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!