LAeronef, Lille, France
Set 1: Olivia's Pool, Dogs Stole Things, Taste, Billy Breathes, BagAC/DC Bag, Old Home PlaceThe Old Home Place, ThemeTheme From the Bottom, Velvet SeaWading in the Velvet Sea, Saw It Again, LxLLimb By Limb, My Soul
Set 2: DwDDown with Disease -> Piper -> DwDDown with Disease -> Meatstick -> McGruppMcGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > MakisupaMakisupa Policeman, Cecilia > HYHUHold Your Head Up > Rock A William, AntelopeRun Like an Antelope
 Can't You Hear Me Knocking teases.
 Makisupa teases.
 Phish debut; performed a cappella by Fishman.
 Crew introductions and a mention of Antelope Greg.
Notes: This show marked the debut of Meatstick and the Phish debut of Cecilia, which was performed a cappella by Fishman. The jam out of Disease included Can’t You Hear Me Knocking teases. McGrupp included Makisupa teases; the subsequent Makisupa was unfinished. Antelope included crew introductions and a mention of Antelope Greg.
This show was part of the "1997 Summer European Tour."
We arrived in Lille after a three-hour train ride from Strasbourg. It was pouring rain, and after finding no hostels, we found a cheap hotel and an even cheaper bottle of red wine on our way to the venue. L'Aeronef was a disco/rave club located on the third floor of this mall-like structure near the train station. There was a bar right outside the club, and everyone was there drinking before the show. We were all waiting by a set of doors that we thought led into the club when someone looked over and saw people going in another set of doors. Dave, Tom, and I promptly jumped up and ran over. We proceeded to walk right in and were literally the fifth, sixth, and seventh people inside the venue. "I must be in the front row!" There was a railing and the stage was higher (about six feet), but the venue was smaller than Strasbourg. The place gradually filled up, but even fifteen minutes before the show started you could find a seat within twenty feet of the stage!
Phish came on and opened with a roaring "Oblivious Fool". This is a great opening song and a good way to get the crowd moving. We were briefly let down by "Dogs Stole Things", but the "Taste" that followed made up for it. Good God, what a "Taste"! This version reinforced my notion that this song (along with "Theme") will be Phish's next great jamming tune. Trey played his ass off during "Taste", and this version went for over ten minutes. Then we got "Billy Breathes", a song I had kind of forgotten about but was really glad to hear. And then came "AC/DC Bag". I looked down at my buddy Dave (who, for the first time in his life, was in the front row, dead center) and the smile on his face said it all. Before we left the states for tour, we were talking about songs we'd like to hear. He picked out three, one of which was "AC/DC Bag". I was really glad for him. "AC/DC" was very well played and had an intense build-up jam with Trey going crazy on lead. Right at the end when it got kind of slow, Mike launched in with "My Old Home Place". Of all the bluegrass songs Mike does, this has to be one of my favorites (along with "Uncle Pen").
After this short but sweet number by Mike, we got "Theme". Man, does it get any better than this? "Theme" was, well, extraordinary as usual. The jam out of this "Theme" covered some ground, as I closed my eyes and went along for the ride. After "Theme", the band could have called it a set and I would have been content. But no, they wanted to play more, which was just fine by me. "Wading in the Velvet Sea" followed (did someone sneak them a list of my favorite songs?) and though a little shorter than the previous night, it didn't disappoint. "I Saw it Again" came next (possibly the first minor letdown of the set, but well played nonetheless) and was followed by "Limb by Limb". "My Soul" closed the first set in rockin' fashion, with Trey belting out "My my my my my my my soul, it's my soul"...It's my soul people"...It's my soul." What a great way to finish the first set.
One thing that was wonderful about the first set was that no one was pushing or shoving and everyone had plenty of room to dance. Even up front on the rail, I had lots of room to move, and people respected your space. Not only was the crowd small (300 - 350 people tops), but everyone was chilled out and that made for a much better time. I don't even remember seeing a security guard present, which was also nice. It is little things like this that help make a show better, and after that first set I couldn't wait for the second!
Boy, I was not let down. I'm sure that many of you have seen the setlist for this set, and I can tell you it sounded as good as it looks. It was one of the best sets of music I've seen by Phish. Mike opened with his thunderous intro and we were treated to "Down with Disease". I simply love Trey's guitar riff in this song, it's so damn catchy! A twenty-one-plus minute "DWD" segued into "Piper", which was a nice arrangement. The "Piper" was a little longer than usual, but towards the end it started to get a little spacey, and then Trey came back with that "DWD" riff. "Piper" segued back into "DWD" for a few minutes before heading into a new song sung by Fishman. I'd be tempted to call it "God is My Brain", and it goes "Time for the meat stick / Bury the meat stick / Take out the meat stick / Time. Oh, Oh, God is my brain." This weird number was mostly jamming with a few words thrown in. As of this writing, I'm not sure whether it's officially called "Time" or "Meatstick". (Of course, years later, the second title would prove correct - as well as the lyrics "shocks my brain".) The song flowed into "McGrupp", another treat and the first of tour. "McGrupp" went on and on and was very well played. At one point, Trey would yell, "He looks too much," and then lead the crowd to respond "Like Dave." Trey just kept shaking his fist in the air as he belted out those lines. "McGrupp" finally segued into "Makisupa Policeman". At this point I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. This reggae tune had everyone just kind of bobbing up and down with the beat, and toward the end a funny thing started to happen.
