The worst of the best of the breed still throws light and makes promises; Phish was and is a true thing despite the weight it came to carry. But now, a decade after the event and long past turning from certain ugly truths, we're left not with a musical statement but with the field recording of a Wild Party - desperate voices of those who didn't know to fear the storm and would not flee, chose instead to dance harder, dig in deeper, scream themselves hoarse at every hush or interlude - teenagers growling demands for Continuance, never calculating its cost in Consumption. How could anyone have known there was such a thing as Worlds's End? There had been a night in a swamp, rapturous exhaustion, and promises had been (must have been, had they not been?) made and would be honoured. You couldn't fail to stay young forever.
Well, that was then.
Do we talk about the second set? They were and are something unbelievable, maybe unprecedented. There's a method here: hidden and inexpressible. It fell short some nights, if only of expectation. Trey's playing (even on this beloved Tube) lacks its old-time detail and precision but it's all a Good Time. (Do we talk about those? They end. That's the one thing every 'time' does.) Mike does his thing, better by the day or the minute. Page is a rock. Fishman plays as delicately and creatively as he *ever* did - in his day what rock drummer could touch him for flexibility, range, fluidity, empathy? But out front is an actual musical genius running at 50% strength, looking for a way to replenish the atmosphere, some language that hasn't yet exhausted itself. They'd run out of time. He knew it. You can hear it.
Sounds to me like they're playing to accompany the lights.
Or the kids, dancing.
Well, but. Then. But then Ghost is a forceful, intense rendition a step quicker than usual and everybody shows up hungry. Trey's guitar is a siren, then a rotating electrical device, then a laser-beam aimed at the robot fortress, then a buzzsaw, then a phone call to the approving departed, and motherfuckers get things DONE for ten roiling minutes, like a cataract of clouds crashing down.
The worst thing in the world is to have to change your opinion about things. So check it: the good parts of this show are excellent, showing off the band's patience, empathy, and the gathering darkness that underpinned their richly expressive music after Fall Tour '97. The rest of the show is a middling Phish show, another chance for us to learn to live without what we once lived for. Comfort is just disappointment you live with - or maybe disappointment is comfort you refuse; and is that petulant instead of brave? Maybe I'm just being petulant. I'm not sure what we get out of this show. But look where it got *us*. Remember what a good fucking time we had back then. We'd never ever run out of time...
...and what a blessing ever to have lived that way. Inside such a light. What a funny feeling to look back and (maybe not quite) realize it was going on ahead instead of going out.