I have some mixed feelings about this show. I got there at a perfect time, about 10 minutes before set 1. When the lights went down, I have to admit, I was relatively sure we were getting a First Tube opener, because the tour had been semi-predictable so far, with a few exceptions (Silent w/o Horse, Ride Captain Ride...). Anyway, the staticky noise in the beginning became Down With Disease and the night was off.
Down with Disease: This song is always hit or miss with me. For such a fabulous song, I hate that they always rush through it. It's always too fast. Now this one was pretty standard. The jam was long and, at times, pointless, but they brought it back around really well. In the end, I wasn't upset, but I was warmed up for something on fire.
Instead, there was Farmhouse. I LOVE this song, but it's kinda like it shows up every other show now. So I sat back and enjoyed the mellow "No Woman, No Cry" jam. I wasn't upset, but I was warmed up for something on fire.
Bathtub Gin was next. Okay, the show was progressively getting better. This Gin was easy, and the jam went way out. In my setlist, I almost labelled it Gin > Jam > Gin. The lights were really cool for this too. Like DwD, it came back around really nicely. The end reprised the Trey solo riff and closed the song in an atypical fashion.
After a short pause, Wolfman's Brother. I was starting to see a pattern here, with a bunch of standard songs. Sometimes, Wolfman's is so sweet is hurts. Sometimes, I feel like they're wasting my time, move on. This one was in between. Nice jam that I definitely enjoyed, good funk. The real pattern here was that, like the previous songs, the ending, the "come back around" part of the song was incredible. Trey hit the top of the bar chords making a very rock-song noise. I was really digging that.
Guyute would follow. Aanother standard. Phantasy Phish players have got to be cleaning up tonight. I must admit, though I've seen this song more than my share of times, this version was a crystal copy of the one of TSOTG. I had to enjoy its precision. Well executed.
Train Song. Train Song?! What the hell are they doing closing a totally standard set with Train Song? Again, well played, not too sloppy. Perfect harmonies. Not let down, but never really too into it to get worked up. And Trey must've known that, because before leaving stage, out comes a set 1...
You Enjoy Myself. What the hell? Is this the second set? A sweet, tight, very short YEM wrapped up the set. Very cool. Reminded me a lot of the 7-7-99 Charlotte vocal jam with the swinging lights. I can definitely credit Chris Kuroda with me enjoying this one. He controlled the jam more than any band member. I was totally digging YEM the entire time.
SET ONE IN RETROSPECT: I was not disappointed. But everyone around me loved it and I was still waiting for something huge. I was pretty psyched for set 2 to care about set 1 at this point. HIGHLIGHTS: Wolfman's Brother jam, Gin jam, YEM.
Set Break: Met a ton of new people: Douglas, MS, D-man, Ugly Pig, 566, Dexy, Brian G... pretty cool. Also, my dad had paged me mid-set, so, for the first time, I talked to my Dad mid-Phish show. He told me he saw tix for MCI on e-Bay, but didn't bid because he assumed that I had to have tickets. He knows his son well.
Set 2 opened with Sample. My eyes rolled back and I was having flashbacks of Worcester 98 night 2, where everything was user friendly and Hoist-ish. Where the hell is my Peaches? But, alas, Sample was pretty decent, and not too long. Quick comment: Even if the song isn't my favorite, if they keep it brief and tight, I can't say I mind. As it was with Sample.
Next up was Maze. The first time for the show I was pretty pleased with the song choice. Maze gets the crowd going. And I was swinging around like a little monkey.
Free. I love this song. I got sick of it in 96 when it was on the radio every 30 seconds, but since this summer or so I relearned to love it. This was the wackiest Free I've ever heard with the exception of 11/22/95 (which ain't all that) Right before the "I've floating in the blimp a lot, I feel the feeling I forgot...." bridge part in the middle, they launched into a ridiculously long jam. Trey hit the keys and I kicked back into cruise mode. It must've gone on for about twenty minutes - a really good twenty minutes - before Trey suddenly realized they were playing Free. They returned to the song like they never left it. The set was steadily getting better.
Now listen, I don't know who called in the setlist, but there was no segue between Free and Dirt. It's certainly not a segue when feeback from the end of one song drags 15 seconds and then the next song starts. A segue doesn't just imply no noise.
Dirt. Dirt is Dirt, but you know what? This is as clean and crisp and Dirt can get. If you like this song, you'll want the tapes. As impressive as the first time I feel in love with this song.
Then it came. The song I had called: Reba. Oh, sweet mother, this was the show-maker for me. This was like watching Phish in 1993. It was so well played. I had to smile the whole time. This jam wasn't the best I've ever heard, but, son-of-a-bitch if it wasn't just as good as any moment I've had at a Phish show. I got toally introspective. I was out and back. I was watching the crowd. I was deep in my thoughts in my head. I was LOVING LIFE. This is what people come to Phish shows to see! This is why I travel to fucking Florida to watch four ugly Vermonters play music for endless hours! This is why people I've never met and I are hugging and hanging out during setbreak! This is why I am here! Phish at their humblest! But it had to end. What the hell could possibly follow that?
Halley's Comet: You know what? Not a half bad choice! This was without question the shortest Halley's I've ever even heard. I bet it clocks less than 5 minutes. It was very tight. I was impressed. Then out of absolutely nowhere -
Suzy: WHAT!? SA-WEET! This was the equivalent of injecting the crowd with an adrenaline shot. The place went wild! Maybe this was the show maker! (NOTE: This was a segue. There was NO definable pause between songs, except maybe one beat in the rhythm.) I never saw it coming. One second it was Halley's, the next it was Suzy. I love Suzy, even if she did forget the Dude's name.
SET 2 IN RETROSPECT: It built up so nice and got progressively better. Highlights include an awesome but whistling-less Reba, a pristine Dirt, and a totally cracked Suzy!
Frankenstein: Yeeeeeeeah! I was flashing back to the mega-Frank in Barcelona in August 98. This one was a powerful little number. The crowd was still flying off the walls. Gotta love Edgar Winter.
Rocky Top: Isn't everyone just happy to get a two song encore? This was a nice Rocky Top, and careful listeners heard a little Frankenstein at the end. I almost felt like they didn't want to leave the stage. Nice.
BOTTOM LINE: Well, I didn't get my First Tube, Sand, Free Thought or Jibboo (C'Mon Hampton!) This is my first show where every song was a repeat. But overall, I enjoyed myself. A Lot. Reba and Suzy were two ladies that made the night most worthwhile. Some fans keen on quality will want to check out crystal versions of Dirt and Guyute.