Wow, I have never seen as many ticketless as I did at this show. I guess it speaks to the smallness of the venue. I would estimate at *least* 500 people with their fingers in the air, and the number is probably much more than that. The stairway down from the parking garage was a veritable gauntlet of people begging for tickets. Matt, a fellow Dartmouth student who had only seen West Coast shows up to this point was astonished at the scene on the right coast, and last night, I was too. I'm not one to complain too much about the scene like some people; but this definitely got to me. Drugs don't bother me; ticketless do.
The weirdest "arena" I have ever seen. Take a normal arena and cut off the corners to make it look like a big plus sign, and you have an idea of what it looks like. It was ill-equipped to deal with the crowds of people that were there; the hallways were packed between sets. The security was fine for the most part, but the one guard closest to us during the show was the biggest jerk I have seen at a concert. While Ann and I were heading down to our floor seats, we saw a head with what looked like a box of DATs trying to explain to this guy that he just needed to drop them off to a taper. This guard got in his face and started yelling at him, so the head just says to the guy "You're a nerd." The guard then says "You get the hell out of my face or I'll kick you out!" It was pretty funny how calm the fan stayed while being bitched out by this loser. The guard did some other silly things during the show but I won't get into it. The rows on the floor were unbelieveably close together, but I was on the floor, so I didn't really mind. Except when the guy behind us crashed from whatever drugs he was taking and slumped over our seats. We pushed him back and his girlfriend took care of him. Remember: moderation is key!
Once we got settled into our seats, we waited for the lights to dim. Dim they did, and the band came out and started with a spacey little intro that can only lead to DWD. During this, Trey teased the main riff from Stash once, then Mike played the DWD bass intro and they were off. This DWD was exclusively Type I, with Trey leading the jamming they whole way through. It was very enjoyable, but nothing like 2/17/97 Amsterdam, for example. Trey was truly taking the lead the whole night, much more than shows from 97 and earlier this year (I haven't heard much fall tour, so I can't comment on what's been happening recently). The time for this version was ~13 minutes, and most of those minutes were Trey soloing.
MOMA DANCE followed and I noticed something about this song: it doesn't change a hell of a lot (well, the ones I've heard). That said, it is a GREAT composition, and I love the bah-bah-bah-bah...bah-bah-bah-bah...bah-bah-ba riff. It's just so different from other Phish composed songs, that I expect a jam, but I shouldn't, because there's no jam in Guyute. The jam at the end was good, but nothing that one wouldn't expect from Moma, and similar to the Deer Creek from this summer that I heard on the way to the show. It was nice to hear it after the release of SOTG, because now I know all the lyrics. GINSENG SULLIVAN is a song I've been hearing a lot lately, 3 times in 1998 alone. At this point I'd rather hear Nellie Cane, but Ginseng was well played, and I allowed myself to enjoy it
STASH was up next, turing the tease at the beginning of the show into foreshadowing. This Stash was definitely the highlight of the first set, lasting 12 minutes and going to some very cool places. In the middle of the jam there was a great segment with Trey playing staccato notes with Fishman keeping the beat on the woodblocks. Kuroda added to the fun by lighting up the fans in the back of the stage, changing their color to Trey's jam. They were extremely together throughout the jam segment, and it stayed fairly close to the foundation of the song. Certainly a part of the show where you look at your compainion and give her or him a smiling nod (you all know what I mean, right?). Stash ended and was followed by BRIAN and ROBERT, which was a much needed chill out song after that raging Stash. I've never been able to get into the words of Brian and Robert, but this one was well played and I love the sound of Page's organ (Rhodes? Moog? what the heck does he play in this one? I get confused...) that continues throughout the song.
After Brian and Robert, they started up LIMB BY LIMB. This was a tight version, with a slight flub by Kuroda (or one of his minions) who kicked the red lights a measure early before the guitar solo. Great solo in this Limb, but nothing you haven't heard before out of the Lemonwheel Limb. This tune was 11 minutes long, for those of you playing along at home. SAMPLE was next, thought by most in attendence to be the set closer for sure. We were glad to be wrong.
