Archa Theater, Prague, Czech Republic
 Phish debut.
 Marco Esquandolas lyric changed to "The Jersey drunk."
· Stairway to Heaven tease in Julius
Average Song Gap: 6.18
Notes: Ain’t Love Funny made its Phish debut at this show and was played out of an odd, atypical jam that grew out of Horn. The Marco Esquandolas lyric in Antelope was changed to "The Jersey drunk." Julius contained a brief Stairway to Heaven tease from Trey.
Songs by Debut Year:
This show was part of the "1997 Summer European Tour."
I'm surprised this Bowie isn't on the jam chart actually. It's pretty awesome and gets waaaaay out there and rocks pretty hard, and they don't reel it back in till past the 17 minute mark. I know this isn't exactly contrarian of me to say this, but I absolutely love the 20+ min. second set opener. I wish every show featured it. And then to follow up this huge Bowie with Ghost (4th ever)? That's a solid 34 minutes of awesomeness to open the second set -- and is an especially great continuation of the momentum of the first set. Though this Ghost is longer than the previous night's, it doesn't get as wild. It sort of rolls along nicely, slowly picking up steam, and coming to what would become a typical peak around the 10 minute mark before a full band halt a minute later. Twist gives them one last chance to really shine, and for a new tune, it's extremely gratifying to hear it click for them so quickly (same goes for Ghost -- Instant Classics!). After listening to my fair share of Twists recently, I think I actually like the old opening better -- the build-up to the main riff works better than the immediate introduction and repetition of the riff that we hear in modern day versions (every version from late '99 onward AFAIK). The only thing of note from BAtR through Rocky Top is the supposed Stairway tease by Trey in Julius -- I hear it at 4:45 but I think it's one note short of being differentiated from just some standard pentatonic Julius jamming. This is a rock solid 4 star Phish show, with the best first set of the tour to date and another strong opening to the second frame. Here come the festival sets, which are typically more about fan-acquisition and song accessibility than they are about h3tty jamZ.
The first frame, on the other hand, is quite reminiscent of 8/28/12's marvelous second set, although with even more ridiculous song selection (Ain't Love Funny was only played 3 times, and I Don't Care would never be played again), and flows just as beautifully as that 3.0 masterwork. Taste opens things up and clangs along in fine Taste fashion, and then from its ending comes an eerie digital delay loop jam, Laser Floyd sound effects, and then a *weird* and funky jam that you would never hear outside Europe shows or soundchecks. It's so odd that it almost demands listening, and from that the group (surprisingly naturally) segues into a sprightly, uptempo Cities. Cities peters out in a really interesting manner, and Trey fires up Horn.
Horn acts as a neat bit of transition, as THAT song's ending goes sparse and lovely before segueing into Ain't Love Funny. Ain't Love Funny really feels like a Europe '97 kind of song, relaxed and low-key and full of interesting possibilities. And the band explores those possibilities here, as a gorgeous minor-key groove emerges (with Mike leading the way) and envelopes the crowd with surprising warmth. Fish's drumming (he is so good during this show) gets more polyrhythmic, and Limb by Limb worms its way out of the jam, a good but standard version that ends in a big arena-rock fashion and then segues into I Don't Care. I Don't Care is fine, if not particularly distinguished (no surprise it was shelved after this show), but it ends with a buzzing, almost uncomfortable, almost ambient loop jam, instruments floating in and out of the ether, yet another crazy ending to a song in a superb suite of music. A typically good Antelope closes out a monster of a set.
You shouldn't skip the second set by any means, but the first set, one of the most meticulously *crafted* sets I've ever heard Phish play, is absolutely essential listening. As always, @waxbanks says it best - this is an alternate universe Phish, one that may not have been as big as they were by the end of the decade, but one that (dare I say it?) might have turned out to be even more musically interesting. Give this show a download, and hear the road not taken.
But there's something intimate about that first set that's pretty rare for a Phish show. The outro of both Cities and Horn have an almost nostalgic feel to them. And then they hit us with the classic JJ Cale song "Ain't Love Funny" (which was a Phish debut this night). The guys stay pretty true to the original, yet leave us with a cozy and passionate feeling for the mellow mood. They then finish off the set flawlessly with a LxL > I Dont Know > Antelope.
The second set also has its moments, with a funky version of Twist as well as a fabulous Julius in which Trey hits the high note perfectly. Definitely don't pass up on this great show!