.
The next present (yet very temporary) was that Trey didn't actually
play the Sample solo note for note like he has the other 15 times I've seen
the song. He actually was improvising until the climax which he ALWAYS
plays note for note. This was followed by the first electric Trainsong that
I've seen and I thought it transferred rather well. Then the set got really
I had not seen a Guyute in over ten shows and it was a very tight
version. I found myself staring in amazement at Fishman's energy throughout
this entire song (yes I do listen to other people than Trey). When they
started Character Zero I immediately looked at my watch to see what time it
was in the set. I was very surprised to see that it was only 52 minutes
into the set because they have been closing a lot of first sets with it.
And the set was going much to nicely to end under an hour. When they
started Lizards I was even more confused because I have never seen them end
a set with it.
At this point I was honestly expecting a Cavern or something along
those lines to make the set a usual 60 some minutes. Needless to say I was
elated when they started Bowie, which to my delight ran 15 minutes and was a
very, very good version. The build was evil and amazingly intense as always
and the band really brought the place down with the ending. Quite an
impressive first set. Easily the best of the 8 I've seen this tour with the
obvious exception of Haloween (thank you Charlie for the tapes).
Set two opened with my first Ha Ha Ha since Portland last fall.
Then I got what I had been waiting for the entire tour: A Mike's Song which
absolutely blew my shit away. Ever since Deer Creek and Plattsburgh I had
been waiting for another Mike's that was this good and finally got one. I
especially love Mike's so early in the set as it allows them a lot of
liberty as to where it goes. The Mike's was easily one of the top three or
four that I've seen and ran 17 minutes of bliss. The strobe section was
extra riveting for some reason and the band slipped some PermaGroove in
there for good measure. It was the hardest I've danced all tour (with the
obvious exception of Haloween .
I was so happy with the direction that this show was going that I
actually sang along and danced with both Prince Caspian and Sparkle (not two
songs you will often hear me calling for at a Phish show). Following the
"after country song" rule, PYITE was really slow and really hard. I have
personally never heard Trey so pissed off at Wilson before
Life On Mars is always a welcome treat and it nice to hear Page
singing this one better with every version that I hear. What a tough job on
I have come to the conclusion that the key to eternal happiness is a
second set Reba (see St. Paul). This Reba just wailed. Plain and simple.
The build was incredibly long and trey did this unbelievably effective
repeated dotted quarter note rhythm at the climax over and over again. It
was truly a magical moment.
The Lawn Boy was absolutely hilarious as Trey dedicated it to two
girls who catered the entire tour for the band. This was the last night
that they cooked and he announced that Page would sing them both a love
song. As the band vamped, Trey reached down to the front row and pulled
each girl up and slow danced with them as the entire crowd roared in approval.
The Groove was nice but nothing close to the Mike's. The band came
down in the middle similar to the Champaign one and thanked the crowd for
coming blah blah blah.
Possibly the highlight of the entire show musically for me was the
encore, which is a big turnaround from all of the Fee's, Rocky Top's, and
Golgi's that I've seen. This Jesus Left Chicago made both Haloween '95 and
'96 sound like the band didn't know what they were doing. Page's solo was
easily one of the best things that I have ever heard him play. But of
course, Sir Trey was not going to be outdone. Right as his solo was wailing
to the point of almost not being real anymore the entire band dropped off of
a sonic cliff. Just Fishman with his bass drum and rim shots. This dynamic
contrast instantly reminded me of the Madison Antelope from last year's Fall
Tour. Wow! It also lasted ten minutes.
So, to sum it up I would put this show in probably my top five or
six shows that I've seen. There were so many highlights that it was hard to
keep track of them all. The tunes in combination with the scene made it a
day and trip that I will never forget.
If you actually read this far, thanks for listening to the longest
review that I have ever subjected r.m.p to...
PS Oh yeah, an 8.9 on the SJRP (Scott Jordan Review Poll).