TELA was a huge surprise, and probably my favorite slow song to hear. I was pretty happy to get my second Tela in 98. I love the end where they sing "Tela, Tela, jewel of Wilson's foul domain." Although I do like the original TMWSIY with the "vulgar crooked hut" stuff better. After this we got a CHALKDUST TORTURE, and I knew for sure that it would be the set closer, and it was. Trey told us he'd be back in 15 minutes, so I ran to get a soda and call Rob so I wouldn't miss anything
Set I recap: Great Stash, good DWD and Moma, nicely executed Tela. 5.5 on the Scott Jordan Concert Review Scale.
The distinctive delay loop (present on SOTG) signalled that a GHOST was on the docket. And a fine Ghost it was! Definitely not the funk Ghost of Tours Past, this Ghost veered off into an almost Bathtub-like jam. Matt compared it to the Murat Gin, I compared it to the Went Gin without the Euphoria - but the interesting thing is that we both compared it to a Gin jam. I would call Trey's jamming almost circular, in that he was repeating a cycle of notes that cycled through a range of pitches. Trey definitely dominated the jam, and the song lasted a fun-filled 17 minutes, before degrading into some sustained space noises, out of which came Mike's vocal solo at the begininning of HALLEY'S COMET. This version was completely straight up...no jam at the end at all, just an abrupt stop, which was followed within seconds by TWEEZER.
This Tweezer was the tightest jam they played all night, with a lot of nice clav work by Page at the beginning of the jam (typical, but quite good). The jam was lead by Trey's guitar work that was decidedly anthemic (not anemic!) and not funky. It ended in the "repeat the main riff and slow it down each time" fashion, and entropically melted into some space that I thought for sure was either going to be 2001 or Bowie, it was pretty cool, and I never expected the song that would emerge. But after a couple minutes, I heard Trey tease POSSUM as a signal for Page and Fishman to start it up. Start it up they did, and Possum really got me and the rest of the fans dancing. This Possum was a raging 15 minutes long, and fun was had by all.
The lights seemed to signal and end-of-show atmosphere at the end of Possum, so we were surprised when the band started up WADING IN THE VELVET SEA. This Sea had no delay loop by Trey, starting only with the really pretty piano solo by Page that we all know and love. I really like the lyrics to this song, and I'll be damned if I let all of you convince me that it's cheese. And Page singing? Come on, what more can you want? Nice slow solo by Trey to finish up the song, and we figured they wanted to end on more of a high note, and we were right. As soon as they started up CHARACTER 0, I could feel a collective sigh from jaded fans all over the venue. Previous to this night, I felt the best Zero was 12/31/96 Boston, but last nights was MUCH better. They actually mixed it up a bit in the jam at the end. I know you all don't believe me, but Trey was definitely doing things with the solo that he had never done before (or at least I hadn't heard before). They looked like they were having an incredible amount of fun for the 9 minutes that Zero covered, and it really was a good closer (which is something I rarely say about Zero).
Set II recap: Wonderful, original Ghost, tight Tweezer, long Possum, best Chracter Zero ever. 8 on the SJCRS.
Who walks out with the band but that begoggled fool, the Dude of Life! Trey lets us all know who he is, and they play SUZIE GREENBERG, a song that I thought was on permanent leave due to the statements by the band in the Phish book. A really fun version, with different lyrics that I couldn't quite catch in the second verse. The Dude is great, some of my first tapes were shows that he guested at, so he has a lot of sentimental value for me. He is a great showman too, running around the stage, pointing at Page and Trey when it's their turns to solo. I was hoping for a Crimes of the Mind or She's Bitchin' Again after Suzie, but forgot that they still hadn't played TWEEZER REPRISE. The Dude was singing something at the beginning of the song before the lyrics, but no one I talked to could figure it out. Maybe it will be more clear on the tapes. He helped out with the standard vocals as well and made an ordinarily great show-closer extraordinarily great.
Encore recap: Fun as hell, The Dude, Suzie back from the dead. 8 on the SJCRS.
So I guess that gives the whole show about a 7.25. Definitely above average, the first set wasn't stellar but the second and encore make up for it. They are damn good this fall, folks, and I encourage you to be VERY psyched for any shows on your schedule. See you all in Worcester!