I noticed Trey take off his guitar and head over towards Fishman's drums. He then brought a stool out to the front of the stage. Trey took over for Fishman on drums, who came out and sat on the stool. Fishman had a towel on his thigh and proceeded to play the towel with a pair of drumsticks. Trey came back over and adjusted the microphones, so one mic was on the towel and the other mic was Fishman's vocal mic. As the band faded in the background, everyone got quiet as Fishman started playing his towel. The beat seemed obvious, but could it really be? "Oh Cecilia, you're breakin' my heart, you're shakin' my confidence daily"...." What the hell was going on? As everyone (including the band) watched, Fishman sang this Simon and Garfunkel classic. The only problem was that Fishman had a tough time with the words and screwed up most of the verses. In fact the crowd knew all the right words and happily sang along. Fishman looked like he was having a good time, and Page, Mike, and Trey were all grins as their buddy was front and center.
Once Fishman got up and took some bows, the rest of the guys launched into the "HYHU" jam. I get a kick every time I hear this, just recently learning the story behind it. But Fishman didn't go back over to his drum set; instead he picked up Trey's guitar and started doodling with it. After about a minute of doodling, Mike put down his bass and headed over to Page. Page let Mike sit down, and Page walked over and put on Mike's bass, which I must admit looked very funny on Page. But hell, Mike looked just as funny on piano! This little switch-instrument jam lasted a little over two minutes, and Mike managed to pull off a nice solo right before they went into "Rocko William".
As Fishman played at the guitar and made this evil-looking face, he sang this bluesy "Rocko William". The band sounded pretty good as a unit, but when Fishman tried to solo he couldn't quite lift off the ground. It was more like tinkering at a solo, but I was having such a good time laughing that it didn't really matter. The whole band looked like they were having a ball, and I know the crowd couldn't believe what they were seeing. After about five minutes, everyone put there instruments down and walked back to their original instruments. What next?
The answer was "Antelope", and quite an "Antelope" it was. Prague's was good, but this one is in a league by itself. As they had done all night long, Phish ascended to new levels while stretching this one out to fifteen minutes. At the end they kept jamming while saying thanks to the members of the crew and anyone else who happened to pop into Trey's mind at the time. Could this show finally be over? What could they encore with? I must say I wasn't even remotely prepared for the "Guyute" encore. I had heard this song twice before and secretly hoped I'd hear it again. But I never imagined a "Guyute" encore. All I can say is that it was well played.
The second set ran about ninety-one minutes, and was one fine set of Phish. In retrospect, Lille was probably the best show I saw in Europe. It was rock solid from beginning to end. Phish had fun, the fans had fun, and it was truly an intimate experience with the band. Get the tapes of this show!
DWD -> Piper -> DWD! (My reaction gif: http://goo.gl/1IXRy ). DWD covers a lot of ground, bouncing from idea to idea like many of the great DWDs do, before settling on an idea reminiscent of the -> between Wolfman's and JJLC on SSandP (3/1/97) -- I guess this is a European thing? Anyway, that slowly dissolves and we're left with a short but energetic Piper, which builds and builds and where it would normally explode into a 15 minute Piper jam, it explodes back into the DWD theme! Yes! Do yourself a favor and check this out, the segue is silky smooth and cathartic as fuck, and for good measure they polish the DWD rer. Hell of a half hour to start the set. And without skipping a beat, we get the debut of Meatstick! Kind of. It's more Meatstick lyrics over a hybrid DWD / Low Rider jam (the Meatstick in its current form wasn't laying sausage till 7/3/99, the second time it was played), which then segues perfectly into McGrupp. These segues are *perfect*, thankyouverymuch. This McGrupp is a reggae version, and is totally unique with Makisupa teases throughout and lots of speaking / yelling instead of singing before the final Page-jam-initiated outro takes a more traditional McGrupp form. Right after McGrupp Trey unleashes the sirens that would trick me into thinking Ghost was coming up, but they fade a bit and Makisupa proper rises from the ashes. Keyword: Nug. Trey shows off a bit of his French during the groove as well, and I have no French skills but I believe he's trying unsuccessfully to say "Policeman" in French. Makisupa is unfinished and fades away, and without an HYHU introduction, Fishman sings the parts of (the first and only) Cecilia he can remember. It's a weird moment but strangely nice. We get the obligatory HYHU and another Fishman song, Rock a William, before Antelope sums up the antics of the previous set. "Rye Rye Rocco / Antelope Greg / Been you to have any spike man?" Guyute is the icing on the cake and it's nailed. Nice work boys. This is a proper 4 star show and easily the best second set of the tour. As @waxbanks says, you don't really need to hear the first set, but the second set is worth the download or stream.
The set starts dubiously with flubbed lyrics in Disease, but musically the jams and transitions after that are out of control. The way the ragingest moment of Piper flips on a dime into the ragingest part of the Disease jam is one of those things that raises the hairs on my neck every time. This "debut" of Meatstick is more just the chorus over this strange hilariously rhythmic groove, but the way it just materializes out of the Disease jam is beautiful. Everything about the playing in this set is off the hook. McGrupp is one of those versions you don't forget, even with forgotten lyrics in Rockawilliam, the set is so awesome you don't care.